Eddie Cunningham drives, and is ‘driven’ by, the latest bug Coupe from Mercedes
It is true, you know, that the more we get the more we want. What we used to regard as a luxury, quite quickly becomes a necessity.
I know people who cannot, under any circumstances, face the day without two large cups of strong coffee and a large, jam-packed croissant. Far from fancy croissants they were reared, I can tell you.
I hear others talking about the wonderful wine they had at the restaurant and how it is so hard to get that vintage. Far from good wine they were reared either (I suspect some started off illicitly swigging the altar wine).
The same applies to cars. Would we drive a new one that didn’t have air conditioning for example? It is almost unthinkable but how quickly we forget when the vast majority of motors didn’t have it.
We forever want more and more. And we get it because automakers respond to our demands. If we want the ‘Comfort Pack’ on some models, we can luxuriate in (and boast about?) the perforated seats that circulated air-conditioned air around our lower torso.
It has got to the stage where I don’t even mention some of the stuff on cars I test drive any more – because I’d run out of space and I’d only be repeating myself. Stuff of headlines two years ago is taken for granted now.
Take the Mercedes E-Class Coupé I’ve just been driving. It is laden with ‘technologica’ that would have seemed fanciful and unattainable a decade or so ago. I liked, but took for granted, its more basic signatures of executive comfort such as two-tone Classic red-and-black nappa leather.
Why? Because that’s what I’ve come to expect (and it’s far from fancy cars I was reared I can tell you).
I really like the E-Class saloon and estate versions so I was looking forward in a big way to driving this stunning looking Coupe. It looks the part: sloping roof, chrome flat-diamond grille, two fixed-tailpipe exhausts, twin-screen display, AMG-Line touches, 20ins AMG-Line multi-spoke alloys etc. I was impressed and disappointed with this latest incarnation (10cms shorter and 50mm lower than the saloon).
To achieve its striking looks, it has a sharper sloping roof and I anticipated headroom problems in the rear. They didn’t materialise. Not only that, there was enough rear-seat room for two adults despite it also being a 2dr. Getting into the back is straightforward enough, thanks to the wide-opening front doors. But my goodness those doors were long and heavy – be careful opening them in tight parking.
Waiting for you inside is one of the nicest cabins around. Apart from the leather upholstery, there is a sense of proportion to it. I’m a fan of the double-screen/interactive display that stretches across the dash (I’ve watched movies on smaller screens). There was a good driving position and they have located instrumentation smartly and logically. Happy days. My test car was powered by the brand new 2-litre (1,950cc) 4cyl 194bhp diesel (they spent €2bn+ developing it). I’ve loved it in the saloon and estate but this came across differently. It didn’t sound nearly as quiet generally and was a good deal noisier on start-up. It sounded to me like it needed better noise suppression. Not so happy days.
These days you can ‘tune’ a car’s performance (electronically) by choosing certain modes (variations of Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ etc). My test car had what’s called Agility Control suspension which lets the dampers match road conditions. It only partially succeeded. I was disappointed. I’ll blame the 20ins wheels on low-profile tyres for countering many of the benefits. I expected better. Is this an example of never being satisfied? Probably, but I had expected more. It took some of the allure from what is a gorgeous motor. I wanted more dynamism in the drive. I used Sport and Sport+ mode most of the time to give me some sort of an edge. I honestly feel the saloon, and more particularly the estate, were more satisfying in that area. I fully expected better-quality ride especially over poorer roads.
One area that, so far, has managed to retain fascination and meet expectations, is the ability to ‘drive itself’. This could – in most instances anyway. At this stage I’ve been ‘driven’ from Dublin to Belfast; Dublin-Wexford; Dublin-Offaly in versions of the E-Class – and Dublin-Cork in a BMW 520d. The thing about this particular Coupe drive was that the car changed lanes – when safe to do so – after I simply used the indicator. It didn’t do that in previous drives in Ireland (but it did abroad – something to do with national regulations).
So here’s one for the books: it exceeded my expectations this time. Among my many sorties was one where I was ‘driven’ on a stretch of the M50 with my daughter on board. I was completely relaxed (but vigilant) but she was quite nervous. It takes time to start to ‘trust’ the technology and to sense when to intervene. I wonder how long it will be before we take being driven for granted? Not too long at all, I’d say. In conclusion, my overall impression of the E-Class Coupe is one of reality catching up with expectations for some good and some bad reasons.
As a series, it is a lovely car; I do like the cabin and what the technology can do. But I have to say there were areas where my expectations exceeded the Coupe’s ability to deliver. On different wheels and under different circumstances this would, perhaps should, evoke much higher praise. But it falls just a little short of that for me.