Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe
Mercedes' new generation E-Class coupe has even sleeker looks and offers a whole series of dynamic driving aids but in reality, is at its best when delivering a luxurious grand touring experience. There's a sense of class, quality and style here that makes this car unique at its price point and would normally be the preserve of a larger and much more expensive sports coupe.
As you'd expect, this E-Class Coupe shares its engine ware with the E-Class saloon, which means that the headline news is the installation of that model's completely new 194bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine in the entry-level E220d variant. There are two other mainstream engine options - both petrol-powered; the 245bhp four-cylinder E300 and the 333bhp six-cylinder E400 4MATIC. All are equipped as standard with 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission and the DYNAMIC SELECT system that allows you to tweak steering feel, throttle response, gearshift timings and stability control thresholds to suit the way you want to drive. If you opt to replace the standard DIRECT CONTROL suspension (lowered by 15mm over the saloon model) with optional adaptive damping or DYNAMIC BODY CONTROL air suspension, the DYNAMIC SELECT system's modes will alter ride quality too. There are "Comfort", "ECO", "Sport", "Sport +" and "Individual" settings to choose from.
Mercedes claims that handling response has improved this time round, thanks to this generation model's lighter weight and wider track. This isn't the kind of Executive segment coupe designed for a driving enthusiast though. Instead, the emphasis is on comfort and high-tech, with innovations including high-resolution MULTIBEAM LED headlamps and a DRIVE PILOT system that can virtually supply autonomous driving - depending on how you use it.
First to the feature I like most about this car. The absence of a central B-pillar together with a frameless window design means that you've only to open everything up to get a wonderful sense of airy freedom that's further enhanced if you've also selected the optional sunroof. None of that's changed in a new generation model that retains its classic coupe proportions with a long bonnet, an elongated side-line, a flat roof profile and a powerful tail end now sporting smarter LED lamps and a 'wide effect' rear bumper. What is different is that with a length of 4,826mm, a width of 1,860mm and a height of 1,430mm, this new generation E-Class Coupe is clearly larger than its predecessor.
Slip behind the wheel and if you're familiar with the previous generation version of this car, the main change you'll notice - at least on a top model - lies with the two optionally available high-resolution 12.3-inch displays which are merged under a single lens to produce a floating Widescreen Cockpit effect. This emphasises the width, alongside the fascia-spanning trim, which is finished with a dynamic sweep in the door panel. Positioned in the driver's direct field of vision, the instrument cluster shows virtual instruments, which can be selected by the driver in three different styles, "Classic", "Sport" and "Progressive", depending on which information and views the driver chooses.
The improvements made to this E-Class Coupe - the more efficient engines, the smarter looks, the extra equipment - have certainly been welcome but the essence of its appeal has changed very little. As you'd expect, it delivers the powerful, luxurious, Grand Touring sports coupe brand values you'd expect from a £40,000-£50,000 luxury Mercedes coupe.
In driving it, in owning it, you feel another more elegant level away from owners of the brand's less aspirational C-Class Coupe. And a cut above the sporting two-door models that car competes with, coupes like BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5. There's a maturity and a class here that these sportier rivals lack. They could never be considered as a wise and cost-efficient alternative to spending £30,000-£40,000 more on a Maserati GranTurismo or BMW 6 Series. This Mercedes could be. And that about sums it up.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe range
Audi A5 Coupe
On paper, the MK2 model Audi A5 Coupe is the market's most complete compact executive sporting two-door model. Performance statistics, running costs, residual values, practicality - all of these things have been ruthlessly checked to improve upon standards set by rivals from Mercedes and BMW. It's a clinical approach. And not surprisingly, it's produced a car that's very difficult to fault.
You'd think, when it came to driving dynamics, that this A5 would be starting out with a disadvantage over 4 Series Coupe rival. Its front-driven layout will, after all, never reward an enthusiast in quite the same way as a rear-driven BMW. But in originally developing this car, Audi was convinced that it could be made to feel almost as good. To prove the point, three different suspension systems are being offered this time round, two of them passive and one featuring adaptive damping. Whatever your choice, you'll find the set-up firmer than it would be in an equivalent A4 saloon.
Under the bonnet, the engines pretty much reflect the ones you get in the A4 line-up, with the exception of the fact that you can't get the 150PS 2.0 TDI motor. For petrol people, things kick off with a 150PS 1.4 TSI unit. The brand's latest 2.0 TFSI powerplant is provided in 190PS guise with 2WD and the choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed S tronic auto transmission; or 252PS, in which guise this unit can only be ordered with an S tronic gearbox and quattro 4WD. If, like many A5 Coupe buyers, you want a diesel, you'll probably want the 2.0 TDI 190PS unit, offered with either a manual or an S tronic auto 'box, plus if you go for the auto, there's a quattro option if you want it. If you need a diesel with more poke, there's a 218PS six cylinder 3.0 TDI derivative, which only comes in quattro guise with S tronic transmission. At the top of the range, the sporting S5 quattro variant gets a newly developed 3.0 TFSI turbo V6 powerplant with 354PS, which is 21PS more than the engine in the previous model. The flagship RS5 quattro gets its own 2.9-litre V6 with 450PS on tap.
