Try punching in the following criteria for your next car search: two doors, swoopy styling with a long hood and short rear deck, minimal ground clearance, sticky low-profile tires, and a prestigious logo. What does that say to you? Sports car? Grand touring? What kind of car do you think might get spit out?
The coupe version of the redesigned Mercedes E-class might pop up. It’s neither a GT nor a sports car, but sports coupe isn’t a stretch, especially if your concept of this vehicle type doesn’t necessarily require big horsepower. Aside from megathrust under the hood, the 2014 E350 coupe has pretty much everything one might desire in a personal luxury car—flowing sheetmetal, an elegant interior, symphonic audio, track-day bucket seats, and an athletic suspension.
This is not to say the standard E350 suffers from a power shortage. Its twin-cam 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6 provides yet more proof that internal combustion is a long way from finished, courtesy of a high compression ratio (12.0:1), direct injection, a short stroke, variable valve timing, a lofty 7000-rpm redline, and a healthy 86.2 horsepower per liter.
Impressive by anyone’s standard, though, is the way the transmission responds when it’s employed as a conventional automatic. Upshifts are smooth, tangible enough to reassure the driver that he’s not driving a CVT, and downshifts are just a toe tap away. Check the 30-to-50- and 50-to-70-mph times. The seven-speed will kick down from top gear to third or even second in what feels like a nanosecond, always matching the right gear to the driver’s demand.
In the same vein, the E350’s stop-start system continues to be among the best in the business. Engine restarts are almost transparent, and the elimination of engine idling at most stoplights helps drivers shoot for what are respectable EPA fuel-economy estimates for a car this heavy: 20 mpg city and 28 highway. We recorded 22 mpg, one below the EPA combined rating.