What does this have to do with the E-Class Coupe? In theory, it has a very simple job: if it can address perhaps the two biggest issues with the saloon - specifically the rather plain dynamics and exterior styling - while retaining everything that's so good about it, then the Coupe promises to be quite some car. Mercedes does have some history with big two-doors after all...
We'll return to the ride and handling in due course; there can be little doubt however that this new two-door is a far sexier and exciting E-Class to look at. Naturally it borrows a lot from the larger S-Class, but since when could that be considered a bad thing? In fact those design cues might even work better on the more compact (though larger than before) E-Class, the look super stylish and, in the right specification at least, appropriately sporting too. It really is a very good looking car.
That style continues inside too; while much has already been said about this E-Class interior, it bears repeating. It's lavish and opulent, a beautiful space to spend time and certainly more inviting than the equivalent BMW interior. That larger central screen is optional on all models, though it would surely be difficult to refuse. Moreover, while there is a wealth of technology inside, it's largely intuitive to use. And if there is any doubt Apple CarPlay works just fine. What more do you need?
The first disappointment of the E-Class Coupe actually comes on starting the engine. The majority of the test time is spend in the 2.0-litre, 245hp E300 and, frankly, it doesn't feel like the best fit for the car. There are no terrible flaws with it - it responds keenly enough to throttle inputs and is sufficiently fast - but the four-cylinder drone sits uneasily with such a refined package. This is not simply in the context of six-cylinder alternatives, either - it's an unpleasant, gruff sound even by four-cylinder standards. Fortunately the automatic gearbox typically changes up swiftly and smoothly at low revs, minimising the driver's exposure to it, though kickdown - which happens a lot with nine gears - of course means the noise returns. The mapping for that gearbox isn't as intelligent as that in a 5 Series either, sometimes dropping in a lower gear in a sportier drive mode when it isn't necessary.
Far better to stick with six cylinders, though currently the only option available to UK buyers is the flagship £50K E400 4Matic. While not confirmed yet, it seems likely that the E350d V6 diesel will eventually be available over here and that looks like being the engine of choice. For what it's worth the V6 petrol is smooth and powerful, trading on its mid-range to deliver the sort of relaxed performance more befitting of a large Mercedes. That torque means it is happier pootling along in the higher gears than the 2.0-litre as well.
For those occasions when you're not pootling - surely sacrilege in an E-Class Coupe anyway - there's more to be entertained by than you might think. All test cars were on the optional Air Body Control air suspension, though regardless of suspension choice the Coupe sits 15mm lower than the equivalent saloon. Combined with a shorter wheelbase (plus wider tracks than the old E Coupe) and the result is an E-Class that's tangibly more rewarding and more enjoyable on twisty road. There are flaws - the steering feels frustratingly artificial - though this E-Class is certainly more agile and sharper to drive than the saloon. It's precise for a big car and more neutral than you might think too - there is an advantage to having a lighter four-pot in the front! In its sportier modes the air suspension effectively quells almost all pitch and dive too, giving the impression of a lighter, lither car. While a four-cylinder E-Class still is not the car to get up early for on a Sunday morning, should you stumble across a country road it wouldn't be a disaster. You might even enjoy it.
The Coupe's home is on the motorway though, where it's supreme. The air suspension can feel to be unsettled by smaller bumps around town, but at speed and with larger imperfections to deal with it feels far more comfortable. Imperious, almost. It wafts just how you would want a Mercedes coupe to, engine ticking along at less than 2,000rpm in top while enveloping the driver in that spectacular interior. Should that not be relaxing enough, the Distronic Plus semi-autonomous technology is fantastic: it will sit at speed limits - or the speed you choose - dutifully (although it did insist on 30km/h out of a toll for a while), while also steering, braking, maintaining a set distance and changing lanes if you indicate and the space is clear. In traffic it was flawless. The tech will remain a leap of faith for a lot of drivers, though this is certainly the best installation yet. That the E-Class Coupe is more than reasonable on a twisty road seems almost inconsequential once it's shrugged off a motorway and an urban crawl so authoritatively.
The E-Class end result is a compelling package then, one that brings just the right amount of extra style and dynamism to what was already an excellent saloon. It's even big enough to fit proper adults in the back too. While a few of its most appealing traits are optional, there's enough inherent quality and ability about this E-Class to imply that it's something very, very good indeed. It will be worth trying all the suspension configurations to see if they can justify the outlay, and certainly worth stretching to the larger engine if possible. With four cylinders the E-Class Coupe is a great car but with six it's a truly excellent one. Imagine what it could be like with eight... The next BMW 6 Series had better be good!
MERCEDES E400 4MATIC COUPE
Engine: 2,996cc, V6 turbocharged
Transmission: 9G-Tronic automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 333@5,200-6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 354@1,600-4,000rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,845kg (including 75kg driver)
MPG: 35 (NEDC combined)
Price: £50,775 (OTR)
MERCEDES E300 COUPE
Engine: 1,991cc, inline-four turbocharged
Transmission: 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 245@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 273@1,400 - 4,000rpm
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,655kg (including 75kg driver)
MPG: 44 (NEDC combined)
Price: £41,025 (OTR)