2010 Mercedes-Benz E500 Coupe Road Test Review
THE CLK IS DEAD, and no amount of defibrillating is going to bring it back. Despite its popularity with moneyed-up motorists, Mercedes-Benz has changed tack for its mid-range coupe product line-up and replaced the CLK with the all-new C207 E-Class Coupe.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed. Mercedes-Benz has made it clear that there will be no AMG-tuned E Coupe variants - meaning the V8-powered E500 Coupe is the fastest two-door E-Class available.
With the demise of the CLK, the 2010 C207 is the first two-door model to wear an ‘E’ badge since the C124 E-Class coupe shuffled out of showrooms in 1996.
How successfully will the new car fill the shoes of its much-loved ancestor? We were interested to find out.
In the absence of an AMG-branded halo model, we were also interested to see whether the E500 Coupe had enough sporting DNA to satisfy those Benz buyers looking for some hammer in the velvet.
After seven days in the E500’s driver’s seat, we came away thoroughly impressed.
The C207 E-Class Coupe takes the design of its four-door stablemate, carries it off to the gym and heaps some muscle on it. The four rectangular headlamps and L-shaped LED running lamps are recognisably E-Class, but everything has been massaged for a more athletic look.
Although slightly smaller than the E-Class sedan, it still cuts an imposing presence. The rear fender’s 'pontoons' are more pronounced than the sedan's, and the top edge of the Coupe’s headlight clusters are flattened.
The grille flaunts the large three-pointed star characteristic of all sporting Benzes; the pillarless design another Mercedes coupe hallmark.
In lieu of a pure-bred AMG flagship for the E Coupe range, Mercedes-Benz has gifted the E500 with an AMG sports package, which, among other things, includes a sportier front bumper, rear bumper and sideskirts.
A quartet of 18-inch six-spoke AMG alloys are also part of the package (although not the most aggressive design in Benz’s extensive wheel catalogue).
The strong 'jaw' and deeply-sculpted flanks add real potency to the Coupe's lines but things are not as bold around the rear quarters - aerodynamic efficiency dictating the styling of the tapered tail.
While some may have preferred a little more 'muscle' in evidence here, with a coefficient of drag of just 0.24, the E-Class Coupe is the most aerodynamic production car in the world.
Another design compromise is the small triangle of fixed glass in the corner of the C-Pillar. We know why it’s there – the rear windows wouldn’t retract fully without it – but it spoils the pillarless look when all windows are dropped.
One other thing: those twin rectangular exhaust outlets look fantastic, but are simply part of the bumper and are not in fact connected to the rear mufflers. A trifling complaint, but a detail we didn’t expect on a Benz.
The Coupe’s general dashboard layout is the same as the sedan, with a large colour multi-function display at the top of the centre-stack alongside a five-dial instrument cluster. However, the similarities end there.
The cabin is narrower than the sedans, and the dash pad is an entirely new shape. The trim strips aren’t as broad, the air-vents are different and the glovebox is much smaller, while each dial in the instrument panel is ensconced in its own little recess.
There’s another fundamental difference – a traditional gearshift, rather than the sedan’s column-mounted stalk, sprouts from of the centre console.
The gearshift’s position is more in keeping with the coupe’s sporty image, but storage space in the console is diminished as a result. However, the controller for the COMAND multi-function display still falls readily to hand, and is offset towards the driver for ease of use.
The E-Class Coupe boasts a 2+2 seating layout, but rear leg and headroom is limited for adult passengers. Entry and egress is aided by the sliding front seats though, and the rear pews are comfortable to sit on.
Up front, there’s more than enough sprawling space for driver and front passenger. The two front seats are styled differnetly to the sedan, and offer more grip around the torso and thighs.
As with the sedan, both front seats feature inflatable air bladders in the squab and backrest, enabling lumbar support, under-thigh support and bolster ‘squeeze’ to be customised.
The front seats are fully electrically adjustable, and the steering wheel features power adjustment for reach and rake.
Our E500 test car’s interior looked particularly fetching in Avantgarde spec, with black headliner, black dash plastics and alloy trim offset by white leather seats and door inserts. A grey-on-grey Elegance specification interior is available as a no-cost option.
