Motoramic

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabrio: Motoramic Drives

Motoramic

A handy test can determine whether you’re the target buyer for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe or Cabriolet.

Like their sober sedan cousin, these more fun-loving E-Classes have receiving an unusually thorough “refreshing” for 2014. That’s industry shorthand for a makeover that occurs roughly halfway through a model’s life cycle, as opposed to the stem-to-stern redesign that happens roughly once every five or six years. At January’s Detroit auto show, journalists and janitors alike were struck by the E-Class' dramatized body – especially a black-mesh maw with the kind of gaping, jet-fighter air inlets usually associated with Italian exotics, not a demure Mercedes. Don’t forget the three-pointed star on the grille, roughly the size – and, some suggested, the tastefulness — of Flava Flav's clocks/necklaces.

The flamboyant styling may help the Mercedes lure a few buyers who would otherwise lean toward Audi, BMW, even Cadillac or Infiniti. But these two-door E-Classes, by emphasizing creamy thrust, a soothing ride, creature comforts and safety innovations, aren’t about to alienate their traditional audience. And that’s where the test comes in:

Do you have a stockbroker? More importantly, does he take your calls?

Can you find Laguna Beach, Hilton Head or Greenwich, Conn., on a map? Do you, your family or significant other own property in those areas?

What is your opinion of antique shopping? As necessary as breathing, or more?

Summertime knits, and their proper thickness: Discuss.

Your answers to those questions can determine your fitness for the boutique-friendly side of the E-class lineup.

Tongue removed from cheek, the Coupe and Cabrio are clearly aimed more at couples and empty nesters that have been freed from family duties. Both models trade a smaller back seat for extra style. And the Cabriolet subtracts trunk space to make room for its tight-fitting fabric top.

Those bodies flaunt sleek frameless doors – there’s no roof pillar bisecting front and rear windows — to emphasize the arched roof and muscular profile. Dual strands of LED daytime running lamps spider through LED headlamps, like silvery false eyelashes. Though that front end seems designed to bowl over onlookers, these Benzes also look good from the rear, with widespread flanks and a bright chrome bow that hovers atop a black air diffuser and burnished, trapezoidal exhaust outlets. An optional AMG Sport package, from Mercedes’ in-house high-performance division, boosts visual wattage with 19-inch light alloy wheels and other extras.

Built on the smaller C-Class platform, the Coupe and Cabrio stretch just over 185 inches, nearly seven inches shorter than the sedan. The sedan’s generous 15.9 cubic-foot trunk shrinks to 13.8 in the Cabriolet, which shrivels to a maximum 10.6 cubes when the top is down, leaving just enough for a pair of modest suitcases. Both models will just fit two six-foot polo players in the handsomely contoured rear buckets, but the longer the trip lasts, the more they'll ask for their horses instead.

Drivers and passengers had few complaints on a fast run from Hamburg, Germany to the North Sea island of Sylt, a resort destination for moneyed Germans whose landscape – all soaring dunes, windswept heather and grazing sheep – looks more like Scotland than Deutschland.

The E-Class lineup’s revamped interior, with notable gains in materials and fit-and-finish, is as deluxe and meticulous as anything in the class. Owners choose between two styles of aluminum trim or four types of wood veneer. White dials for the three oval driver’s gauges, a sculpted three-point steering wheel, an analog clock and a new flat frame central display complete the pretty picture.

The Cabrio adopts Mercedes’ optional Aircap system, with a dark metal spoiler that rises from the top of the windshield to divert the breeze. Honestly, I didn’t notice much difference in buffeting whether the Aircap was up or down. More useful is the Airscarf, which streams warm air through headrest vents to keep front passengers’ necks toasty. Compared with the Coupe, the Cabriolet also betrayed a bit of steering-column shake over railroad tracks and rare European potholes. But that’s to be expected when engineers slice this much roof from a four-seat car.

The E-Class goes crazy for Mercedes’ latest “Intelligent Drive” safety systems. Drivers can get a 360-degree bird’s eye view on the central screen. A windshield-mounted stereo camera delivers three-dimensional views 50 meters beyond the car, and 500 meters in total. That allows a pedestrian detection system that can brake autonomously at up to 45 mph, and prevent hitting walkers entirely at up to 31 mph. Active lane keeping applies individual brakes to center the car if you veer toward oncoming traffic, tracking approaching cars with camera and radar.

Switch on Distronic cruise control, and this Benz will even help steer itself through highway bends, guided by lane markings – yet the active steering shuts down if the driver lets go of the wheel for more than about 10 seconds. But like Acura’s similar system, the effect is so subtle as to seem worthless: If you still have to adjust the wheel yourself, why do I need the car to help me do it? As constituted, the system seems an opening step toward more active automation, with a cautious eye toward lawyers, regulators and liability.

Like the E350 sedan, the 2014 E350 Coupe and Cabriolet carry over the 3.5-liter, 302-hp V-6 that’s perfectly adequate for everyday duties. Those rear-wheel-drive models go on sale in June, with optional 4Matic all-wheel-drive available only on the E350 Coupe.

