The 2021 E450 Coupe Is a Classic Mercedes

Typical Mercedes brilliance, wrapped up in the correct package—an elegant pillarless coupe.

mercedes benz e450 coupe
Mercedes-Benz

It's a shame more people won't buy this car. Not the Mercedes E-Class in general, mind you, but the Coupe specifically. Mercedes brought back the E-Class Coupe after a 20-plus-year absence, and it will soon disappear again, a victim of consumer preference for crossovers and Mercedes' ill-advised decision to fill every conceivable automotive niche. The two-door E-Class gets lost in that shuffle, and that’s unfortunate, since it’s one of the best cars Mercedes makes. It offers everything we've come to expect from this grandest of automakers—luxury, safety, design excellence, and top-notch engineering—in that most romantic of packages, a pillarless coupe.

Know that I have a predilection for coupes. Especially in America today, where consumers base car-buying purchases based on edge cases—I go skiing with my friends once a year, therefore, I need a three-row SUV—driving a two-door car is a quiet rebellion. You're not as practical as everyone else; you live a more charmed life.

Of course, the current E-Class Coupe has offered all this since it arrived in 2017. For the 2021 model year, it got a facelift that brought subtly tweaked styling, new infotainment and safety tech, and most importantly, a new base engine. The old E400 and E450 used a V-6, which was… fine; this new E450 gets a 362-hp version of Mercedes' new mild-hybrid straight-six, which is exquisite.

mercedes benz e450 coupe
Mercedes-Benz

Not that anyone should be surprised. This straight-six, codenamed M256, has been a part of the Mercedes lineup since 2017. It still feels like a marvel, with basically imperceptible stop-start technology courtesy of a 48-volt starter-generator that replaces the traditional belt-driven ancillaries. It allows for engine-off coasting at speed when Eco mode is called up, and it's pretty much imperceptible. And when it's running, this engine is as smooth as anything. BMW's equivalent six offers more top-end excitement, but how often are you really running out to redline in a car like this? What matters is low- and mid-range torque, and this engine has 369 lb-ft available from 1600 to 4500 rpm.

Mercedes has a 429-hp AMG-tuned version of this engine which uses a novel electric compressor, essentially a turbo minus the exhaust-gas turbine. It's been available in the E53 for a few years now. It's a marvelous engine, but in a decidedly un-sporty luxury coupe like this, the lower-power version is more than enough.

I didn't do anything too fun in my time with the E450; a trip to the office, some errands, a run across the Hudson to meet with friends, normal things. There’s a strong appeal to the way a car like this integrates so easily into your life. It's so smooth, quiet, and relaxed. Driving in and around New York City is stressful at the best of times; the stereotype of New Yorkers not giving a damn about anyone else isn't true, in my experience, except on the road. But roll the windows up in the E450 and the anarchy around you disappears. A car like this spoils you to the point where going back to just about anything else is a disappointment. It made me wonder why I daily-drive a sports car.

2021 mercedes benz e450
Mercedes-Benz
mercedes e450 coupe
Mercedes-Benz

Of course, it's not perfect. The interior is gorgeous and high-quality, but the steering wheel is now a source of vexation. It now uses haptic pads to control the adaptive cruise control system and the infotainment. It looks a little strange with its double spokes protruding from the airbag cover, and individual buttons are simply far easier to use than touchpads. This is just change for change's sake.

Better is the inclusion of Merceces' MBUX infotainment system. Once you learn how the system works, it's an improvement over the COMAND system available in the older E-Class. The central screen now offers touch control, too, which is great when entering addresses, though I found myself using the voice input fairly often. It’s kind of neat to activate it by saying "hey, Mercedes."

I also noticed that some larger bumps in the road sent a judder through the car's structure. It's not so bad that it spoils the driving experience. The car, well-suspended as it is, can't totally fix America's long failure to adequately invest in its infrastructure. It's a car, not a miracle worker.

2021 mercedes e450 coupe
Mercedes-Benz

On paper, Mercedes didn't change much for this E-Class facelift. Yet I couldn't remember being so impressed with the older car. Maybe the engineers made a lot of little tweaks that added up to a lot in that great German automaking tradition. Whatever the case, the engine really helped elevate this base model. Unusually, I even thought it was a pretty good deal for a German car—base price is $66,000, and my well-equipped 4Matic tester stickered for just under $82,000. A BMW 840i starts at $85,000.

Shortly after we handed this car back to Mercedes, a report from UK magazine Auto Express indicated that both the C- and E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet would be replaced by a single model, the CLE. If that sounds a lot like a CLK by another name, that's probably because it is. The market for two-door cars is shrinking, and Mercedes is shrinking its two-door offerings from a high of six nameplates to just three: AMG GT, SL, and possibly CLE.

2021 mercedes e450 coupe
Mercedes-Benz

I can't help but be a little sad that the E-Class Coupe is disappearing. Surely Mercedes will make other cars that offer similar great qualities, but there's something about this particular coupe. It's just the right size, gorgeous to look at, and never ostentatious. It's cool.

Such is life. Automakers must cater to the whims of consumers. Even if they're wrong.

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