As part of the AMG sports package that’s fitted to all E500 Coupes, our car had a three-spoke sports steering wheel, alloy pedals, AMG floormats and steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.
All E500 Coupes are fitted with the Entertainment Package as standard, which adds a top-shelf Harman/Kardon stereo system and panoramic glass sunroof. The latter fills the interior with light, however the fabric mesh blind does little to cut the sun’s intensity on bright days. Deleting the sunroof is a no-cost option.
There is 450 litres of luggage capacity in the boot with the rear seats up – just five litres less than the Audi A5 coupe. Larger loads can be accommodated by folding down the 60/40 split-fold rear seats, which are dropped via the two release catches mounted conveniently in the boot.
Equipment and Features
As the flagship of the E Coupe range, the E500 comes generously configured in showroom form with a similarly extensive options list.
In addition to the AMG and Entertainment packages, Sat-nav is standard as is a digital TV tuner, while the COMAND APS system acts as the hub that ties all the multimedia systems together.
The COMAND controller sits aft of the gear lever, and although the controller itself feels a bit minimal compared to the updated iDrive system in new BMW models, it’s intuitive to use.
Dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, a reversing camera, Bluetooth telephony, keyless entry and ignition, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors and electrically-folding exterior mirrors are other standard features.
Optional extras include radar-assisted cruise control, heated and ventilated front seats and a power-operated rear sun blind. Metallic paint is standard, but the premium Diamond White paint scheme incurs an extra cost.
Safety-wise, the E-Class has the goods to keep occupants cosseted out of harm’s way. Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, driver-monitoring Attention Assist, and Benz’s harm-minimising Pre-Safe system are all offered as standard across the Coupe range.
All seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts, and there’s a total of nine airbags – dual front airbags, side airbags for both front and rear seats, full-length curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag.
Don’t let the E500 badge fool you – there’s a total of 5.5 litres of cubic displacement in the E500’s V8, and it’s a heck of a motor.
Developing 285kW at 6000rpm and 530Nm of torque between 2800rpm and 4800rpm, the E500’s 5.5 litre V8 is gruntier than the Audi S5’s 260kW/440Nm 4.2 litre V8 and the BMW 650Ci’s 270kW/490Nm 4.8 litre V8.
The engine is mated to Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic transmission. The 7G-tronic gearbox features normal, sport and manual shift modes and utilizes a spread of ratios wide enough to maximize economy on freeway runs, yet compact enough to deliver rapid acceleration.
It’s the only transmission available on the E500 Coupe. When combined with that powerful V8, it can launch the big two-door to 100km/h in 5.2 seconds.
Fuel economy is a claimed 11.0 l/100km on the combined cycle, a figure aided by the V8’s torque-enhancing adjustable intake and exhaust cams.
By being able to lug the E500’s 1695kg bulk around using the V8’s impressive low-down torque (remember, this engine produces 530Nm from just 2800rpm), less fuel is needed during normal driving.
We recorded an average fuel consumption of 14.2 l/100km, however our driving style was less than saintly and generally consisted of using more throttle than was strictly necessary. Still, with the E500 happy to run on 95 octane petrol, fuel bills are not as bad as they could be.
Although its sheet-metal is similar to the sedan, it’s a different story below. The floorpan is unique to the C207, while the front and rear suspension units are borrowed from the current-generation W204 C-Class whose wheelbase it shares.
The E500 Coupe rides on conventional springs with adaptive dampers, rather than the E500 sedan's Airmatic suspension.
Damping force is electronically adjustable, and firms up when the 'Sport' button on the centre-console is pressed. The system is also capable of detecting changes in driver behaviour in Comfort mode, and can alter damper valving to suit.
Additionaly Sport mode will sharpen throttle response and gearchanges, allowing the latter to occur later in the rev range.
The steering rack features a tighter 13.5:1 ratio, and variable power assistance firms up the wheel at speeds above 80km/h.
Brakes are sizable 344mm ventilated and cross-drilled discs at the front, and 300mm ventilated discs at the rear. Calipers are of a single-piston sliding design, however the E500’s front calipers are constructed of aluminium and iron (for extra rigidity), and the pads cover a large swept area.
You might think that the E500 Coupe, with its expansive dimensions and substantial heft, would lack a little as a sporting drive.