Think this second generation A5 coupe doesn't look much different to its predecessor? Look again. Yes, features like the previous model's wave-shaped shoulder line are carried over but the whole effect is now sharper and more modern, featuring a sculpted Singleframe grille that's significantly flatter and wider than in the previous model. There's a long bonnet, short overhangs and, most significantly, a stretched wheelbase that creates more room inside.
You'll feel that in the cabin - especially if you happen to be seating at the rear. Up front, high-quality materials in a wide range of colours provide for a particularly pleasant ambiance and underscore the premium character of the mid-sized model. Like all the latest Audis, this one gets the brand's 'Virtual cockpit' instrument binnacle, a 12.3-inch TFT display that replaces the conventional dials. Out back, the boot's bigger than before, offering a volume of 465-litres, 10-litres more than with the previous model and more than you get in BMW and Mercedes rivals. The rear seat has a 40:20:40 split and can be easily folded forward using levers in the luggage compartment. Audi also offers an optional gesture control system for opening the luggage compartment lid via a foot motion.
The Audi A5 may not be the sportiest or the most prestigiously-badged compact executive sports coupe you can buy but the sales figures suggest it's the one that most customers in this segment would rather have. The proof in the product is that Vorsprung Durch Technic is more than just a marketing slogan, a passion for perfection that means the company's never-ending quest for better, more efficient products never stops.
And this is certainly one of those. In terms of driving satisfaction, it's as close to the class-leading rear wheel drive BMW 4 Series Coupe as any front-driven rival is ever likely to get. And in every other respect - quality, practicality, value and running costs - this A5 is unequalled in its market. Some may find in Audi's ruthless pursuit of excellence a product that can be rather soul-less. But many more will see this car as being everything that a desirable sports coupe should be. Very smart. Very cool. And very Audi.Click here to find out more about our Audi A5 Coupe range
BMW 4 Series Coupe
BMW's 4 Series Coupe has proved to be quite a success story for the Munich marque, accounting for around 25% of sales in the 4 Series model range, a line-up that has shifted over 400,000 units since its original introduction in 2013. Now, there's a significantly revised version of this two-door model.
Dynamic changes made to this improved model mean stiffer suspension and an upgraded steering set-up. These measures have resulted in a tangible improvement in both lateral and longitudinal handling properties, regardless of the load on board. The upshot is reduced roll, more neutral responses when driving at the limit, even greater straight-line stability and the wonderfully precise steering for which BMW is renowned. This applies to the standard suspension, as well as the M Sport suspension and Adaptive suspension.
As ever, the oily bits are, somewhat predictably, shared with the 3 Series, as it would be cost prohibitive to do anything otherwise. The biggest seller continues to be the 190bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel in the 420d variant, with comes with either two or four-wheel drive. Above that come the six-cylinder diesel models. There are rear wheel drive and xDrive 4WD versions of the 258bhp 430d, before you get to the 435d xDrive diesel range-topper with a hefty 313bhp at its disposal.
In the petrol line-up, things kick off with the base four-cylinder 184bhp 2.0-litre unit found in the 420i, which is slightly more efficient than it used to be and, as before, comes in rear wheel drive and xDrive 4WD guises. The pokier version of this powerplant these days carries a '430i' badge and has a 252bhp output, with torque rated at 350Nm, making possible a rest to 62mph time of just 5.9s. That makes it difficult to imagine why you'd want a six-cylinder petrol model, but if you still do, there's a 326bhp '440i' variant. Remaining at the top of the range is the twin turbo six-cylinder 431bhp M4 super-coupe.
The changes made to this revised 4 Series Coupe are really quite subtle. If you know the car well, you'll spot the new twin LED headlights that now come as standard. An even more distinctive 'Icon Adaptive LED headlight' package is optional. Another frontal change is found in the central air intake which has an aperture that increases in size towards the outer edges, adding a more imposing presence and greater sense of width to the entire nose section. Otherwise, this model has all the predictable BMW coupe design elements we've seen so often over the years - the short overhangs, the long bonnet, the set-back passenger compartment, the shallow frameless side windows leading into the signature Hofmeister kink on each C-pillar and a flowing roofline that offers up a low, stretched silhouette.
Take a seat inside and the cabin holds no great surprises if you're familiar with BMW's current design language. A few detail changes have been made with extra splashes of chrome here and there but otherwise, not much has changed. You sit lower than you would in a 3 Series, but you're not going to need re-training when it comes to operating the dash controls or the infotainment system. There's a robotised arm for the front seat belts and the door cards and seats are 4 Series-specific. The rear retains individual seats with a divider down the middle, which means the 4 Series is a strict four-seater. There's a 445-litre boot.
So, is this BMW 4 Series still the coupe that does it all, the class benchmark, the go-to choice in its segment? The answer's probably yes. Overall, there's a sustained level of excellence shot throughout this car that Audi A5 and Mercedes C-Class Coupe rivals can't quite match, something especially evident when it comes to handling dynamics.
There's a levity about this 4 Series, a certain joy you get in driving it that the others can't quite match. Great then, that it does all the sensible stuff really well too. You get impressive safety systems, a big boot, plenty of rear legroom, excellent day to day running costs and residual values that are markedly superior to this model's two key rivals. Which all helps your conscience. Why? Because this is a car that, exactly because of those attributes, you can buy and use - and use hard - without that nagging sense of guilt that you may have over-indulged yourself. In short, you'd like one.Click here to find out more about our BMW 4 Series Coupe range