Auto review: E400 is a stylish coupe cruiser

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

October 23, 2017

         

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe

Mercedes-Benz makes so many different cars that I pity the buyer who has decided on the brand but not on the model.

The German car company currently offers 27 different vehicles through its U.S. dealerships. Thatís not counting the different trim lines, the high-performance AMG and Maybach variations, the different drivetrain options for each model or the plug-in hybrids.

From the CLA Coupe and the GLA sport utility vehicle, in the $32,000 range, to the S-Class Coupe and the G-Class SUV, in the $123,000 neighborhood, Benz seems to have something for everyone.

Like its countrymen at BMW, who also offer a staggering array of vehicle choices, Mercedes seems to be saying thereís no way the car you want isnít in its lineup ó no matter what that car is.

Priced from $59,895 for the standard model, and $62,395 for the all-wheel-drive 4Matic version, the E400 Coupe sits in the high middle of the Mercedes menagerie in terms of comfort, performance and price.

With two body-hugging bucket seats up front and two sumptuous passenger seats in the rear, matched with generous trunk space, itís a compelling combination of sports car and grand tourer.

I thoroughly enjoyed zipping it around town, on roads both straight and winding.

Part of the pleasure is under the hood. The E400 comes standard with a 3-liter V-6 engine thatís turbocharged and mated to a nine-speed transmission.

That engine puts out 329 horsepower and a whopping 354 pound-feet of torque and, in the case of the 4Matic model I was driving, puts that power to all four wheels.

Power is managed by drive modes that start with the anemic but adequate Eco and climb through Comfort, Sport, Sport-plus and Individual.

Thatís an impressive range. Eco is a gas-sipper that makes fuel economy of 30 miles per gallon possible on long drives. Comfort allows for capable cruising and a gentle get-around-town pace. Both Sport settings get more interesting, sharpening the suspension and unleashing all the horsepower. In Sport-plus, automatic rev-matching downshifts keep the car right in the middle of the power band.

(Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, too, increase the sense of driver engagement, and make those Sport settings feel even sportier.)

The Individual mode allows the driver to customize engine and suspension specs, with a memory feature to hold them ready for the next dramatic drive.

With a zero-to-60 pace of 5.2 seconds, this car is no dragster. But itís no drag, either. The twin-turbo engine puts a lot of power to the wheels. If the car is wearing optional high-performance tires, as mine was, the E400 holds a lot of speed through the turns and snaps quickly out of them.

Comfort-seekers may be more aware of the pleasant environment that surrounds the sporty driving. The Macchiato Beige/Espresso Brown nappa leather upholstery is plush. The Black Piano Lacquer wood trim is elegant. The sound-deadening materials that keep out tire and wind noise enable the Burmester 3-D surround sound system ó a $5,400 upgrade ó to do its sonic best.

Thereís a lot of technology wrapped inside the E400, too.

The improved infotainment touch screen is luminous and easy to read, though I personally was confused by Mercedesí multiple methods for manipulating it. Buttons on the steering wheel, tiny touch pads on the steering wheel, a touch pad on the center console, an oversized dial next to that touch pad and old-fashioned switches all join the touch-sensitive areas on the screen. And you can also use traditional switches on the dashboard.

But the system does allow for some space-age customization. Entirely pointless but endlessly amusing is the infinitely tunable ambient lighting system, which enables the operator to choose different colors, tones and brightness levels for multiple areas of the cabin.

The car comes standard with safety features such as a brake assist system, electronic stability control and crosswind stabilization.

The model I drove had been equipped with the Premium 3 package, which included a suite of more sophisticated safety systems. This $9,350 optional package adds electronic assists for lane changing, lane keeping, blind spotting and one of the best adaptive cruise control systems Iíve ever experienced.

Cruising along on a blistering hot day, with the seat ventilators on, and the massage function engaged, I had the curious sensation that I wasnít driving at all ó just enjoying the scenery and the pleasure of being moved by a fine automobile, while my traveling companion played with the ambient lighting.

The car is rife with smart additions. The front seats glide forward electronically to allow easy access to the back seats. Though the rear passenger area has no device plug-ins, no climate control settings and no buttons to roll down its own windows, the driverís area is equipped with three plug-in spots. The rear camera offers a 360-degree overhead view. The windshield offers a head-up display. And, oh yes, the car parallel parks itself, and has its own adjustable "cabin fragrance system."

Unfortunately, none of this information will help the mixed-up Mercedes buyer make up his or her mind. Almost everything I just said about the E400 could be said about almost every car in the Mercedes model line.

But if you want a two-door, hard-top performance coupe, with almost-S-Class specifications, but you canít pay the big AMG or Maybach money ó and it has to be a Mercedes ó this might be your car.

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2018 Mercedes- Benz E400 4Matic Coupe

Quick take: High-performing mid-range Mercedes

Highs: Sports-car speedy, but GT comfortable

Lows: Twin-turbo balky; too few rear-seat amenities

Vehicle type: Two-door, four-passenger coupe

Base price: $62,395

Price as tested: $86,155

Powertrain: 3-liter, V-6 twin-turbo gasoline engine

Transmission: All-wheel-drive nine-speed automatic

Horsepower: 329

Torque: 354 pound-feet

EPA fuel economy rating: 20 miles per gallon city / 26 highway / 22 combined