Mercedes-Benz's E-Class sedan has always taken the role of the responsible parent in the luxury automaker's family. Buttoned-up and stately, it is the vehicle of choice for executives who want a posh ride that shouts, in a reserved fashion, "I've arrived."
Then there are the Coupe and Cabriolet variants. Though part of the E-Class lineup, they are smaller and sportier than their sedan siblings. With seating for just four and an athletic attitude, these 2-door takes are the hip bachelor uncles in the E-Class family, complementing the dedicated father persona of the 4-door models.
And like the Mercedes E-Class sedan and wagon, the coupe and cabriolet versions have been refreshed for 2014. New front and rear fascias are complemented by a host of under-the-metal technology that includes Mercedes' new "intelligent drive." The system is actually debuting in the E-Class ahead of Mercedes' next flagship model, the 2014 S-Class sedan, and has the capability to watch for wayward pedestrians, keep you centered in the lane should you start to wander, and monitor the road and other vehicles with cameras and radars that function as digital eyes that would embarrass an eagle.
Under the hood, engine choices carry over -- at least for now. The 2014 E350 coupe and cabriolet models feature a 302-horsepower V6, while higher-power E550 variants employ a 402-horsepower V8. For 2015, though, today's E350 coupe and cabriolet will be updated with a twin-turbo V6 that will make an estimated 333 horsepower, and receive new badging to read E400.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Those details out of the way, your main question may be: How do the 2014 E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet drive? Mercedes-Benz invited us to these vehicles' native Germany to find out. Let's dispense with the spoiler alert and just tell you straight out: They're both extremely embraceable touring cars, whether you're meandering up country roads strewn with windmills or screaming down the autobahn while continually moving to the left to pass lesser vehicles (which is the majority of them).
The differences between these two cars, as well our favorite and least favorite features, are in the details. The biggest differentiator between coupe and cabriolet, of course, is the roof. The cabriolet has a beefy fabric top that functions better than expected. We're particularly fond of models that feature roofs dyed in deep blue or crimson. Practically speaking, with the roof raised the 2014 E-Class Cabriolet feels like a well-insulated cocoon. Mercedes says this convertible is the quietest in its class, and we believe it.
But convertibles are meant to be driven top-down, and thus transformed the Cabriolet comes into its own. Thanks to turbulence-taming features like the windshield-mounted Aircap system and rear wind deflector, you can confidently drive at speeds well in excess of U.S. law without having to yell to converse or paste your hair into place with superglue. Our Cabriolet test model with the 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 was plenty strong with a broad power band. In fact, in city traffic we had to be gentle on the throttle, lest we lay new rubber on Hamburg's old cobblestone roads. Though sporty, we wouldn't call this vehicle a corner-carver. Its forte is cruising.
The Coupe feels stiffer and offers an even quieter ride thanks to its fixed roof. We were treated to a preview of the 2015 E400 and quickly fell in love with its twin-turbo V6 that offers V8-like power, quick response, and a commendable exhaust note. Like the Cabriolet, the hardtop has a pair of small rear seats. They can accommodate adults on shorter trips, but may be too tight for longer excursions. A nice touch is the power-operated front seats that slide back and forth to allow easier access to the rear.
The leather front seats, meanwhile, are among the most comfortable we've sat in. Interior fit and finish in general is almost beyond reproach. We qualify that with "almost" since the sun visors fail to extend to the sides. This is only an issue when you need it most -- when the sun is low to the side and striking your peripheral vision.
That complaint aside, there are not many faults to find in Mercedes' 2014 E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet models, which arrive in June. Exact pricing figures are still to be announced, but they aren't expected to vary drastically from the roughly $52,000 starting price for the current E350 Coupe and $60,000 for the E350 Cabriolet. Neither will provide the passenger and cargo room of their sedan and wagon siblings, but what they lack in 5-person pragmatics they make up for in 2-door indulgence. They are, after all, the cool kin at the family reunion.
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