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Mercedes-Benz E-Class E350
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The all-new E350 aims to spoil with its luxury sedan hospitality in coupe attire. Is it tempting enough?

If you were a fan of Mercedes' CLK series and knew about its demise, I am sure you would be disappointed? The model name is now history, however, one look at the range that replaces it and you will be all smiles. The Stuttgart giant was getting notorious for using a host of alphabetic acronyms to refer to its various models, specifically model names like C, CL, CLK and CLS were starting to get little confusing. Right then, there is always a way to rectify a problem - the CLK tag was chopped off and the car replacing this two-door model will now be called the all-new E-class coupe. Hold on, does this mean the car I went gaga over the weekend was nothing but a shortened, sans two doors variant of the new E-class? Not really. Agreed that the CLK was more C than E, but the coupe here is the opposite. Visually, in and out, it seems more like the E sedan, however, it won't be wrong to say that it shares the platform (and some more components) with the C class and is almost similar in dimensions.

Visually, like its sedan counterpart, this coupe is an aesthetic joy. Mercedes clearly wants it to be seen as an E. Hence, it is no surprise that the car adopts the sedan's design cues including quad headlamps and the Ponton-inspired and dare I say, somewhat Korean looking rear quarters. What really gives the coupe a ravishing appeal is its CLS-like almost all glass arching roofline, very essential for that racy character. And oh, that also makes it the slipperiest car in the world with a drag co-efficient of just 0.24. Pillar-less designs have always fascinated me and in this case, it raises the coupe's good looks up over the four-door's. Further, look closely at the alloy wheels and you notice the small AMG logo as well - a small yet significant detail to make you smile. The E couple clearly manages to shrug off all the soft, feminine and somewhat conservative look of the old CLK for its crisp detailing and of course a big, bold three-pointed star on the grille. Isn't this a really beautiful car?

On the inside as well, it's purely E with an almost identically designed fascia, pods, steering wheel, et al. This isn't a bad thing as there is no arguing with the high-quality finishes and appeal of the cabin. Top notch quality, superbly crafted pods, switches and buttons - just what you desire and wish from a coupe of this stratum. There are a few differences like the low seats, essential for a sporty driving posture, automatic seatbelt feeders that protrude out on start up, a subtle V shape in the central console of the fascia to reduce the design's imposing squareness and a more than welcome gear shifter located centrally like the way it should be. However, the car shocks you no end when you have to manually push back or pull ahead the front two seats. How will you justify this on a half a crore coupe Mr Salesman? Secondly, although I am aware this is a two-door car, access to the rear seat is pretty difficult and once there, how you wish you had tiny little South East Asians in the front two seats. Headroom, actually the lack of it at the rear, is a big issue - blame it on the slopping roof. Apart from these little shortcomings (I anyways wouldn't really want extra passengers in the rear seats hampering the performance), the insides are very impressive. It is a place I would love to spend hours at a go, especially each time I look at those gorgeous drilled pedals.

Similarities with the E sedan continue beneath the hood as well. It comes with the same 272PS 3.5-litre V6 motor which of course retains its smooth stress-free nature. However with little less weight to lug around, you don't have to be Einstein to conjure the fact that the coupe builds up speeds quicker. A 0.4 second improvement in the 0-100km/h dash might not sound impressive but it's the pure surge of locomotive type torque right from 2400rpm that makes all that tech gadgetry work hard to keep the car planted. Some might think that its 7.9 second timing for the 0-100km/h dash might not be very exciting given the fact that it's a sports coupe. The car never feels slow or winded though it surely lacks the sexy engine notes of some of the other coupes out there in the world market.

Does the E350 coupe handle? Oh boy yes! Although this Merc doesn't boast of an all-wheel drive system, simply put it handles much better than its four- door counterpart mainly due to the low profile 18-inch wheels and a quicker steering ratio as compared to the E sedan. The best way to enjoy the coupe is this - select the S mode from the transmission tunnel, don your Oakley's, hit your favorite set of twisties on a beautiful Sunday morning and voila, you suddenly rediscover what adrenaline filled moments feel like. For the adventurous few, switching off ESP can translate into oodles of fun as well. The quicker steering helps to make it feel lighter and smaller than the sedan, but then again it actually is a smaller and lighter car. Typical to almost all Mercs, the light steering somewhat feels devoid of feedback and becomes too light for my liking at high speeds. Meanwhile, the ride quality remains civilized and even with those low profile 18-inch wheels, the coupe manages to ride over broken tarmac pretty swiftly. To summarize, the ride and handling balance is excellent.

As much as the rear seats seem impractical to me for two full-sized adults, the huge boot space of the coupe is more than adequate for long weekend holidays. But stuff up the car with passengers and their baggage and you are bound to arrive at your destination with a few unpleasant marks on the underbelly, thanks to the low ground clearance. Safety also goes hand in hand with Mercedes' cars and the coupe is no exception. From Attention Assist and Pre-Safe to numerous airbags popping out from all directions, the E350 coupe remains one of the safest set of four wheels in India.

At an ex-showroom (Mumbai) price of Rs 53.68 lakh, the E350 coupe surely seems to command a premium over its sedan sibling. But you really can't blame Mercedes for this as the coupe is sold as a CBU import as compared to the sedan which is assembled here. So, should we be pestering a select few readers born with a silver spoon to head to the nearest MB showroom with a cheque book in their pocket? Mercedes has, without giving up any of it traditional merits, surely dialed-up the style and sport factors in this new E-class coupe, making it a very tempting personal luxury sports car proposition. For me, this is very much a car that's comfortable in its own skin, aimed at individuals who are much the same.

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