Power users will be magnetically attracted to E550 versions, whose lusty 4.7-liter, biturbo V-8 pumps out 402 hp – 100 more than the E350. Pricing hasn’t been released, but figure about $53,000 to start for the E350 Coupe, or $62,000 for the E350 Cabriolet, a slight increase over 2013 models. E550 buyers will pay roughly $6,000 extra for their V-8 pleasure, in either coupe or convertible.

In these splashy Benzes, the mellow-throated V-8 remains the premium play. But one intriguing powertrain story won’t be told until fall of 2014. That’s when Mercedes eliminates the 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated V-6 in the 2015 Coupe and Cabriolet in favor of a downsized, 3.0-liter Biturbo V-6. Benz will dub that model the E400, replacing the E350 designation. Sedan buyers, take note: That twin-turbo V-6 will also replace the V-8 as the top-shelf engine in the E-Class sedan for 2015, leaving the Coupe and Cabriolet as the only E-Class models (aside from the limited-edition E63 AMG) to offer optional eight-cylinder power.

I sampled that E400 and its Biturbo beauty. With 333 hp, the downsized V-6 delivers about 31 more horsepower than the larger 3.5-liter, but a monumental gain in torque: the E350’s 273 lb.-ft. will rise to roughly 354 lb.-ft, fully on tap at a low, low 1,600 rpm. Mercedes cites a 5.2-second blast from 0-60 mph in the 2015 E400 coupe, or 5.3 seconds for the Cabrio. That’s a full second quicker than this year’s E350, and not far off the 4.8-second mark of the big V-8. That Biturbo V-6, in all likelihood, will meet or beat the 20/28 mpg fuel economy of the current E350.

My gray-bodied, red-roofed E400 Cabriolet proved quite the autobahn beast: With the top down and the wind booming, the Cabrio surged effortlessly to 250 kilometers per hour on unlimited stretches of the autobahn, which translated to 149 mph – not far off the car’s 155-mph electronically limited top speed. (But next time, I’m raising the roof or bringing the earplugs).

These E-Classes steer faithfully and have more tire grip than most owners will dare to explore. Yet they’re still more at home on long highway runs than carving through fast turns. The seven-speed transmission is wonderfully smooth but a bit slow-footed. In these cars, steering-wheel paddle shifters are likely to gather dust.

Despite the provocative come-on of that new front end, these E-Classes remain powerful, cosseting, loaded-to-the-gills cruisers. Your stockbroker awaits your call.

View Comments

Recommended for You

  • How a mom stole a car in under 60 seconds

    “I didn't steal your car but I think my mom may have. It's a long story. I'll explain, but your car is safe and sound," read the flier posted in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s a strange tale that began when Cheyrl Thorpe was asked by her daughter Nekisia Davis to dog sit her Pomeranian at her apartment,…

    Motoramic
  • All-new 2015 Subaru Outback reestablishes higher ground

    Much of Subaru’s modern day success in America can be attributed to one car: the Outback. Born in 1994 as a response to the growing popularity of SUVs, the Outback established a winning formula of combining a high-riding suspension, butch body cladding and big round fog lights to its comfortable,…

    Motoramic
  • Revealed: 10 Best Credit Cards of 2014

    What card offers up to 5% cash back? And which one offers 24/7 concierge service? See the best credit cards of 2014. Apply online, quickly & securely.

    AdChoices Credit KarmaSponsored
  • Custom faux-tique electric tram aims to replace New York's horses over the neigh-sayers

    For the record, it's the year 2014. I mention that in case someone reading this story about a push to replace horses with motorized carriages thinks they've stumbled onto some archival piece by accident. It's been more than 100 years since the first vehicles began to trundle around Manhattan, but…

    Motoramic
  • April 17: Ford Mustangs sold like hotcakes on this date in 1964

    "Get ready to meet the unexpected," the voice in the ad teased. But even the most optimistic Ford dealers could not have anticipated moving more than 22,000 Mustang coupes and convertibles on the car's first day in showrooms: April 17, 1964. Thanks to much manufactured hype, including appearances…

    Motoramic
  • Mazda marks 25 years of Miata, the best-selling roadster of all time

    Taking a simple concept and turning it into a car enthusiasts' dream that lasts for 25 years – a phenomenon that remains as strong today as it did a quarter of a century ago – is unfathomable. And yet that is exactly what Tom Matano, Bob Hall and their team did back in 1989 with the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

    Motoramic
  • Diesel Drag Truck Destroys Track In High-Speed Crash: Video

    If you've ever doubted the might of a highly tuned diesel pickup, let this video put that to rest, even as it plants the seeds of a nightmare in your mind. Rolling coal and accelerating like a supercar, this diesel Dodge slams into a barrier and does a barrel roll that will stay with you.DON'T…

    MotorAuthority
  • Fast & Furious RC Race, Chase Is Amazing: Video

    Fast & Furious has long been a guilty pleasure for car enthusiasts, made bittersweet by Paul Walker's untimely death last year. But the franchise will live on, perhaps not least in the hearts of its fans--like the fans who made this brilliant remote control race and chase video inspired by the…

    MotorAuthority
  • 5 most significant cars from the New York Auto Show

    The massive 2014 New York International Auto Show has hundreds of cars on display and dozens of all-new models and concept cars vying for attention. While much focus this week has gone to the 50t...

