I HAVE this uncomfortable feeling that in my dotage, I will be seen in a Mercedes coupe. On my way to someone's funeral. Sure, it's the mark of success, of luxury and of state-of-the-art automotive technology. It's just that I equate Mercedes-Benz coupes with old people.
But I'm having second thoughts. So different is the E-Class coupe that it cracks the hard-skinned Teutonic conception of conservatism in which Mercedes is often wrapped.
The coupe - at least in its 250 CGI interpretation - is something I could enjoy on my way to a funeral that I hope isn't mine.
Judge value by comparisons with rival products and the Merc could do better. It is a relatively simple machine with a relatively imposing $100,000-odd price tag. It misses some items - rear camera, for example - from the standard list.
But judge it alone and it presents as an imposing piece of metal. There's only three prestige two-door, four-seater coupes to rival the Merc - one from Audi and two from BMW and even then, one (the 135i) isn't really in the same category. You have to stretch up to $200,000 and beyond to find more.
Its shape has fluidity - not as alluringly feminine as the old CLK, however - and its tapers and curves go some way to indicate its expense. People - yes, probably old people - buy this because (a) they have style and (b) they can afford it.
By the very nature of the two-door design it states you are probably single and/or available and are not tethered by children and large dogs. A net for the opposite sex? Definitely.
Badges on the boot of luxury cars tell too many tales. That's why 45 per cent of Mercedes cars sold in Europe do not have boot badges. The 250 CGI BlueEfficiency clouds the issue. It looks like it could be a 2.5-litre with a Calf-Grain leather Interior. In fact, it's a weeny 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with direct-petrol injection (CGI is charged gasoline injection) that gets its herbs from a hefty turbocharger and intercooler.
BlueEfficiency is the Mercedes umbrella for engines with low fuel consumption and emission. The key seems to be downsizing the engine capacity. The fact it works so well will surprise everyone - you won't think it's a 1.8 litre and your wallet will thank you on those occasions you appear at the bowsers.
Other interesting stuff is the standard voice-operation for sat-nav, telephone controls and the audio; and the variable dampers to adjust for different road and driving conditions.
Being in the rear of a coupe isn't always a nice place, especially if you're claustrophobic. The Merc's rear seats - there's only two that are separated by a lidded storage bin - have plenty of leg and headroom, are bright and airy and are protected by four airbags, bringing the total balloon number to nine.
That goes with the coupe's five-star crash rating, electronic stability control, brake assist, traction control and so on. It's safe.
If I hadn't known it was a 1.8-litre, I'd be impressed. The engine can be a little bit grumbly at certain revs but there's no complaints about its smoothness. There is some initial acceleration lag - not the first time I've been annoyed with this in a Merc - but once the gearbox wakes up it's a brisk performer.
Better, it's a very relaxed tourer. The compliant suspension and the long wheelbase allow it to soak up the bumps but the variable dampening firms it up for corners.
The seats are comfy - though I'd like more lateral support - and the ambience is classy but the steering is so-so. It relays no sense of sportiness and there are moments when it feels a tad vague.
Clearly, Mercedes has never had problems with its steering so I think this feeling is probably due to the wheel being a bit bigger than rivals. I'm sure owners would get used to it.
What? A $100,000 Merc with a Corolla-sized engine that betters its economy? Take the badges off this and your neighbour will never know it's probably the most economical car in your street.
Mercedes-Benz E250 CGI Coupe
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km, roadside assist
Service Interval: 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 7.0 l/100km; 164g/km CO2
Safety: Equipment nine airbags, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC. Crash rating 5 star
Engine: 150kW/310Nm 1.8-litre turbo-petrol
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Body: 2-door, 4 seats
Dimensions: 4898 (L); 1786mm (W); 1397mm (H); 2760mm (WB)
Tyre: Size 235/45R17. Spare tyre Space-saver
Others to consider:
Audi A5 2.0 TSFI
Engine: 2-litre, 4-cyl turbo-petrol, 155kW/280Nm
Trans: 7-spd dual-clutch auto, AWD
Body: 2-door coupe
Thirst: 7.5L/100km, 98 RON, CO2 179g/km
"Pretty and roomy coupe with excellent driving dynamics"
BMW 135i M Sport Coupe
Engine: 3-litre, 6-cyl bi-turbo-petrol, 225kW/400Nm
Trans: 7-spd dual-clutch auto, rear drive
Body: 2-door coupe
Thirst: 9.6L/100km, 98 RON, CO2 230g/km
"Lacks rivals' cabin room but makes up for it in engaging performance"
BMW 325i Coupe
Engine: 2.5-litre, 6-cyl petrol, 160kW/250Nm
Trans: 6-spd automatic, rear drive
Body: 2-door coupe
Thirst: 8.3L/100km, 98 RON, CO2 194g/km
"Pretty package with a more sporty bent than Merc"