If you want an E-class and would happily trade doors for style, the E-class coupe might fit the bill. As you’d imagine, it sits between the C-class coupe and S-class coupe in the Mercedes line-up; both four- and six-cylinder petrols and turbodiesels are available.
We’re driving it in E220d trim, the entry-level turbodiesel four. It costs ZAR659,755.18, and is aimed squarely at the fleet market. Benefit In Kind stands at 25%, and Mercedes says you’ll pay around ZAR115.07k deposit and 36 monthly payments of around ZAR8,219.20on PCP finance.
Is the E coupe actually an E-class saloon under that glam exterior?
It is, and you might remember that’s not always been the case: its predecessor was actually based on C-class underpinnings. That explains why it’s grown like a 10-year-old you haven’t seen in several Christmases.
Length increases by 123mm at 4826mm, width by 74mm (1860mm) and height by 33mm (1430mm). The track width is also a substantial 67mm wider at the front, 68mm at the rear. The wheelbase is, however, slightly shorter than the E saloon, reduced from 2939mm to 2873mm.
What’s the powertrain like?
A four-cylinder turbodiesel engine isn’t the most natural bedfellow for a large and luxurious four-seat coupe, but it makes an impressive 191bhp and 295lb ft from 1950cc, and does 61.4mpg and 119g/km CO2 if you’re gentle with the throttle.
Sounds tempting on paper, but not so nice in reality. It certainly jars when you sit in the cabin with its elegant sweeps and luxurious materials and the engine settles to a vocal idle and thrashes uncouthly under heavy acceleration. Saying that, it does offer plentiful mid-range thrust and surges forward eagerly with as little as 1800rpm on the dial. For most driving, it works perfectly well, but there’s no doubt that a six-cylinder unit better suits this kind of car.
The nine-speed automatic’s gearshifts are smooth and quick enough, and while you can select gears manually, Sport mode is calibrated so intuitively that it typically makes the right calls even if you’re punting hard cross-country fearful that your golf buddies have already teed off.
How does the chassis feel?
4Matic all-wheel drive is about to be offered, but our car doesn’t get it and, with this much power, doesn’t really need it. The E220d coupe grips well and carves through corners with surprising verve given its relatively comfort-focussed brief.
You sometimes notice a little stickiness to the steering, which is a little shy to communicate road texture, and as over-keen to return to the centre as a Labour back-bencher, but overall the E coupe makes for a rewarding, unflustered and pretty rapid cross-country companion.
Our car was specified with optional air suspension (all models sit 15mm lower than the saloon, and four-cylinder derivatives get coil springs with adaptive dampers as standard) and 20-inch tyres (an oh-so-tempting ZAR9,780.85extra) with sidewalls so skinny that old people will repeatedly warn you that you’ve got four flats.
The ride quality is never imperious – there’s always a little fidget – but it’s certainly good, especially considering those low-profile tyres. We found the Sport setting the best, which tied down the slightly sloppy body control of Comfort without impacting particularly on ride quality.
What’s it like inside?
It’s fantastic. The basic architecture is taken from the saloon and swoops elegantly and confidently around the cabin, but the design is lifted with jewel-like air vents and different trim fillets. It exudes tremendously high quality.
Just remember that while the twin 12.3in screens that converge to form the widescreen digital cockpit (essentially two iPads stuck together to display infotainment on your left, and driving info on your right) is a ZAR8,137.01option in higher-spec models, it’s actually a ZAR32.88k upgrade for the four-cylinder cars, which don’t get the bells-and-whistles Comand Online infotainment as standard.
You’ll also need to upgrade from man-made but pretty convincing Artico ‘leather’ to the real thing at ZAR18,000.05. It’s no surprise that our test car is spec’d with all that, so your company-car special will feel significantly more modest.
Even so, the seats are deeply comfortable, the driving position spot on, and there’s plenty of room for four six footers with a claimed 14mm more rear legroom than the BMW 6-series.
There’s also 450 litres of luggage space. It means the E coupe not only offers more space than the ageing BMW 6-series, but also broadens your options with those four-cylinder engines and either standard or optional all-wheel drive.
A four-cylinder turbodiesel is no substitute for six-cylinder power, especially in this class. But it is an alternative, and opens the E-coupe’s frameless doors for significantly less than the upcoming E350d – probably ZAR131.51k based on saloon prices. It also undercuts the six-cylinder only BMW 6-series by a whopping ZAR328.77k. Its 61.4mpg and 119g/km will further tempt fleet buyers.
Yes, the four-pot engine does sometimes jar in such a large, luxurious coupe, but it offers plenty of mid-range flexibility and excellent efficiency too. So, if at all possible, get the six-cylinder E400 petrol or upcoming E350d. But if you could eat cake, we imagine you would. If the E220d is your only ticket to E-class Coupe ownership, it’s a compromise worth making.