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Mercedes E220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE Coupe Review & Road Test (2010)

Sat, 16 Oct 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Mercedes E220 Coupe Review and Road Test

There was a time when a coupe – like this week’s review car, the Mercedes E220CDI Coupe – was something of a rarity. A rakish, two-door version of more sombre saloons; the caddish younger brother who didn’t give a jot for practicalities. Style was far more important than space or comfort.

But recently the lines have become blurred. Mercedes started the current trend for four-door coupes with the CLS and BMW has managed to stick a coupe on stilts and sell a shed-load as the X6.

But one car maker has always produced handsome, able and beautifully built coupes in the traditional sense. Mercedes had the big, expensive coupe market to itself with cars like the SLC and SEC and the smaller – but almost as desirable – E Class Coupes were always a stylish option from the late ’60s onwards.

Mercedes dropped the E Class Coupe badge in 1997 to launch a new range in its place – the CLK. But that launch almost coincided with the dark age for Mercedes, where quality seemed to be sacrificed in the quest for volume and profits. And somehow, despite being a far from poor car (and selling well enough), the CLK never seemed to have the class of an E-Class Coupe.

Thankfully, Mercedes has managed to turn around the headlong dive in to mediocrity and their cars are, once again, beautifully bolted together and starting to once more feel bullet-proof. And that return to past virtues has, coincidentally, seen the CLK dropped to be replaced by a properly named Mercedes E-Class Coupe .

Or certainly an E-Class Coupe in style and badge; but perhaps not a fully-fledged E-Class under the skin. For this E220 CDI Coupe – just like all the latest E-Class Coupes – is actually based on the shorter C-Class platform. But it seems none the worse for that. In fact, the shorter and sportier C-Class chassis adds a more nimble edge to the E-Class Coupe.

We’re struggling to describe the styling of the E220 CDI Coupe. It’s certainly not pretty, with its mass of seemingly jarring angles and lines, bulbous rear arches and almost incongruous arse. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts and the E Class Coupe does conspire to look handsome and very Mercedes Coupe, helped no doubt by the Mercedes trademark pillarless sides. Well, almost pillarless; there’s a vestigial quarter light lurking at the back.

Inside is more traditional, with plenty of leather and some almost convincing wood trim. The E220 CDI Coupe is also well equipped with plenty of goodies to play with on this SE spec, including the Mercedes trick of  ’handing’ you the seatbelt in a coupe instead of having to scrabble around behind to reach it.

Other stuff on offer includes proper Climate, Bluetooth, Cruise, electric mirrors, easy-entry for the back, parking sensors, heated seats, multi-function wheel and auto lights and wipers. Which is quite a decent set of kit for a Mercedes E-220 CDI Coupe that costs just £30k.

Mercedes E220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE Coupe Photo Gallery

Mind you, our car came with a sizable wodge of extra goodies including DAB, COMAND, Light Package and Memory Package, all of which made this E220 CDI Coupe a much nicer – if much more expensive – place to be.

So this Mercedes E220 CDI Coupe is a handsome car with all the class of a real Mercedes Coupe. It’s also well equipped – even in bog-standard form – but what’s it like to live with?

Mercedes E220 Coupe - elegant and refined

Some cars conspire to make you feel good, whatever the price tag. This E220 CDI Coupe is a very lowly E-Class Coupe, but nothing shouts ‘Low-Rent’ or ‘Cost-Cutting’ or ‘Cheapskate’. It’s nicely bolted together, decently well-equipped and drives rather nicely.

And it’s the ‘Drives rather nicely’ that is the key to the elegant E-Class Coupe, certainly this E220 CDI Coupe. Because it must have been a bit of a dilemma for Mercedes – Soft or Sporty? Which way do you go with an E-Class Coupe at the bottom of the Mercedes range?

The expectation – especially as the E-Class Coupe sits on a C-Class platform – is that the default setting would be sporty. Which it is. But also, it’s not. Which makes no sense at all. But Mercedes has managed to produce a car which can hustle very competently when you want, but which still allows you to waft around without crashing and bashing at every broken section on our sad and sorry roads.

And it’s a neat trick, but don’t run away with the idea that the E220 CDI Coupe is somehow at the cutting edge dynamically. It’s not. But it is very nice to drive ; comfortable and absorbing whatever you’re doing.

In fact we decided that the E220 CDI Coupe is a bit of a swan; there’s lots going on under the skin but very little of it troubles the driver; the drive just feels sorted and composed without ever being harsh or unwieldy. Whether you’re cruising or blatting. Which suits such a handsome car to perfection.

But what about a small capacity, 4-pot oil-burner under the bonnet? How can a 2.1 litre diesel ever produce the sort of power you expect from an elegant Mercedes coupe? It’s as incongruous as a diesel in a convertible; it just seems wrong. But Mercedes has made it work.

It works, even if it doesn’t quite frighten the horses. The 170 horses corralled under the bonnet by a six-speed manual is a really rather nice setup. It rows along convincingly well – even if a 0-60mph of 8.5 seconds isn’t hair on fire time – and manages always to feel brisk when you want it to.

It’s also surprisingly quiet for most of the time, only letting you know it’s burning the fuel of the devil at tickover and under heavy acceleration from cold. But even then it’s more of a tinkling than a rattle; more refined than you’d expect a relatively small diesel to be under load.

But the killer appeal of this 2.1 litre diesel lump, wrapped inside the appealing E220 CDI, is its frugality. None of us at Cars UK Towers are exactly light on the gas pedal – and three of us drove regularly this week – despite which we managed to get 44.9mpg overall. That may not be quite the headline 53.3mpg but it is nevertheless a quite astonishing return from a proper-sized, elegant and sophisticated Mercedes Coupe which was driven enthusiastically wherever possible.

Which was the icing on the cake in a week that found us developing a very healthy respect for the new E-Class Coupe. Yes,we have one of the cheaper Coupes on test, but you’d never know. It looks elegant and refined, and it feels right.

And at just over £30k, the Mercedes E220 CDI is very good value for money. Even if the extras aren’t.

Full Mercedes E220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE Coupe specification, data and price

(25 photos – click any thumbnail for full gallery)

By Cars UK