IF YOU'VE made it in life and done it in style, you drive an E-Class Coupe or Cabriolet.
That's been the rule for decades now, but here comes Mercedes-Benz with its latest two-door E-Classes and they're moving the goalposts.
Not by producing a sub-standard luxury style statement - far from it in fact - but by putting it in reach of mere mortals with an entry-level E200 Coupe for under $80K.
Still a lot of money, granted, but at that price they're in danger of becoming something of a common sight rather than just Beverly Hills (not the Sydney one).
Purists can argue it's not a true E-Class as these current coupes and cabrios are built on the C-Class chassis, but the style and presence are still there in spades, plus a raft of technological features that increase the higher up the range you choose.
Top of the pile are E400 offerings featuring a 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6; an engine that offers a desirable blend of performance, torque and economy.
The dreaded bean counters have decided this is the flagship coupe however, with no V8-powered E500 on sale to again peeve the purists, but in truth, the E400 is all you'd ever need.
As classy as ever, the coupe and cabrio cabins are a delight for driver and front seat passenger.
Interior surfaces, centre console and instrument cluster have been restyled and the ergonomics and finish are hard to fault.
Space up front is excellent, helping these Coupes and Cabrios do a good impression of a cross-country GT car when the electric leather seats are wound back.
The two rear chairs will swallow adults with decent legroom (if the front passengers are in generous mood), but six-footers will want for more headroom - unless the cabrio's roof is down of course.
There are myriad controls and features for the driver to get accustomed with, not least an impressive array of intelligent safety feature warning lights and symbols.
Once used to it all, the driver is in a privileged seat. Driving position, feel, functionality and layout are all you'd expect from a Merc E-Class; and there's still the sense of occasion despite the more attainable price-tag.
On the road
The entry-level 2.0-litre four-potter petrol with 135kW was sadly unavailable at launch, with our test limited to E250 petrol and E400 models.
Merc expects the E250 to be the volume seller - despite it costing about $16K more than the E200 - as it offers a fruitier 155kW version of the boosted four-cylinder and a raft of extra toys and features.
They're probably right, too. Rapid enough in hitting 100kmh in just over seven seconds, the E250 also returns 6.0-litres/100km in coupe form. It's not a particularly sporty sounding or feeling power plant, but keeping the revs high through the steering wheel paddles and it ramps the fun up a notch.
It is playful enough to enjoy the back roads, and in relaxed cruising mode you'll want for little more.
Except when you try the E400 that is. What a belter of an engine. At $128,900 for the coupe version it's a big step up, but the driver is rewarded with outstanding performance.
The 100kmh dash is completed in a shade over five seconds in the tin top or soft top, and it does so with effortless grace. The only thing it lacks is a truly sporting note to match.
All the models come with Agility Control suspension with selective damping, adjusting to the road surface comfortably while still feeling sporting enough in the turns.
It's neither S-Class-like in its ability to float over any surface, nor is it AMG-esque in terms of driver involvement. But that's not the point. It does most things well, and that's what buyers will be seeking.
For the E-Class's size and performance of the engines, around six litres per 100km for the E200 and E250 is laudable.
The diesel also excels with 4.7-litres per 100km, while you nudge in the high sevens for the E400 models.
Not bad when you consider the genuine sportscar performance, but as our test proved, that consumption quickly climbs the more fun you have.
What do you get?
The cheapie E200 is still loaded with kit, and only looks wanting when you compare it to the rest of the range.
Leather, 11-airbags, active park assist, reversing camera and blind spot and collision prevention assist all come with the entry level.
Move up the range and you'll find 19s, keyless entry and start, further electric safety features, electric seats and LED headlights.
All the cabrios (except the E200) get a clever Airscarf that breathes hot air around your neck, making top-down driving a cold-weather joy, particularly when combined with the heated seats (standard except in the E200).
Coupe and cabrio buyers won't have practicality at the top of their considerations, but the E-Class two-doors are large enough to cope with large-ish luggage.
The coupe comes with a good 450-litres, but the convertible with roof down limits squeezing larger bags in.
Pillarless E-Class Coupes and Cabrios have been style statements for decades, and these re-designed models continue the trend.
They still have the air of wealth and class befitting any E-Class, and manage to look pricier than their showroom sticker.
The facelifted front and rear ends prove more attractive than the models they replace, displaying understated sportiness.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
The good stuff: Brilliant twin-turbo V6 for the E400, value entry-level pricing, improved exterior styling, fuel economy.
What we'd like to see: A more exciting aural soundtrack through the range, heated seats as standard for the entry-level Cabrio, an E500 with a V8 for old times' sake, head-up display.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/100,000km warranty. Servicing is annual or every 25,000km.
Model: Mercedes-Benz E200 / E250 / E250CDI / E400 Coupe and Cabriolet.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel drive executive coupes and cabriolets.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol, 135kW/300Nm (E200); 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol, 155kW/350Nm (E250); 2.1-litre turbodiesel four-cylinder, 150kW/500Nm (E250CDI); 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder petrol, 245kW/480Nm (E400).
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.0 litres/100km (E200 and E250 coupes); 6.5 litres/100km (E200 and E250 cabrios); 4.7 litres/100km (E250CDI); 7.5 litres/100km (E400 coupe); 7.7 litres/100km (E400 cabrio).
CO2: 141g/km (E200 and E250 coupes); 151g/km (E200 and E250 cabrios); 122g/km (E250CDI); 174g/km 100km (E400 coupe); 180g/km (E400 cabrio).
Bottom line: Coupes - $79,900 (E200); $96,400 (E250); $98,900 (E250CDI); $128,900 (E400); Cabriolets - $88,900 (E200); $106,400 (E250); $142,900 (E400).
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