    ConsumerReports.org
  • Mortgage Rates Hit 2.6%

    $150,000 mortgage for $643/month. No hidden points, fees or closing costs! Calculate new payment! (2.8% APR)

    AdChoices LendGoSponsored
  • Richard Rawlings Discovered Pontiac’s “Holy Grail”

    If you’re a fan of Discovery Channel’s hit TV show “Fast N’ Loud”, you’ll want to tune in over the next two weeks. An upcoming two-part episode, which airs on April 21 and 28, showcases what Richard Rawlings believes to be the “Holy Grail of muscle cars” – the first two Pontiac Firebirds ever…

    Boldride
  • 2015 Lexus NX Preview

    Lexus is entering the compact luxury crossover segment with the debut of the all-new 2015 NX. Slotting in below the current RX model, the NX will go up against the Acura RDX, BMW X1, Infiniti QX50, Volvo XC60, and others.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • Outpouring of Love Produces the 2016 Audi A3 TDI Sportback

    If you believe what Audi says, the automaker is returning a turbo-diesel 5-door hatchback version of the new A3 to the U.S. lineup following "an outpouring of enthusiasts' support" for the model. As a result, the new 2016 Audi A3 TDI Sportback joins an expanding lineup of A3 models.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • 2015 Infiniti Q70 Adds Long-Wheelbase Model, Updated Styling, New Safety Systems

    At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, Infiniti unwrapped a refreshed 2015 Q70, the company's flagship luxury sport sedan, which will be offered as the Q70, Q70 Hybrid, Q70S, and new Q70L.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • 2015 Dodge Challenger Looks the Same, But Isn't

    Take a quick look at the new 2015 Dodge Challenger and you might wonder what's different from the 2014 model. However, a closer look reveals quite a few minor changes.

    J.D. Power and Associates
  • The Good, the Bad and the Weird from the 2014 NY Auto Show

    Press days for the 2014 New York International Auto Show are in the books, and this year was…strange at best. The whole place felt like a morgue, despite some significant cars in attendance. Here is our sorta-kinda wrap-up of the show, with the good, the bad, and the questionable. Good: McLaren…

    Boldride
  • Are You Wondering What Your Current Car is Worth?

    Black Book is an online leader in offering timely, independent and accurate used car values. Get a free new car price quote with your used car value!

    AdChoices NewCars.comSponsored
  • 2015 Kia Sedona tries to escape the minivan stigma

    Kia took the wraps off the Sedona 7- and 8-seat passenger vehicle at the New York auto show, but it avoided calling it a minivan. Instead, the automaker insisted on referring to it as an MPV or m...

    ConsumerReports.org
  • Porsche 911 Lemon Owner Promised Refund/Replacement [w/video] [UPDATE]

    We told you yesterday how a Mr. Nick Murray was in the vice grip of Porsche North America surrounding a lemon of a 911. Or as the internet cleverly nicknamed it — the ‘Nine-A-Lemon.’ After months of issues, a few (now viral) videos, and some friendly fans of Nick, he’s finally getting the…

    Boldride
  • Audi A3 Named 2014 World Car of the Year

    This year, Chevrolet made a clean sweep of the North American Car and Truck of the Year, with the Corvette and Silverado, respectively. But those two awards are for mostly American sensibilities, and the rest of the world has little need for really either car. So with that in mind, it might make a…

    Boldride
  • The Best Display in NYC Was a Group of Old Miatas

    The best collection of cars at the 2014 New York International Auto Show was not Audi’s booth of hot cars. Nor was it “supercar alley,” with its Lamborghinis and Koenigseggs. Nope, it was a group of some of the most important Mazda Miatas in the history of the model. The Miata is about to be […]

    Boldride
  • Spring Break 1984: The Last Time Regular Kids Drove Cool Cars

    Drive by a high school parking lot today and it’s full of SUVs and Camrys. Back in the 1980s, though, high school and college parking lots were jam-packed full of cool cars, driven by kids who weren’t satisfied with driving their mom’s Satellite sedan. See, in the 1980s, kids had these things…

    Boldride
  • The Honda HR-V: More Practicality In A Smaller Package

    Crossovers and compact SUV’s don’t exactly command the same excitement as exotic European supercars, but this upcoming Honda should be one crossover worth celebrating. Revealed at the New York International Auto Show – in photos at least – is the upcoming 2015 Honda HR-V. The HR-V originally…

    Boldride
  • Brain Training Games

    Work out your brain with scientific brain games.

    AdChoices LumositySponsored