Large, elegant and undoubtedly attractive, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe is a comfortable cruiser with a surprising turn of speed – but is it right to place the E350 badge on a four-cylinder Benz?
Despite this C238-chassis Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe only being officially in its second successive generation (it’s been a long time since the C124 ended production in 1997, succeeded by two CLK coupe generations), this long (4841mm) and low pillarless two-door with plush air suspension and a cosseting cabin is a Mercedes-Benz recipe almost as old as the brand itself.
And yet the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe remains in a class of its own in 2022. The larger BMW 840i coupe starts at $182,900 (before on-road costs), while Audi’s five-door A7 45 TFSI Sportback ($117,900) is a size larger than the similarly priced E-Class two-door.
Additionally, the $135,353 (before on-road costs) asking price of the E350 Coupe means it sits in a similar sphere to the G82 BMW M4 ($149,900), if only in monetary terms. For as you walk up to this two-door Merc’s gently curved hips and 20-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels, you recognise immediately that the E350 is all about elegance, not athleticism or Nurburgring lap times.
Australians can only get the E350 in AMG-line form, though at least the treatment is more subtle than the puffed-up Mercedes-AMG E53 coupe ($172,253). I mention that car because it gets a gorgeous 320kW/520Nm 3.0-litre turbo-petrol straight-six engine with a 48V ‘EQ Boost’ mild-hybrid system, whereas the E350 gets … a four-cylinder.
Despite the historical implications of the E350 badge, this 2021 addition to the Australian E-Class range makes 220kW of power and 400Nm of torque from a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder with EQ Boost. On paper, that doesn’t evoke the same wafty cruise-ability of a lusty straight-six, but in the real world the turbo four appears to be enough to make this German coupe sing.
Contrary to what you may think, the E350’s mild-hybrid turbo-petrol four doesn’t lack motivation, With the 400Nm torque peak available from 1800rpm it feels supremely tractable and the smooth nine-speed automatic transmission easily keeps the engine on the boil. The mild-hybrid system also helps keep the turbo spooled up, improving throttle response.
The E350 not only serves as the flagship non-AMG E-Class but also a replacement for the outgoing E300. Compared to that car – also a 2.0-litre turbo four – power is up by 30kW and torque increases 30Nm, which shaves half a second from the 0-100km/h claim (now 5.9 seconds).
Ultimately, the power and torque are there, but when it’s cold the four-cylinder has a gravelly note, and even when giving the E350 the beans on a country road, the sound is decidedly four-cylinder. Not a deal breaker – certainly not in the sedan – but a coupe is a vehicle that should make you feel a bit special, so Mercedes-Benz’s decision not to offer the 270kW/450Nm E450 is an unfortunate one in my book – driven by the fact that most Aussie buyers would cough up the extra $40K for the six-pot E53 anyway.
The best part about the E350 is its standard-fit air suspension that lets the driver waft around the city in pure comfort. And when you head onto faster country roads, flicking the F1-inspired wheel-mounted rotary dial to Sport tightens the body control without sacrificing much in the way of compliance.
Unlike the AMG E53s that we’ve spent time in at Chasing Cars, we didn’t notice any cabin creaks or rattles in this E350 Coupe either – a testament to that plush ride. In fact, cabin insulation is tremendous – allowing you to truly relax and unwind on the amble home from work.
Words like ‘plush’ and ‘relaxing’ don’t usually translate to a fun driving experience on testing roads, but the bandwidth of the E350’s adaptive dampers seems just right for Australian conditions. Flick the dial into Sport Plus and suspension control improves once again, with very little comfort reduction.
Guided by well-weighted, nicely responsive steering, the E350 glides effortlessly through corners of all types. With its front-engine/rear-drive handling balance, the E350’s dynamics encourage flowing throttle steer – a decidedly more old-school approach than the sharper AMG E53 with its all-wheel-drive set-up.
