New Car Review
2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet and Coupe: First Drive
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet come as redesigned models in the wake of the 2014 E-Class sedan. Despite sharing a bigger grille, with a large 3-pointed star the dominant feature, LED-rich headlights (now single units rather than the outgoing model's double units) and maw-like air intakes bookending a front air splitter, the amount of shared sheet metal between the sedan and its 2-door counterparts is negligible.
These cars also have a far more rakish angle to their windshields. As much as the sedan is sensible, the coupe and cabrio are showy. It's a pretty enjoyable show, too.
Body and Soul
Both body styles have two models: the E550 and the E350. The 550 deploys a twin-turbo, 4.6-liter V8 to send 402 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels via a 7-speed automatic transmission. The sprint from standstill to 60 miles per hour is 4.9 seconds.
The 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 302 hp and 273 lb-ft, using the same transmission as its more powerful sibling. It powers the car from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
However, don't think the less impressive numbers of the E350 mean it's less of a car. For all the E550's amazing ability to gather speed, the E350 certainly has all the thrust most people would ever need. And the E350 steals some thunder in the handling. Having two fewer cylinders up front results in a little less weight -- just enough to make the nose feel a touch more willing to transition from one corner to the next and give the steering a touch more precision.
Although you may think such agility would lead to a bone-jarring ride, a comfort/sport switch brings two settings to the suspension. Comfort mode is exactly what it should be but never approaches sloppiness.
Touching on the practical may seem beside the point with these cars, but each has sufficient rear legroom for an adult of average height -- provided there's an average-sized adult sitting in front. The only time dignity may be at risk is when trying to access or exit the coupe's rear quarters. Ditto for when the cabrio's roof is in place.
The multi-layered fabric cabrio roof does a great job of insulating occupants from tire and wind noises. Mercedes-Benz calls it the "quietest cabriolet in its class," and there's no reason to disagree.
Body-specific equipment options also add interest. AIRCAP is a kind of front wing that comes out of the top of the windshield and deflects air over the car. And AIRSCARF (seen on other soft-top models from M-B) sends warm air to the neck from vents set into the car's seats. Even on crisp, clear, cold days, the roof can come down -- a push-button operation that takes about 25 seconds and can be executed at speeds of up to 25 mph. An additional wind deflector between the two rear seats also makes the open cabin remarkably free of turbulence. Conversations may be carried out at freeway speeds using everyday voice levels.
Playing It Safe
Another line Mercedes-Benz likes to use in connection with the E-Class cabrio is that it's "the safest place in the sun on four wheels." Maybe it sounded more elegant in its native German language, but at least it has the ring of truth. The same kind of state-of-the-art safety technology in the revamped E-Class sedan is also available in these two cars. Highlights include active lane keeping, active blind spot monitoring, active parking assist, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera, cross-traffic assist, driver attention assist, 11 airbags, stereo front cameras and radar sensors.
Those stereo cameras, which keep a constant lookout for pedestrians and other hazards, are housed in a unit (prone to hindering visibility, like those angled A pillars) between the windshield and the rearview mirror. That's part of the price for tech and style.
Money for Something
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet go on sale this June, with pricing to be announced closer to that time. A 2013 E350 Coupe starts at $51,120. An E400 version of the coupe and cabrio debuts in 2014 as a 2015 model year. It will replace the E350 and have a new 333-hp V6.
As is always the case with Mercedes-Benz, there are plenty of ways to personalize the car with various trim and equipment options. Keep the calculator handy, though, because they can get expensive in a hurry.
Deciding which version to buy is a nice problem to have. Here's one suggestion: The coupe is a handsome model, but if shoppers already have decided they don't need the practicality of a sedan's four doors, they may as well enjoy the fresh-air fun of the cabriolet, which can work well throughout all four seasons. But just to stir the waters, the E350 coupe offers all-wheel drive as an option.