Aston Martin celebrates its 100th anniversary with a radical one-off concept car
Model: Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI Coupe
Bodystyle: Three-door coupe
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo V6, diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz E350 CDI Coupe
Read more Mercedes Benz reviews
What is it?
The coupe version of the new Mercedes E-Class and replacement for the C-Class based CLK, the repositioning of Merc's mid-sized coupe as an E-Class subtly moves it up a notch in prestige.
It also harks back to the E-Class coupe of the late 80s and early 90s, the predecessor to the CLK and a car much loved by Mercedes fans for its no-nonsense dependability and hard-edged Germanic design.
No accident then that this new E-Class Coupe is blessed with similar virtues and has more than a nod to the old stager, not least in its interior design. Externally the styling is a lot more radical though.
Aggressive, chiselled and unashamedly luxurious, Mercedes coupe design cues like pillarless side windows add to its sleekness. And the shock of the more radical features like the headlights and side spats is mellowing.
Where does it fit?
There are two diesel and three petrol options for the E-Class coupe, all except the flagship E500 available in luxury oriented SE or self-explanatory Sport spec. And with four to eight cylinders there's an engine to suit all tastes.
This 231hp 350 CDI BlueEfficiency Sport is the top of the diesel range and at a list price of £35,280 competes directly with the Audi A5 3.0 TDI quattro, which costs £34,190 in Sport trim and £35,480 in S line.
So what about the BMW 635d? Well, the E-Class coupe matches it in size, has a seven- rather than six-speed automatic gearbox and isn't far behind the 286hp BMW in performance terms.
And yet the BMW costs a staggering £60,330 in Sport spec. No, doesn't make any sense to us either, especially given that if you parked the two next to each other they'd appear, at face value at least, direct rivals.
Is it for you?
Grown-up and sensible sounds like code for dull and boring but the E-Class Coupe makes a virtue out of its well-bred maturity. And in Sport spec includes an AMG bodykit, AMG wheels and a more contemporary aluminium-trimmed cabin.
And it looks great, purposeful, assertive and muscular. But the E-Class has taken a deliberate step towards traditional Mercedes values of solid construction, safety, quality and understated conservatism.
This is a refined, supremely comfortable car intended to cosset and reassure. An overtly sporting coupe in the mould of the Jaguar XK it is not. But that's not to write it off for one minute.
Fast, relatively frugal and elegant it's more in keeping with the times and very much a new-school Mercedes. Which is to say brimming with understated confidence and quietly assured in its role. It's nice to see Mercedes playing to its strengths.
What does it do well?
Most things, to be honest. Like its 80s forebear, the E-Class Coupe is very close in spirit and feel to its saloon relative. True, the sleek lines and overall stance are clearly coupe-ish but it never feels frivolous.
This 350 CDI is the pick too, more refined than the admittedly strong E250 CDI and mere tenths behind the petrol 350 CGI in its 6.7-second 0-62 time. And it never feels anything less than effortlessly rapid.
Established E-Class virtues like superb ride and innovative safety technology are, of course, all part of the package. And the rear seats are usable rather than token efforts too.
The standard Agility Control suspension is firmer than in the SE-spec car and on our test car included an additional, optional Dynamic Handling Package with adjustable dampers. But you'll rarely feel the need to hit the Sport button.
What doesn't it do well?
Those looks are going to be a love it/hate it thing and it's true the interior trades flair for function. But it's hard to really find much wrong with the E-Class coupe without getting quite nit-picky.
As ever, the list price is only half the story and even on this car leather is a £1,267 option and Comand sat-nav a hefty £2,128. It is, however, beautifully integrated into the rest of the car's systems.
What's it like to live with?
You'll have probably gathered we quite like the E-Class coupe! It's certainly very pleasant to live with, with four-decent sized seats, a 450-litre boot and pretty much all the appeal of an E-Class saloon but in much more stylish clothes.
It's a very soothing car to spend time in too, both on a hectic commute and over long distances. The V6 diesel gets the über-slick seven-speed autobox too, a step up from the five-speeder on the E250 CDI.
We'd certainly take it over the Audi A5, the E-Class Coupe's more fluid ride, better steering and surprise and delight features like the pillarless windows making it a more special place to be.
The user-friendly Comand infotainment system and ground-breaking safety features like the Attention Assist are just the tip of the technological iceberg too, the options list packed with any number of gizmos from adaptive headlights to radar cruise control.
How green is it?
As a diesel the E350 CDI gains BlueEfficiency status, denoting supposed eco friendly status. This is a bit of a stretch for a heavy, luxurious and extremely rapid coupe but official figures of 179g/km and 41.5mpg are impressive.
Mid 30s are more realistic, the cheaper 250 CDI the more frugal choice. Either way, BlueEfficiency tech includes 'on demand' management of power steering and other systems, coolant bypass to speed engine warm up and energy recuperation under braking.
Would we buy it?
The E-Class Coupe is a very, very good car with a finely judged ride, solid and comfortable interior, cleverly integrated technology and - with this engine - muscular, refined and relatively frugal performance.
It is, perhaps, a little too sensible and Germanic at times. But it will only grow in your affections over time. If you're after thrills look elsewhere but if you appreciate quality Mercedes is back on form.
More images of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe from Bing
Compare rivals using Car Guide
More Mercedes-Benz road tests
related stories on msn
Latest Cars videos
On the road with the landmark Lambos for special golden anniversary drive.
Date 13/05/13, Duration 4:26, Views 8859