What aren’t old-school are the driving aids which include an excellent adaptive cruise and lane-trace-assist system (though it can be fiddly to switch off). Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a 360-degree camera and front AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection helped the E-Class sedan score five stars in 2016 ANCAP testing, though the Coupe has not yet been evaluated.
Thankfully, the Coupe’s restrained elegance continues in the cabin. In fact, I can think of few cars this side of $200K that are more relaxing to cruise in than the E350 with its pillarless windows down and some smooth tunes playing on the 13-speaker Burmester stereo (part of a $6600 Vision Pack, along with a sunroof).
Our test car’s particular specification featured black leather upholstery that complements the $900 ‘Manufaktur Patagonia Red’ paint nicely. But if you want to live a little more dangerously, ‘Macchiato Beige’ leather and matching light wood inserts are available for no extra cost.
You sit nice and low in the E-Class Coupe, and the 12-way electrically adjustable and heated front seats offer plenty of movement to suit most frames (though you have to pay extra for cooling, which stings at this price). And unfortunately, the leather itself isn’t as soft as Nappa and was detaching from the cushion on the driver’s seat – leaving a saggy patch of cow-hide in our test car.
The restrained cabin design does contrast with the technological fiesta that is the MBUX operating system. Laid out over a pair of 12.3-inch screens, Mercedes-Benz’s infotainment software itself is immensely powerful and customisable to your liking, but does take some learning.
In particular, as it was updated with the new system in 2019, this E-Class offers multiple ways to accomplish the same task, from ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control to wheel-mounted touch pads, the central screen itself, and a trackpad on the centre console. You do work out ways to control each function after investing some of your time, though. And that investment is worth it to harness features such as ambient lighting, cluster themes, drive mode customisation and favourite destinations.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature as well, but the built-in navigation does a great job of navigating Sydney’s sprawling streets and interfaces neatly with the digital driver’s display.
It might be a two-door but this is a large two-door and that means there should be rear seat space when it’s needed. You could easily fit two adults up to 188cm in the E350’s back seat as long as they don’t mind climbing in (tip: open all the windows!) – the individual rear buckets are plenty comfortable.
The boot is also fairly generous, offering 425 litres of luggage space under a power bootlid which is plenty for a weekend away with your partner. There are also tabs to make dropping the rear backrests easy to fit long or bulky items like bicycles or flat-pack furniture.
The mild-hybrid ‘EQ Boost’ system helps to drop the E350’s official ADR combined fuel consumption to 7.7L/100km, which is 0.1L/100km better than the less powerful E200 Coupe. During our test period, the E350 returned 10.5L/100km.
Mercedes-Benz was one of the first premium brands to move to a five year/unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia (in March 2020) with Jaguar, Lexus and now Audi jumping on the bandwagon to leave BMW languishing with its outdated three-year guarantee.
When it comes to servicing, the Mercedes-Benz is a mixed bag. The intervals are vast, allowing owners to travel 25,000km or 12 months between maintenance – besting the 15,000km standard of other premium brands.
However, Mercedes-Benz charges $4800 to maintain the E350 over a five-year/125,000km period which, compared to a BMW 530i ($1950), Audi A6 45 TFSI ($3190) or Jaguar XE P300 ($1950) appears rather steep.
The Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe is a smooth operator that cossets its driver with plush suspension and an attractive cabin. It’s not a sports car, but this AMG-line Benz still offers plenty of poise and panache when the road gets twisty.
As good as the mild-hybrid four-cylinder is, however, it can’t compete with the rich tone and smooth start-up of a petrol straight-six, and currently the only way to get that with an E-Class in Australia is the AMG E53, which then introduces firmer suspension and extra visual muscle.
That’s the way the Australian buyer likes their six-cylinder E-Class coupe, but I can’t help longing for the wafty, more comfort-biased E450 sold overseas.
All that said, the E-Class is a seriously accomplished coupe that should not be overlooked if you like your $140K Germans served plush.
Key specs (as tested)
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