2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a proper E-Class at last

No longer some weird amalgamation of platforms and badges, the E-Class Coupe carves its way into a segment all its own. That's both a good and a bad thing.

Andrew Krok Reviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Andrew Krok
6 min read

The last E-Class Coupe was not really an E-Class Coupe, since it was built on the C-Class platform. Personally, I didn't think it looked all that good, resembling a clay model that someone left out in the sun. Thankfully, the all-new 2018 E-Class Coupe makes up for that in spades, offering everything great about the E-Class in a form that's not only luxurious and tech-heavy, but also fun to drive.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

If the E-Class Coupe looks familiar, it should. Mercedes-Benz knocked its new coupe design out of the park with the S-Class Coupe, and it brought nearly the exact same look down to the compact C-Class Coupe. The E-Class Coupe follows the same design language, opting for a crease-free design that looks quite close to the two aforementioned models.

That might sound unoriginal, but it would be stupid to not take a wildly gorgeous look and apply it to as many vehicles as possible. Many of these elements (mostly in the rear end) are also evident in the marque's coupe-style crossovers, but I think the aesthetic is best applied to actual cars.

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is beautiful at last

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The story's much the same inside. Like the S-Class and C-Class, the E400 Coupe borrows heavily from the design of its sedan forebear, with a massive pair of 12.3-inch screens smack dab in front of the driver. The tallish center console contains buttons and a touchpad-and-dial combination for manipulating the infotainment system. The climate system's vents are unique to the E-Class Coupe, resembling a classier version of the Sarlacc pit that claimed Boba Fett's life in "Return of the Jedi."

One thing I'd ditch, though, is the piano-black trim. It picks up fingerprint grease all too easily, turning the interior from an aesthetic masterpiece to a failed finger-paint job over several minutes of regular use. I wish automakers would realize that, yes, piano-black trim looks classy, but it's also a nightmare to keep clean.

Instead of relying on the C-Class platform once again, the E-Class Coupe uses the E-Class sedan's platform, which means it's grown quite considerably -- it's 4.8 inches longer, 2.9 inches wider and about 1 inch taller. A good deal of the increased interior volume went to expanding rear-seat space, which was ample for a 6-foot-tall passenger sitting behind a 6-foot-tall driver, with both legroom and headroom to spare.

One variant, one engine, one very good time

While the E-Class sedan can be had with a wide variety of engines, ranging from a diminutive four-banger to a stonking V8, the E-Class Coupe is currently only offered with one engine -- a 3.0-liter V6, good for 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. It hustles along with a bit of engine noise in tow, but not enough to cause a scene or irritate a driver who wants to sit back and relax.

Over the course of nine hours, I pointed this coupe down curvy mountain roads in and around Vancouver and Whistler in British Columbia, Canada. Comfort mode was sedate, meant for long-distance cruising in (duh) comfort, and it left the E400 Coupe feeling like a capable grand tourer.

Flick the mode switch to Sport, and things wake up a bit. Upshifts from the nine-speed torque-converter automatic take longer to arrive, downshifts show up at the right time with an almost preternatural ability and the engine has no problem pushing the car along with all that torque, since the car is generally sitting smack dab in the power band.

Sport Plus mode was a bit over the top. Downshifts were as common as political arguments on Twitter, upshifts waited way too long and both the steering and throttle felt way too twitchy, even when driving in a spirited manner. I'd suggest leaving it in Comfort or Sport, depending on how you want to tackle the road ahead. If you simply must maximize your MPGs, there's an Eco mode, but it's boring as all get-out and should only be used in the case of an "I forgot to fill up and I'm 50 miles from the nearest gas pump" emergency.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
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2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
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Planted like a perennial in the spring

I tested the E400 Coupe with both the standard steel-spring suspension and the optional multimode air suspension. I implore you -- if you're spending more than $60,000 on this car, you'd be a damned fool to not spend the extra $1,900 on the air suspension. Seriously, it's almost mandatory.

Allow me to explain. The steel springs err on the sporty side, which means the car is almost constantly stiffer than one would expect a luxury car to be. In Comfort mode, the air suspension is pillow-soft, soaking up bumps as it floats along. Move it to Sport, and the ride is still cushy, but it catches body roll early and keeps the car feeling planted as the roads get curvier and curvier.

Tech? I got your tech right here, buddy

Opinions at Roadshow are split on Mercedes-Benz's Comand infotainment system. It can be manipulated using the dial-and-touchpad combination, or a new touchpad built into the steering wheel. With a few minutes getting used to the system while parked, I found it easy enough to navigate the morass of menus and submenus, although these could leave older, tech-averse buyers a little confused. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are along for the ride, and all it takes is plugging in a phone via the USB port to get it up and running.

The E400 Coupe can damn near drive itself, thanks to a full-speed adaptive cruise control system that can (and will) change its speed based on local signage -- chronic speeders beware. It can hold itself in the lane with minimal ping-ponging between the stripes, and holding down the turn signal for a few seconds will result in the car changing lanes without driver input.

The E400 Coupe can also talk to other E-Class vehicles, thanks to Car-to-X communication that can alert drivers to a broken-down vehicle or other hazards on the road ahead. It didn't kick in when I was driving, but then again, the roads were largely clear. It stinks that it's only capable of working with other E-Class cars for now, but that should change as automakers team up to create a standard that will work across the industry.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
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2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
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In a segment all its own, for better or for worse

Like most other Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the 2018 E400 Coupe is not cheap -- if you want all the neat, whiz-bang features, that is. It starts at $58,900 with rear-wheel drive, or $61,400 with all-wheel drive. Our testers were fully loaded, with the price tag to match, coming in between $89,000 and $91,000. You can save some dough by skipping the more expensive exterior paint palettes and interior trims, but again, you're going to want the air suspension at the very least.

The E-Class Coupe is in a segment all its own. Competitors like the BMW 4 Series and Audi A5 stack up against the C-Class Coupe, while the outgoing BMW 6 Series (and its replacement, the 8 Series) are better aligned with the S-Class Coupe. That means the E-Class Coupe has few, if any direct competitors.

That's good and bad. Comparison-loving shoppers will have a hard time finding something to compare it against, which means it might be overlooked by some. But if you want this car and exactly this car, it's not like it matters what the competitors are. I'm just concerned that its appeal may be limited by its lack of competitors.

Nevertheless, the E400 Coupe is impressive. It's equally comfortable as a long-haul grand tourer and a spry, sporty coupe, depending on the vehicle's mode. Its technological complement is second to none, and it's easy like Sunday morning on the eyes. You'll have to pay to play, but if you pony up the dough, you'll walk away happy.

Editor's note: Roadshow accepts multi-day vehicle loans from manufacturers in order to provide scored editorial reviews. All scored vehicle reviews are completed on our turf and on our terms. However, for this feature, the manufacturer covered travel and hotel costs. This is common in the auto industry, as it's far more economical to ship journalists to cars than to ship cars to journalists. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's editorial team are our own and we do not accept paid content.