LILLOOET, B.C. – The latest 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 coupe comes equipped with a PRE-SAFE sound system capable of protecting the three tiny bones of your middle ear from the piercing, pulsating, pounding noises generated in a wicked car crash. This has something to do with engaging the stapedius muscle to protect all the tender bits of your inner ear from smashing sounds.
Thoughtful technology, indeed.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the E400 4MATIC coupe is also available with a $6,900 Burmester 3D sound system that has, oh, about a million watts of power available to push crystal clear audio through 23 speakers and pounding base notes through not one, not two, but THREE subwoofers. (Actually, it’s 1,450 watts, but I could not pass up the chance at hyperbole.)
We can assume one of two things: either Burmester sound is so refined it cannot do harm at any volume, or PRE-SAFE sound engages when required to protect your hearing from a Pete Townsend-like inner-ear meltdown when the volume is cranked up for Pinball Wizard or Won’ Get Fooled Again.
Seriously, though, I mention PRESAFE SOUND more in tribute than in bemusement. It’s just one of a long list of breathtaking technologies loaded into the reimagined, restyled, reinvented and completely renovated version of an E-Class coupe we first saw in 2009 – the one later facelifted gently for the 2014 model year.
Here in 2018, Merc’s designer have wrought a luxurious coupe ($72,700 base, more like $90,000-plus when properly equipped) that is bigger inside and out, boasts a softer design and has only LED lighting. The headlights alone have 84 independent LED bulbs and the tails are crystal-look LEDs that dazzle in the dark.
At first glance, this coupe is really quite lovely, rather than bold and challenging. Yes, the soft, rounded shape is not a smack to the face, but rather something quite gentle. Draw your own conclusions about the target buyer. Mercedes says owners will be 60 per cent male, 40 per cent female. Regardless of who holds the pink slip, I’m betting the drivers will be exactly the opposite: 60 per cent female, 40 per cent male.
In any case, look closely and you might conclude that we’re looking at an open-air two-door disguised as a traditional coupe. Take note: the windows are frameless, the doors pillarless. A sweeping glass sunroof lets in light and air. Thus, the car can feel very close to a convertible if that’s what you want.
A wonderfully fast one. The 3.0-litre turbocharged V-6 puts out 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque, which translates into a 0-100 km/hour time of 5.3 seconds. All that oomph is channeled through a nine-speed automatic gearbox that snaps from gear-to-gear, up and down, with the kind of seamlessness you’d expect. You can control things yourself through the paddle shifters.
Yes, yes, this coupe is quick, rides poised at highway speeds and quite nicely holds a balanced line through a tightening corner. Of course. Merc has figured out chassis dynamics.
But honestly, what stands out are the stunning cabin design and all the high-tech bits throughout.
I’m not going to rattle off a list of interior features and gizmos; of course the car works with Apple Auto and Google Android Auto and all blah, blah, blah. All the traditional and expected technological goodies are standard.
What you might not have expected is the delicious 64 tones of ambient lighting tucked away throughout the cabin. It’s
subtle and calming; a visual balm. And then there are the side-by-side high-definition displays that sit centre stage right in front of you – one for instrument cluster, the other for the infotainment/system screen, the latter managed through a tidy mouse that falls to hand just so in the centre console.
You do not want the 7-inch standard instrument cluster; no, you want the widescreen cockpit display that allows you to dial up any of three styles: classic, sport, progressive. I preferred sport, given the nature of the car itself.
Also note the new vent design. It’s a turbine look that is well executed – and not just visually, but functionally. You can pump a lot of air through them and they set off the overall excellence of the cabin design.
Finally, a few words about the smarts of this car. Yes, you can dial up power and chassis choices, from Comfort to Eco to Sport, Sport+ or anything individualized in between. The interface programming makes all this quite an easy process, as is setting a destination in the navigation system, customizing seat comfort and all the rest.
The other side of the “smarts” coin is safety. Like all carmakers, Mercedes is moving towards fully autonomous cars by steadily adding features that “assist” the driver. So you have Parking Assist and Traffic Sign Assist and Evasive Steering Assist and Attention Assist and Blind Spot Assist and Active Brake Assist and…
It’s comforting to know this coupe will help me if I get sleepy or distracted or find myself overwhelmed. But I wouldn’t buy this car for any of that. The cabin design, on the other hand, is a triumph and sets this car apart from its rivals.
2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe
Price: $72,700 base.
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V-6 (329 hp/354 lb-ft torque.
Transmission: nine-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): NA, but in my 400 km test, I had a combined 10.1 litres/100 km.
Comparables: Audi S5, BMW 6-Series.