And while it’s shorter, narrower and lower than the E-Class sedan, there is no hiding the fact that as far as coupes go, this is a fairly big one.
However, get it on a tight road and it shrinks around you. The faster rack ratio helps, but the brakes, engine and gearbox all work in concert to compress your surroundings and give the 1700kg coupe a mercurial and quite astonishing nimbleness.
Scorch it along a winding road and it is through and through the consummate performance car.
It feels especially good with the adaptive dampers set to ‘Sport’ and the transmission switched to manual control. The suspension is much firmer, more communicative and more willing to grip the tarmac.
In this setting, the gearshifts - controlled either by the steering wheel paddles or the tiptronic shifter - are lightning-fast with perfectly-executed throttle blips on downchanges.
Like other 7G-tronics, the E500 Coupe's gearbox refuses to hold gears against the redline, instead engaging the next ratio the instant the needle brushes the limiter. And while the automatic Sports mode propels you to the horizon in mere heartbeats, shifting in manual mode is simply too satisfying to let go.
As impressive as the transmission and suspension are, the real centerpiece is that 5.5 litre engine.
It produces boundless torque, and while the meat of the torque band lies between 3000-4000rpm, stomping the accelerator from as low as 2000rpm produces surging acceleration.
And it sounds as good as it goes.
The soft burbling idle transitions to a hard-edged V8 beat when the right pedal is pushed, and it emits a ferocious induction howl from 4000rpm onwards. Mercedes V8s have always sounded good, but this one is probably the most aurally-satisfying Benz outside of the AMG catalogue.
It’s fast, to say the least, but it’s also supremely well-behaved. The programming of the stability control system is excellent, and you can rarely tell when it’s intervening.
Turn it off (it’s never really off, by the way), and it allows more wheel slip, but make a ham-fisted move and it switches itself back on. Is it idiot proof? No, but it comes remarkably close.
Let the red mist lift, and the E500 Coupe transforms into a far more relaxed machine. Benzes have always made sublime cruisers, and the E500 is no different. It’s quiet, elegantly refined and smooth when out on the open road. With the suspension dialed back to 'Comfort', it rides with the same softness of the E350 sedan we recently tested.
Around town, the supple suspension dispatches bumpy and broken roads with ease, although you can hear the window seals squeak when traversing especially lumpy pavement – a side effect of the pillarless body.
Another (more positive) side effect of the pillarless design is excellent over-the-shoulder vision.
The Coupe misses out on the radar-assisted Blind Spot Assist system that’s optional on the E-Class sedan range, so the lack of an intrusive B-pillar and the relatively thin C-pillars endow the Coupe with excellent all-round visibility.
Urban driving isn’t a challenge in the E500 Coupe, and the 10.95 metre turning circle makes it easy to manoeuvre. The long doors can be a pain in tight carparks, but there are few large coupes that don’t suffer from this problem.
After a full week at the helm of the E500 Coupe, it’s safe to say that Mercedes-Benz has restored the E-Class nameplate to its former glory.
The E Coupe has a long and storied history, and many lamented the day it was dropped from the Mercedes line-up in the mid-1990s. However it’s back now, and it picks up where the old E-Class Coupe left off.
Not only does it cut an impressive figure sitting in the company carpark, but it’s a genuinely fun car to drive. Whether that ‘driving’ constitutes back-road blasts, long highway stints or suburban crawling, it doesn’t matter: the E500 Coupe handles it all with aplomb.
At $174,500 before on-road costs, it’s rather expensive – especially considering its closest competitor, the Audi S5, retails for $138,600. It’s even more expensive than a BMW M3 Coupe, which is arguably the faster car.
But unlike the M3, the Mercedes-Benz E500 Coupe is an easy every-day drive, and one that doesn’t need to have its neck wrung to extract peak performance.
Instead it offers a refined yet muscle-bound mechanical package, a superb and elegantly equipped cabin, pleasing coupe styling and the ability to switch in an instant between hard-edged performer and relaxed open road cruiser.
The best of both worlds.
- Brilliant V8 engine with boundless torque
- Intelligent gearbox
- Vice-like grip and handling
- Satisfying console-mounted shifter
- Long standard equipment list.
- Rear-end styling
- Undersized wheels
- Tight rear legroom
- Automatic upshifts when in manual mode.