Friday, July 24, 2009

A Mercedes built to ride the wind

The new E-Class Coupe beats its sedan counterpart into Canadian Mercedes-Benz dealerships with a lower price tag than the CLK it effectively replaces -- and an attractive wind-cheating design that makes it the slickest, most aerodynamic production car on the market.
Mercedes Benz E-Class Coupe.

A classic coupe design with fully retractable side windows (without a central B-pillar), the E-Class Coupe comes to Canada in two variants. The E350 Coupe is priced at $58,600 (that's almost $10,000 less than the '08 CLK) and the E550 Coupe at $68,200.

Blending sporty performance with ride comfort and the quality trimmings expected of a Mercedes, the E-Coupe has few natural rivals in the current marketplace. The Audi A5 and the Infiniti G37 Coupe are probably its closest competitors. It's also expected to appeal to a younger Mercedes-Benz buyer, in the under-50 age range.

An astounding claimed drag coefficient of 0.24, slicker than the slickest sports car you can buy, is all the more impressive because the E-Class Coupe certainly doesn't have a simple, bullet-like design. And despite a strong family resemblance to the sedan, it possesses a distinctive style and character that's even more aggressive and dynamic.

A sweeping arrowhead line flows from the front bumper over the radiator grille into the hood, and there's a new sharper styling interpretation of the separated twin-headlight look that's become synonymous with E-Class. The Coupe also shares its rear fender design with the sedan.

The E350 Coupe is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 with 268 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque. Hardly a base model, it comes standard with an Agility Control suspension and a Dynamic Handling Package.

Under the hood of the E550 Coupe is a 5.5-litre V8 that can generate 382 h.p. and 391 ft.-lbs. of torque. Mercedes-Benz engineers have also improved the fuel-efficiency of this V8 over its predecessor.

Drive, as always, goes to the rear wheels and both engines are mated to a seven-speed, driver adaptive automatic transmission with Touch Shift. Mercedes claims it can help propel the E350 Coupe to 100 km/h in 6.4 seconds and the E550 Coupe in 5.6 seconds.

New technical innovations include Attention Assist, which is a drowsiness monitor, Pre-Safe, a preventative occupant-protection system, adaptive high-beam assist, which automatically dims headlight high-beams, and an automatic emergency braking system called Distronic Plus.

Inside, new seats have 10-way electric adjustments and leather upholstery as standard. Optional are the active and ventilated front seats with inflatable chambers at the front of the seat cushions and in the centre and side panels of the backrests.

Although it's a sporty coupe, the E-Class can also double as a primary vehicle. Rear-seat passengers are provided with two comfortable individual seats, and backrests that can fold forward individually, to increase the cargo space available in the trunk.

The standard agility-control suspension system reduces the shock absorber-damping force under normal driving conditions for best-ride comfort. During a rapid, evasive manoeuvre, or if the driver decides to up the tempo through some curves, it will immediately switch to the maximum damping force.

A standard dynamic handling package also allows the driver to choose a sporty setup at the touch of a button. This changes the continuously variable damping, the speed-sensitive power steering (with variable centring), ESP/ASR (traction control), accelerator response and speed of automatic gear changes.

On the safety side, a new optional Brake Assist Plus system can apply the brakes automatically when an accident is imminent and the driver has not reacted to its warning signals. The driver chooses the point of intervention (2.6, 1.6 or 0.6 seconds) before impact. This system can significantly reduce the severity of a collision.

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