Mercedes E400 Coupe: Review

The PH affection for the W124 Mercedes E-Class is one of those weird romances outsiders wouldn’t understand. How can fans of fast, dynamic cars go ga-ga for a sensible, mostly underpowered 90s Merc?

Mellow, rather than manic, is the watchword
Mellow, rather than manic, is the watchword
We in the editorial cage are as keen as anyone on the range, especially the coupe and convertible. Garlick used to sell them. Harris still has one - a 1997 E320 Cabriolet. The appeal is something to do with the solid German over-engineering and the beautifully simple profile. Like any mortal, we also like dependable cars.

The current coupe and convertible are similar in some ways. There’s no performance version. The big engines are there to speedily arrive at a comfortable autobahn cruising speed, and not to pecker flex at the Nurburgring. We like the looks too. Far better than the CLK that preceded it. They’ve been improved with afacelift that fuses the double headlights, bulks out the grille and sharpens up the rear end.

Dorky fonts let down the interior
Dorky fonts let down the interior
Comfy sweater
So when asked if we wanted a drive of the new range, we got curious and said yes. The engine line-up is a big indicator this was built to perform the same wafting function in life as the W124. There’s no AMG, and now no V8 either, the E500 being replaced by a new 333hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. On the upside it’s almost as fast to 60mph at 5.2 seconds but lops the CO2 figure down to 177g/km.

We drove the coupe version and, true to its role, the E400 arrived at an autobahn cruising speed very quickly indeed, the muted gargle from the V6 melting away. It was suitably calming, especially after we’d switched on the optional semi-autonomous driving electronics that take a lot of the stress out of stop-start traffic jams. More on this in due course.

New DRLs are a massive improvement
New DRLs are a massive improvement
We in the UK buy the 252hp V6 diesel more than any other and that’s no slur on two-door E-Class customers .This is a very effective engine indeed: 6.4 seconds to 62mph with just a slight rattle to the V6 rush and a claimed 50mpg.

Auto all the way
All this is delivered via a seven-speed slushbox. If you want a manual you have to choose the 2.1-litre diesel in 220 CDI guise, but you’d be shunned by the majority come resale. If ever a car was an auto, this is it. It’s so auto, the shifter has moved to a column stalk for the true American experience.

The most interesting engine is the one we don’t get – a 2.0-litre turbo making 211hp with emissions as low as 130g/km thanks to a new clever stratified direct injection system. It was this highly economical system that BMW tried and failed to make work on the N53 six-cylinder petrol engine from around 2007 to 2010, which frustrates owners by periodically exterminating its piezo injectors. Mercedes reckons it experiences no such reliability problems.

No proper performance version, though
No proper performance version, though
The E250 felt very willing, impressively so in a car weighing 1,765kg. We do get the detuned 184hp E200, but £38,415 for a 2.0-litre turbo felt a stretch, even if that’s for the sole AMG Sport trim.

The interior almost delivers that right level of finely crafted elegance you’d expect, but just dips below Audi and BMW levels in our eyes due to an excess of button fuss and some slightly dorky fonts. Much more elegant are the daytime running lights, which ditch those aftermarket-effect LEDs down at foglight level in favour of integration within the main light units.

Bring the bling
For serious light geeks, the full LED option at £1,280 puts the driving lights in LED prism tubes, the whole bejeweled unit resembling a Swarovski sculpture in a Dubai shopping mall.

W124 still looks effortlessly classy
W124 still looks effortlessly classy
With or without, it’s still one of those cars you’re not really allowed to like until you’ve amassed a jumper collection and blocked off the drive with black gates topped with gold balls. We haven’t got those, but we like it anyway. It’s a fine inheritor of the Mercedes E-coupe/cabrio heritage. Whether it’s another W124 is another question. Could this ever in 20 years time attract the prices asked by this 1994 E320 Sportline cabrio at £13,450?

We suspect the good ones possibly would. At the other end of the scale right now there’s a ragbag of coupes that do look seriously tempting from around £2,000. Calling to us most strongly is this 300CE for £1,950 with styling courtesy of Carat by Duchatelet, a one-time Merc make-over outfit and current armoured car specialist straight from the pages of 1000SEL.

2,996cc, 6-cyl, twin-turbo
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 333@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 480@1,400-4,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.2 sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,725kg
MPG: 37.2mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 177g/km
Price: £46,265

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (25) Join the discussion on the forum

  • renorti 19 May 2013

    I must be old, really like this mercedes.

  • mr2j 18 May 2013

    I considered a W124 CE (as well as a W126 SEC) for a while until I was told by various people that when something goes wrong it will go very wrong and even if it just goes a little bit wrong it will still cost more to fix than an oil spill. Until I am a rich man, nice old Mercedeseses will be the preserve of golfers/dentists/masons and I can just quietly watch them waft by once in a while, uttering under my breath the lifelong mantra, "when I am a bigger boy."

  • kambites 16 May 2013

    vintageracer01 said:
    There isn' t any class anymore. Mercedes cars are just plain UGLY !!!!
    No particular reason to single out Mercedes there, I don't think. Modern cars in general are just plain ugly, mostly.

  • sidewayz 16 May 2013

    The CL is a well considered design IMHO

    Edited by sidewayz on Thursday 16th May 16:17

  • vintageracer01 16 May 2013

    There isn' t any class anymore. Mercedes cars are just plain UGLY !!!!

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