The Buro 24/7 test drive: Mercedes-Benz E400 coupe
Boasting semi-autonomous tech and space-age design, but is it just hype? Noelle Faulkner takes Mercedes-Benz' newest coupe for a spin
There's a look inside the NGV's Dior exhibition that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe reminded me of. A coincidence, as the German motor company is a key sponsor of the NGV and the Dior exhibition (if you've been, you might have noticed the branded E-class Merc sitting outside the exhibit). You can see why the partnership works, the two share a common interest in innovation, design and world firsts. But on to that look - it's from Raf Simons' A/W 2012 Haute Couture collection for Dior, an exquisitely beaded gown with galactic-like Japanese shibori and laser cut neon flowers and lots of frosting. It's futuristic in delivery, but luxurious and classic in the heart code of its design.
The cockpit of the E-400 4matic coupe can only be described as spaceship-chic; part disco-part-futuristic-part-heritage (well, tthe woodgrain dash and a darling analogue clock are heritage-y touches), one of the most noticeable elements is the fully customisable led lights, which illuminate grooves in the dash, doors and footwells. For bored passengers or those in need of expressing their driving mood, there are 64 colours to choose from, including an on-brand Petronas teal for those F1 fans out there and a very Pantone-like Prince purple. The exterior design, from the curve of the body to the lines of the taillights, and the panoramic sunroof which chicly worships the sky, is forward leaning and fast - for any eighties kids reading this who have seen the Stranger Things precursor, Flight of The Navigator, there's a certain homage in the design. To be honest, one almost expects the car to be all like "sit down navigator". The esoteric reference of an alien to droid-ish driven ship navigated by a human goes deeper when you get to know what this thing can actually do....
"The new E-class has more processing power in one vehicle than an entire Airbus A380," that's a fact presented at the launch for the class. A ridiculous-sounding claim, sure, but when you consider that while you're happily blasting Giorgio Moroder or Daft Punk to suit the aesthetic, through the mega 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester surround sound system (and Mercedes' wheel-toggle system with Apple CarPlay and Android XX), the vehicle is constantly on alert, scoping your surrounds, measuring your distance from the car in front, using human facial recognition technology to watch out for pedestrians you might be at risk of hitting (and getting ready to stop itself or pop the bonnet at the right angle so they fly over instead of straight into your windscreen -morbid, but savvy, no?), tracking your position in the lane and, if you have adaptable cruise control turned on, managing speed for the traffic ahead, adjusting the steering wheel so you stay in-lane and well, driving the car for you - just with your hands on the wheel for legality reasons. At the heart of the E-class is not the technology of the future, but of the present.
For purists who aren't swayed by gadgets, the E-400 grows on you. At first drive it feels executive-like, the way it attacks the road isn't as agile as say, the C63 or A45 - but keep in mind, a thrashable car this is not intended to be. Eventually, that doesn't matter as the forward-leaning, scooped design, aviation-like seats and the glow of the illuminated cabin gives something to effect of speed of light. Though in saying that, the all-wheel-drive, 3.0L V6 twin turbo, with 245kW of power and 480Nm of torque propel this coupe from 0-100 in 5.3 seconds- just don't fling it around a hairpin and not expect it to slide. Instead, take the long road, flick it in to semi-autonomous robot mode and look into the future.
Mercedes-Benz 4Matic E-400 retails at $145,900 (plus on-road costs)
Buro 24/7 Selection
Buro 24/7 Selection