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First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

New name, new look. Still tough to beat.

by on May.13, 2009

The old Mercedes CLK morphs into the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe for 2010.

The old Mercedes CLK morphs into the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe for 2010.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.  It’s sound advice, especially when it comes to naming a fleet of automobiles.  Over the years, we’ve watched the Mercedes-Benz line-up grow from the easily remembered C-, E- and S-Class models to a procession of increasingly complex offerings like the CLK, SLK and GLK.  So, we were pleased to discover that not only was the automaker redesigning its CLK 2-door, but renaming it the E-Class Coupe.

We spent a couple days in Las Vegas driving all the latest E-Class variants, earlier this month, and you can read our review of the E350 and E550 sedans by clicking here.  But the 2010 Mercedes E-Class Coupe is worth a little closer look.  Actually, to be perfectly precise, make that Coupes, for the 2-door will be offered with a choice of either the 3.5-liter V-6 or the sportier 5.5-liter V-8, the same powertrain pair available for the sedan.

The new E-Class Coupe shares many of the same underpinnings of the sedan and, in fact, quite a bit of its mechanicals were originally developed for the smaller Mercedes C-Class.  But despite the familial resemblance, the Coupe’s sheet metal is all its own.

Oops. It's easy to forget you're not on the Autobahn when driving the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe.

Oops. It's easy to forget you're not on the Autobahn when driving the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe. With a 0-60 time of barely 5 seconds, the E550 goes extra-legal quite quickly.

The look is more sporty than the sedan, with an even more raked front and decidedly dramatic rear fender flares, though classic car buffs will notice that both new models borrow liberally from the classic 1953 “Ponton” generally seen as the first true E-Class.  Like the sedan, there’s a larger grille and a bigger air intake, though the coupe gets a huge Mercedes tri-star in its grille.  The ovoid headlights have been replaced with what might be best described as quad parallelograms.  A pair of hockey-stick shape LED fog lamps anchor the lower corners of the nose.  The taillights are also LEDs.

A nice touch is the absence of B-pillars.  With all four windows down – and the rear windows fully retract – you come pretty darn close to the feel of a convertible, even more so when you roll back the massive Panorama roof.

The overall look is relatively close to the Sport version of the new E-Class sedan, but, if you’ll allow us, yet a bit more sporty.

That extends to the interior design.  The 14-way power seats are replaced with standard, sculpted sport seats.  The instrument panel takes on a more V-shaped design, with aluminum panels, as well as the hand-polished burl walnut that adorns the Luxury version of the sedan.  A unique 3-spoke steering wheel is adorned in Napa leather.  In fact, several contented cows apparently were sacrificed for each coupe.

A modest but notable difference in the cabin design comes with the placement of the Coupe’s shifter: on the center console, rather than on the steering wheel, as it is with the sedan.  That requires a few other minor adjustments, including a relocated COMAND shifter and cupholders.

It has been said that it’s all in the details, and Mercedes has dealt with a surprising number of them, such as the subtle, clear spoiler lip on each of the rear lamps.  This not only helps keep the lamps cleaner, explains platform chief Bernhard Glaser, but also improves high-speed downforce.

As with the sedan, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe offers a multi-page list of standard and optional high-tech features, (check out more in our review of the E-Class Sedan), from the oversized navigation system to the Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe Braking system that acts like an active cruise control system in normal traffic, but turns into a nearly autonomous emergency braking system should it sense an imminent accident.  The new platform, by the way, is notably stiffer, but to improve safety even further, the E-Class Coupe is offered with 9 individual airbags.

The E350 features a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6.  Thanks to the smaller dimensions and lighter weight of the coupe, it turned 0 to 60 times of around 6 seconds in our admittedly unscientific testing.  The E550 gets a 382-hp, 5.5-liter V-8 which, like the smaller engine, is mated to Mercedes’ 7-speed automatic.  It turned in launch times of just under 5 seconds.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mercedes is opting against an AMG version of the coupe.  Volumes would be too small to justify the expense, we’re told.

As with the sedan, you’ll get the Agility Control Suspension in the E350, and the Dynamic Handling Suspension in the V-8.  The latter is a driver-adjustable system that turns an already sporty car into a serious performance machine; in sport mode, not only is suspension tuning stiffer, but the throttle response is quicker and shifts are more aggressive.

The overall feel of the coupe is taut and quite a lot of fun to drive.  The E550 is particularly responsive, if you’re willing to cough up the extra money – and sacrifice some fuel economy.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 will go for $48,050, following its launch, this coming autumn.  That’s $50 less than the outgoing ’09, but when you add in all the extra features, Mercedes claims a price/value savings of about 8%.  At $54,650 for the E550, the automaker claims a similar savings.  Add another $875 for destination and delivery.

Why go for the E-Coupe?  It’s all about the emotional appeal.  While the majority of Mercedes buyers will likely opt for the more practical sedan, there’s something sporty and, well, just plain fun about a 2-door.  It has a sexy, sporty appeal that wins out over practicality, especially if, like most American motorists, you’re usually going to drive alone, or perhaps with a friend or spouse.

Whatever the reason, the E-Class Coupe is a terrific update to the old CLK.  A new name, a great new start.

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