The Mercedes E400 Coupé is a beautifully composed luxury two-door vehicle.
Here's the biggest problem with Mercedes-Benz: we take it for granted. It's the Rolex of cars. If you just can't make up your mind about which luxury vehicle to buy, Mercedes will always be a safe bet.
True, you have to overcome some at-times blingy, negative associations. But the same applies to other brands. Lexuses are supposed to be sort of soft and unexciting. BMWs are driven by new money. Acuras and Infinitis are for people who just don't get that you're supposed to be driving a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes. Audis are a little too youthful.
But the thing about Mercedes is that it tends to deliver, and aside from the fact that the tristar badges have gotten oversized and the cars themselves are slicker than they were back in the heyday of the no-nonsense, tanklike 300D sedan, the Germans stalwart basically makes outstanding automobiles.
We were reminded of this recently when we got our hands on a 2018 E400 4Matic coupé ("4Matic," FYI, is just Mercedes' odd term for all-wheel-drive). The base car was an appealing $61,400, but our tester was massively optioned up — the "Premium Package" alone added a whopping $9,350 to the price tag — bringing the sticker up to almost $90,000.
The E400 two-door is kind of an offbeat ride in the Mercedes firmament. It's the newest E-Class, with an E400 sedan on the way. The luxe-coupé market is somewhat moribund, so one wants to give M-B props for going this route, not to mention putting in the effort to make the E400 coupé so reassuringly excellent if not exactly breathtakingly sporty. My colleague Ben Zhang and I were both captivated by the car, which didn't thrill so much as demonstrate that if you have $90,000 to spend and want a gorgeous two-door that can cruise in comfort and signal tastefulness, Mercedes has the vehicle for you.
Our tester arrived in an Emerald Green Metallic color scheme, a $720 extra that's entirely worth it. This was easily one of the most hypnotically beautiful paint jobs I've ever seen on a car: shimmery racing green in full sunlight, inky and deep in shadow. The word for this is "panache," something the E400 coupé has in abundance.
Perhaps the coolest things about the E400 interior is the "multicolor ambient lighting" feature, which actually comes standard. It allows you to adjust the interior lighting by sliding through the color spectrum, rather than choosing a preset color. We settled on a luminous purple as our favorite, calling it an homage to Prince, RIP. Otherwise, the insides are what you'd expect from Mercedes: comfortable, well-appointed, premium. As Ben said, it makes you feel special — the E400 puts on a show.
The powerplant is a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V6 making a not-terribly-impressive 329-horsepower. Not terribly impressive on paper, anyway. On the road is another story, as the nine-speed automatic in the E400 gets the power to the pavement quite effectively, smooth and sweet, and the car itself has a thoroughly composed demeanor that pure Mercedes. This is a solid, solid car. And you get 26 mpg on the highway, 20 mpg city, and 22 mpg combined. The 0-60 mph time comes in around five seconds, which is impressive.
A particularly notable feature is the active steering assist, which when yoked up with all the other semi-self-driving technology — adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic braking, active lane-changing, and so on — you get a Mercedes that does a passable imitation of a Tesla running Autopilot or a Cadillac CT6 running Super Cruise. I'd go so far to say that the autonomous suite on the E400 is the best I've used on any vehicle, on the highway, that wasn't a Caddy with Super Cruise.
We found not much to complain about with the E400 Coupé, a car that really comes into its own on a sunny day when you open the moonroof and drop the windows, taking advantage of the absence of rear pillars that, as many reviewers have remarked, make the car something of a cabrio that just doesn't really drop its top.
If there were any sticking points with this premium machine, it's the premium you have to pay to get the Mercedes goodies. The Burmester 3D surround audio system is stunning, among the best I've ever heard in a car — and it'd better be, for $5,400 extra. We also raised an eyebrow at the engine; you can get a twin-turbo V6 of similar displacement in an upscale Infiniti Q60 that churns out 400 horsepower. And the price tag is 20 grand lower.
But it's not a Mercedes-Benz. What the E400 coupé demonstrates is that when it comes to putting it all together, Mercedes is hard to top or undercut, at any price.