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Luxury Adds Lightning


We have a friend who clung to her 1994 E320 coupe until it was so tired she had to trade it. And although she loved coupes, she bought a new E-Class sedan. When I asked her about Mercedes’ CLK coupe, she dismissed it as too ordinary and added that the big CL-Class was just too expensive for her budget. If only she had waited another year.

If you’ve waited, you’re in luck. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe looks almost as prestigious as the big $112,000 CL coupe at half the price and it drives as capably as it looks. In fact, the base price of our E550 is even less than last year’s CLK 550 to make sure the new model matches up against Audi’s A5 and S5 coupes. Isn’t competition grand?

In addition to its great new style, the new E550’s longer wheelbase, wider track, and staggered performance tires (235/40 front and 255/35 rear) keep this Benz planted. The 7-speed automatic has adaptive shifting and even in normal mode, shifted like an F-1 gearbox when I accelerated onto the highway in fast traffic. In sport mode, the 3,783-pound coupe sprints from zero to 60 in just five seconds.


Acceleration is amusing and a nice safety feature under some circumstances, but control is what’s really vital. In that all-important category, the E550 is present and accounted for. A new shock valve system that Mercedes labels Agility Control keeps the car planted on twisty roads with little body roll, yet provides the kind of firm luxury ride that E-Class buyers have every right to expect. And braking is enhanced with perforated front brake discs clamped with four-pot calipers.


Inside, the layout is instantly familiar, with hand-stitched leather seating and the burled wood and leather shift knob in the center console where it looks and feels right at home. The instrument cluster contains an icon of a steaming coffee cup, so I assumed there was a Starbucks tracking device in place. Instead, it was what Mercedes has developed called Attention Assist, a feature that computes steering inputs between 60 and 112 mph and if they’re erratic, rings a chime and asks if it’s “Time for a rest?” or coffee. I suppose if you’re dozing off above 112 mph, you’re beyond help.

The new E-Class coupes are designed to hold four adults as long as the two that land in back are not too tall. My just-under six-foot stature fit, but my head was right at the headliner. Entrance and egress with the power memory front seats is relatively easy. When friends or family aren’t in back, the rear seatbacks fold to add lots of additional space to the deep trunk. And the entire interior is nicely lit with a standard panorama sunroof.

Although the newest coupe has just arrived at retailers, the cars are flying off the showroom floor and a convertible will join the lineup in May. Mercedes-Benz has always had good success
with luxury coupes, despite competition from worthy rivals. The new E-Class will certainly continue that legacy.   BRIAN DOUGLAS


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