Mercedes-Benz coupes have delivered a unique blend of speed and style going back to the upright 280 SE from the mid-‘60s. They were always two-door versions of the company’s staid sedans, sharing the same mechanical bits, but in generally sexier packaging. The debut of the CLK in 1996 led to some confusion over the car’s positioning since it abandoned the E-Class badge. But for 2010, Mercedes-Benz reached back into the badge bin to relaunch a real, true E-Class Coupe, ditching the CLK moniker to the digital pages of Wikipedia.
|1. The E550 Coupe is powered by a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382-hp and 391 ft-lbs of torque, enabling a rapid 0-60 mph time of 5.0 seconds flat.
2. V8-equiped E550 Coupe models start at $54,650.
3. If you like the look but don’t need the power, Mercedes offers the E350 Coupe starting from $48,050 with most of the same standard equipment.
The E-Class Coupe builds on the positive steps taken by the current C-Class, and even outshines the new E Sedan. While the design cues are similar, the Coupe does get its own curvaceous sheetmetal. It shares the larger CL-Class’s pillarless design, with lots of glass on display. Sleeker quad headlights, a lower roofline, a more aggressive windshield angle and serious attention paid to the details mean the Coupe scores a super-low 0.24 coefficient of drag, which is remarkable for something that retains a certain amount of aggression. The E Coupe is also shorter than the sedan by about six inches, with five of those coming out of the wheelbase. That generates better manners in the corners – as does the weight loss, which averages about 100 lbs model-to-model in favor of the more compact Coupe.
Inside, the Coupe gets an interior that’s aesthetically similar to the Sedan’s, but differs in some small details. First, the Coupe puts the gear selector for the standard seven-speed automatic transmission on the centre console rather than on the steering column. And it uses a three-spoke steering wheel rather than the four-spoke unit on the four-door. Otherwise, the Coupe offers more supportive front seats, and while there is technically room for two in the rear, they’re certainly more for occasional use than cross-continent blasts.
With every new generation it launches, Mercedes-Benz gets closer and closer to the driving dynamics offered by its cross-country rival BMW, and the E Coupe is no exception. While base models use the underwhelming 268-hp 3.5-liter V6, the E550 retains the 382-hp 5.5-liter V8 from the outgoing CLK. It’s gutsy enough and combines with the seven-speed automatic transmission to hustle the car from 0-60 mph in a quick 5.0 seconds. Top speed is limited to only 130 mph, which seems nannyish for a vehicle with such obvious potential. Fuel economy is decidedly average for a V8 coupe, though, at 15/23 mpg (city/hwy). Perhaps Mercedes’ next generation of engines will deliver similar performance with a smaller carbon footprint?
Either way, the E550 performs like a fine, German Gran Turismo, completely enthused for high-speed cruising and long-distance comfort. The cabin is hushed thanks to such an efficient body shape, and properly optioned, delivers maximum comfort. When urged into the corners, the game is lost slightly compared to a twin-turbo 335i or V8-powered S5 – the Benz doesn’t have the organic feel of the Bimmer, nor the outright stability of the all-wheel drive Audi. But it is confident in its abilities, more nimble than the E Sedan, and banishes the ghosts of choppy CLKs past.
Unfortunately for enthusiasts, Mercedes-Benz will not be offering the smoking-hot E63 AMG version of the coupe, which is a real shame as – barring the Porsche Panamera – it’s the super-sedan to beat. Transferring some of that testosterone to the E Coupe would be well received.
The only problem dogging the $54,650 E550 is cost. The less powerful but equally able BMW 335i starts nearly $10,000 less than the Mercedes-Benz, while the 450-hp V8-powered M3 smokes its German compatriots for only a couple grand on the other side. Audi’s S5 suffers similarly too, being priced so closely to the ‘Benz.
For the relatively inflated sticker, the E550 doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles it should without delving into expensive option packages. Want active Xenon headlights? Then you’ll need to order the Premium 2 package that also includes ventilated active front seats, heated headlamp washers, LED daytime running lights and keyless ignition. However, since you're also forced to select the $3,950 Premium 1 package, you also get Comand navigation, voice control, a harman/kardon surround-sound system with a 6GB hard drive, Sirius Satellite radio, a rear-view camera, heated front seats and a power rear sunshade for a total of $6,350 in extras. There’s even a visual upgrade package ($1,250) that adds AMG-inspired touches like a different three-spoke steering wheel, unique 18-inch wheels and stainless steel pedals. Leather seats ($1,350) and rear side airbags ($410) are virtually the only standalone options.
Mercedes-Benz has done an admirable job ensuring that the E-Class Sedan and Coupe share some visual DNA and technology, but have different attitudes when it comes to making their way through the world. And while we’re eagerly waiting for some more modern motors – even a clean diesel or AMG model – the E550 Coupe ticks more than enough emotional boxes to satisfy even the most demanding buyer.