Once upon a time, the number on the tail of a Mercedes-Benz indicated the sort of engine that could be found at the other end of the chassis: 200 = 2.0-liter four-cylinder; 300 = 3.0-liter six-cylinder; 500 = 5.0-liter V8.
I’ve just come off a week driving the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 coupe, a gorgeous, sleek two-door especially stunning in black paint with a red leather interior. But while it felt as though there was a large and powerful V8 under the hood, what actually was bolted beneath was a 3.0-liter V6, its output nicely boosted by a pair of turbochargers.
So does the 400 indicate horsepower, perhaps?
Nope. This new Biturbo 3.0-liter V6, used in Mercedes’ C and E Class vehicles, pumps out 329 very willing horsepower and 354 eager pound-feet of torque, the sort of numbers you might expect from a larger V8.
But here’s the thing: While the nomenclature might be less than clear, you now can eat your cake and have it as well. While the 2015 E400 coupe is V8 fast, it also is rated at 20 mpg in city driving and 29 on the highway. The gearbox is a seven-speed automatic. Our test vehicle had rear-wheel drive but all-wheel drive is available for those who live in wintery climates.
You can think of the new engine as Mercedes’ twist on the effort that led to Ford’s popular EcoBoost series of engines – engines not only are smaller and more fuel efficient but smaller and more powerful at the same time.
Ah, the wonders of modern automotive engineering and technology.
Making the E400 even more fuel efficient is start/stop technology that shuts off the engine, but not such accessories as the air conditioning or radio, when the car comes to a halt at, say, a stoplight. But lift your foot off the brake pedal and the engine reignites immediately and you’re off and running again.
And running is what this coupe loves to do. We drove up into the mountains east of Phoenix and the bi-turbo V6 barely broke into a sweat as it gobbled up the pavement as we climbed. The ride was comfortable but firm enough for carving curves. Steering was properly weighted and responsive. Brakes were more than sufficient for setting up for a corner or for bringing the car to a full stop.
While the E400 coupe is a joy to see and to drive, it has its drawbacks. Punch the button to shut off the radio and you also lose the GPS map. Corner too quickly and your standard half-liter plastic water bottle emerges from its cupholder. Yes, the trunk is large, but be careful of your forehead when you’re reaching into the abyss. And if you swing the sun visors to the side, they aren’t long enough and don’t slide to cover as much of the window as you’d like.
But the biggest irritation is the push-button starter. About a third of the time, we’d push it to start the car, only to realize that the car hadn’t actually started so we had to push it again. (This is not the car to drive if you’re looking for a quick getaway after robbing a bank.)
And then there are the back seats. Just two of them. But I kept wondering who might be willing to do the contortions necessary to actually sit in them, or to buckle a child into his or her booster seat.
Seems to me that those back seats make about as much sense as those in the Alfa Romeo C4 I’d recently driven. Of course, the Alfa is a two-seat sports car and has no back seats. The E400 is a four-seater that for most people will be used as a two-seater with a really fancy leather-covered shelf to put your briefcase.
Interesting to me is the fact that the pricing of the Mercedes and the Alfa were pretty close. The Alfa was $53,900 base and $60,595 as tested. The Mercedes is $53,350 base and $66,300 as tested, though in the case of the Mercedes, it was packed with options:
- $720 for that Obsidian Black paint;
- $1,370 for the red and black Nappa leather interior;
- $450 to heat and ventilate the front seats;
- $650 for push-button starting (Keyless-Go in Mercedespeak);
- $250 for “special order” (whatever that is);
- $3,430 for a Premium 1 Package that includes navigation with map updates, Verizon Telematics, voice control, harman/kardan surround sound, satellite radio with traffic and weather, power rear-windows sunshade, rearview camera and power-folding mirrors;
- $1,500 for a Lighting Package with adaptive high beams and LED headlamps with active curve and cornering illumination;
- $1,490 for a Sport Package with 18-inch AMG wheels sport pedals and front seats;
- $875 for a Lane Tracking Package with blind-spot assist;
- $1,290 for a Parking Assist Package with surround-view camera system.
For some, the numbers — whether on the back of the car or the Monroney pricing sticker — may not add up.
Nonetheless, for a distinct group of buyers, singles with great jobs or couples either not ready for children or with children grown and out of the nest, the E400 coupe would be an ideal statement of status, and a great way to get out of town for a weekend at that favorite resort.
2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 coupe
Vehicle type: 4-passenger coupe, rear-wheel drive
Base price: $53,350 Price as tested: $66,300
Engine: 3.0-liter biturbo V6, 329-horsepower @ 6,500 rpm, 354 pound-feet of torque @ 3,500-5,250 rpm Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 108.7 inches Overall length/width: 185 inches / 79.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,834 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 20 city / 29 highway / 24 combined
Assembled in: Bremen, Germany