Road Test

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

Mercedes-Benz's mid-range luxury coupe is designed for those who wish to drive in style

Mercedes-Benz E350 coupe 2011

Coupes use to be the coolest of all body styles. And they still are, in my opinion.

The auto manufacturers must think so as well, for several are now trying to get away with calling four-door models coupes. No way!

A coupe, by my definition has two doors, a rakish roofline and at least a semblance of a back seat. Coupes are for couples · or those who wish to drive in style with the ability to accommodate others only on occasion.

Take for example · and I wish I could · the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe. While it shares the vast majority of its parts and pieces with the E-Class sedan, the coupe has a more rakish profile and hunkered-down appearance.

Granted the longer doors require more room to open and the back seat doesn·t have the same welcoming amount of space as the sedan, but what the coupe does have is style.

The new E-Class coupe replaces the CLK-class version offered previously. It's a luxurious cruiser that is equally at home cruising the freeway, tackling twisty back roads or ferrying folks to a night club.

Smooth, serene and very good looking, it tells one and all that you have arrived, or are arriving. Just to make sure they get the point it has a monstrous Mercedes-Benz logo smack in the middle of the grill.

The company celebrates its 125th year in the business in 2011 and has earned the right to display the three-pointed star prominently.

My test vehicle was the E350, which means it had the company·s 3.5-litre V-6 engine. It also had the AMG Sport and Premium packages which added $1,450 and $4,500, respectively, to the $59,900 starting price, bumping it to $65,850.

While that puts it in pretty lofty territory, it is actually very competitive. The 268-horsepower engine is smooth, efficient and, thanks to the seven-speed automatic transmission, always in or near its power peak.

There is plenty of poke for accelerating from rest or when passing. If more is your wish you can opt for the V-8 version, which puts an additional 124-horsepower under your foot and an additional $15,000 hole in your bank account.

The seamless way the engine and transmission communicate is a great example of why this company is known for its engineering prowess. When you add in the powerful brakes, communicative steering and a suspension that can coddle and pacify enthusiastic drivers the depth of that engineering becomes even more evident.

Continuing on that theme, Mercedes says the E Coupe is the slipperiest (most aerodynamically-efficient) production vehicle in the world. It·s hard to argue with that claim, judging from the lack of wind noise. Artful insulation has also minimized road and drivetrain noise as well, making for a serene and luxurious drive.

Safety is front and center · both active and passive safety. The E-Class has the

requisite number of airbags, crush zones, latest generation belts, seats and head restraints to protect occupants after a collision takes place, but it also has a plethora of devices to help an alert driver avoid a crash.

One of those emphasizes ·alert· with a little symbol of a coffee cup in the instrument panel. Various sensors monitor driver behavior and based on a set of 70 parameters emits both visual and audible warning if it detects steering or lane variances judged to be out of the ordinary. This feature is especially helpful on long boring drives and at night.

Of course ABS and an elaborate electronic stability control system are standard. A pre-safe braking system primes the brakes for maximum pressure in minimum time in situations where emergency braking may be necessary.

Equipment levels at this price point are extensive and here the E-Coupe shines as well. In addition to the expected power assists for everything it had a truly panoramic sunroof, 10-way power adjustable front seats and power tilt and telescope functions for the steering wheel. A COMAND control centre with seven-inch display takes a prominent position atop the instrument panel.

And the Coupe uses a console-mounted shifter instead of the little IP-mounted lever used on the sedan version

The E-Coupe is a four-seater with no provision for a fifth occupant. While leg and headroom are sparse in the aft compartment, getting in and out is made easier by a clever tilt and fold action of the front seats. Folks in the front seats are ·handed· their belts by a robotic arm that presents them when the doors are closed. Neat.

The Mercedes-Benz E-350 Coupe is a well-engineered, completely equipped luxury car boasting a full slate of safety and technical features. At this price and in this competitive set · especially when considering resale value · it can even be considered a bargain.

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