Mercedes-Benz makes beautiful coupés. It always has done, ever since the 1920s and 30s, when its two-door cars stood a head and shoulders above everything else. Fashions in car styling have come and gone, but the way in which Mercedes has managed to create beauty out of a simple two-door body shape has been undiminished by the era, from the sharp edged 70s through to the bulbous nineties and beyond. Admittedly, a coupé is an increasingly anachronistic symbol of a certain kind of elegance, which along with a well tailored suit or dress, is gradually receding into irrelevance.
The new E-Class coupé continues this happy aesthetic adventure with aplomb. The svelte cousin of the rather more prosaic E-Class saloon and estate, best known in Europe as the go-to choice of taxi drivers, mini-cab owners and middle class families, the coupé is an altogether more sybaritic experience, one that speaks of luxury but not of excess, and of the fundamental pleasures of ample power and fine design. The company’s two-door, fixed-head models are its finest aesthetic achievement. As well as the E, there’s the C-Class and the Mercedes-AMG GT, a brace of three of the best-looking cars you can buy right now. Admittedly they’re rather old fashioned when compared to the progressive vision of tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles, which eschew sleek forms in favour of rather more prosaic forms.
The interior is luxurious and stylish, continuing to look back to a golden age. © Daimler AG
That’s the future. Right now, you can order the E-Class coupé just like any other conventional car, petrol or diesel, although there is a fair amount of Mercedes’ excellent self-driving tech on board, capable of competent lane-keeping and speed-maintaining duties, as long as you check in with a regular squeeze of the wheel. E-Class coupé buyers aren’t likely to be swayed by the ability to ‘check in’ with their elegant steeds, however. Despite the ever-increasing sophistication of quasi-autonomous systems, this is a car for enjoying on high days and holidays, for driving without any particular ambition or destination. In this spec, with a V6 engine and discrete four-wheel drive, progress is hushed, unruffled and only remotely ragged if you chose to drop all semblance of human decency and hammer at the pedals. Which of course, you won’t, because the interior ambience and overall refinement is such that any thoughts of crudity are effectively suppressed.
Without having to compete with BMW’s puppyish obsession with dynamics, or Audi’s relentless focus on design, Mercedes has let itself sit back and concentrate on refinement, safe in the knowledge that it can get within close enough to its rivals in every way that matters. The Mercedes-Benz sometimes seems to drift in a timeless limbo, for the company cars with a classic twist. As long as luxury and style look back to a golden age, a Mercedes coupé will probably always be at the top of someone’s wishlist.