MERCEDES E500 COUPE
Take one pillarless Merc coupe and add a big-hearted V8. A classic recipe, but does it taste good? PH's Matt Rigby finds out
They would like me to mention the 17,000 virtual crash tests, they'd love it if I wrote about the new piezo injectors on the diesel engines, which work 2000 times faster than the blink of an eye and are accurate to within 20 microns, and they'd be pretty chuffed if I slipped the fact that the new E-class uses carbonised olive stones to filter fuel as it goes into the tank.
Joking aside, though, the engineering effort that's gone into the development of the new E-class coupe is deeply impressive. Mercedes has been stung by criticism of the quality and reliability of the previous E-class and CLK, so it wants to make damn sure the new one is as solid as a Mercedes should be.
With a development programme that covered the same distance as 44 round trips to the moon, the new E-class should live up to expectations. Initial impressions are certainly promising. The shut lines are spot on, the door handle operates in a satisfyingly meaty manner and, once inside, the dash plastics, leather seats and general interior trim definitely owe more to traditional Mercedes solidity than they do to the almost downmarket-feeling cabin of the last CLK. The rather bluff cabin architecture won't be to everybody's taste, but its quality is unquestionable.
Gerd Schoettke, team leader on the design of both the E-class saloon and Coupe probably wouldn't disagree - this car is about purpose rather than pure aesthetic beauty. "The coupe is more sporty, more defined and more passionate," he says. "The way the convex surfaces meet sharp lines is similar to what we've done in the S-class and C-class, but it's more obvious, more aggressive in the E-class Coupe. It's like a Stealth bomber, the sharp clear lines and the surfacing treatment. Not that we literally wanted to build a weapon you understand," says Schoettke (nervous laugh, don't mention the war, etc). "But you get the essence."
Out on the road you can immediately see why Mercedes has seen fit to let this engine live on virtually unchanged. It's mild-mannered at idle and around town, yet get it working through the smooth seven-speed auto (in sport mode or, better still, using quasi-manual paddle-shift so you can hold onto gears for longer) and the E500 Coupe displays a fair old turn of speed, accompanied by cultured, growling yowl, especially as it approaches its 6000rpm, peak power point.
Mercedes has seen fit to send us on a varied route around the south of England for the launch of the E-class, starting off from the Mercedes-Benz World uber dealership in Brooklands and, as suburban roads and dual carriageways give way to bumpy, twisting Sussex B-roads, we get our first opportunity to really stretch the E500 Coupe's chassis. This is not an out-and-out sports car - this is not an AMG model, after all - but the big E isn't afraid to tackle the twisty stuff.
The E500 Coupe feels like a big car - a definite notch or two larger than a BMW 3-series Coupe - but it never feels unwieldy. The fact it's 24 per cent stiffer than its predecessor no doubt helps, as does the surprisingly good body control, although we'd leave the sport switch for the suspension off as it firms up the ride to the point where it begins to lose damping composure over particularly bumpy roads.
The variable ratio steering rack is also an unexpected success. Yes, it's a touch light and detached at low speeds, but that suits the car's laid-back character. And should you decide to have a mad 15 minutes, the steering weights up nicely when you begin to throw the E500 hard into corners.
The E500 Coupe is certainly no hardcore performance car, and it's a shame that it won't spawn a successor to the sublime CLK63 AMG Black Series, but as a relaxed cruiser that can pick up its skirts when required, the E500 coupe isn't half bad.
And for spec fans:
E 500 Coupé Technical Specification
No. of cylinders/arrangement: 8/V, 4 valves per cylinder
Displacement: cc 5461
Bore x stroke: mm 98 x 90.5
Rated output: hp 388 at 6000 rpm
Rated torque: Nm 530 at 2800-4800 rpm
Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Mixture formation: Electronically controlled petrol injection
Seven-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
1st gear 4.377
2nd gear 2.859
3rd gear 1.921
4th gear 1.368
5th gear 1.000
6th gear 0.820
7th gear 0.728
Front axle: Three-link suspension, anti-dive, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers with amplitude-dependent damping system, stabiliser
Rear axle: Multi-link independent suspension, anti-squat and anti-dive systems, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers with amplitude-dependent damping system, stabiliser
Braking system: ADAPTIVE BRAKE system, disc brakes all round, internally ventilated at the front and rear, drum-type parking brake at the rear, ABS, Brake Assist, ESP®
Steering: Variable ratio rack-and-pinion power steering
Wheels: 8.0 J x 18 H2
Tyres: 235/40 R 18 (f) 255/35 R18 (r)
Dimensions and weights
Wheelbase: mm 2760
Track front/rear: mm 1538/1544
- length mm 4698
- width mm 1786 (mirrors: 2028)
- height mm 1397
Turning circle: m 10.95
Luggage capacity: l 540*
Kerb weight acc. to EC: kg 1715
Payload: kg 465
Gross vehicle weight: kg 2180
Tank capacity/reserve: l 66/8
Performance and fuel consumption
Acceleration: 0-62 mph s 5.2
Maximum speed: mph 155
Combined fuel consumption: 25.9mpg
CO2: g/km 254
Insurance group: TBA
*acc. to VDA measuring method