Mercedes’ new E-Class Coupé gives you a lot of style and luxury for around £40k/$60k, but is a better choice than the more powerful Audi A5 that you can have for the same money?
Audi A5 Coupé 3.0 TDI 218 quattro Sport
List price £39,885/$59,827
Target Price £36,762/$55,143
Even with a V6 engine and four-wheel drive, the A5 matches the four-cylinder E-Class’s efficiency.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé E 220 d AMG Line
List price £40,135/$60,202
Target Price £38,193/$57,289
With its S-Class-aping styling and spacious interior, the E-Class certainly has plenty of appeal.
So, summer is here, you’ve saved that Christmas bonus and you’re in the market for an upmarket coupé. Effortless performance, a luxurious interior and room for one passenger (or occasionally three) plus luggage are crucial requirements. But just because you’re opting for a coupé, that doesn’t mean you’re prepared to put up with poor fuel economy.
Now, that might sound like a tall order, but we’ve lined up two cars that should be more than up to the task. Both are packed with state-of-the-art infotainment gadgets, offer hot hatch levels of straight-line performance and are capable of at least 60mpg. Oh, and they both cost about £40,000/$60,000.
However, despite their on-paper similarities, there are also differences. In the uber-luxurious corner is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé. Thanks to a starting price that’s a fair amount cheaper than other luxury coupés (such as the BMW 6 Series), the E-Class in four-cylinder E 220 d form finds itself in the firing line of the smaller yet more powerful Audi A5 Coupé. With a plush interior, smooth V6 diesel engine and a confidence-inspiring four-wheel drive system, the A5 should make for tough opposition.
What are they like to drive?
With its S-Class-inspired styling and AMG body kit, the E-Class certainly seems the more glamorous of our duo. So it might come as something of a surprise to learn that the A5 offers far greater refinement at lower speeds.
Thumb the A5’s starter button and its 215bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6 stirs into life with a muted hum. Thanks to a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic gearbox, the A5 gains speed effortlessly. Only a gentle squeeze of your right foot is required to breeze up to motorway speeds, but put your foot all the way down at a standstill and you’ll be doing 62mph in less than 6.5sec.
The 191bhp E-Class is far from sluggish but can’t whisk you up to speed as quickly as the A5 can, and its four-cylinder diesel engine sounds comparatively gruff – especially when you’re pottering around town. Thankfully, things improve once you pick up speed, with the engine quietening down and its nine-speed automatic gearbox doing a stellar job of blurring gearshifts, as long as you aren’t in a hurry.
You can try to take control of gearshifts using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, but there’s little benefit in doing so in the E-Class, because the car often overrides your commands. The A5’s gearbox, on the other hand, reacts more obediently to your requests, although it isn’t perfect, sometimes dithering when you ask for a quick getaway in automatic mode.
The A5 is the more agile car on twisty country roads, swaying about far less than the portlier E-Class. Neither demonstrates what you’d call entertaining handling, but the A5’s combination of accurate steering, tight body control and four-wheel drive traction makes it surprisingly quick point to point – whatever the weather. The E-Class, on the other hand, doesn’t appreciate being asked to change direction quickly and its more artificial-feeling steering – which gets quicker the more lock you apply – fails to fill you with confidence.
However, the E-Class claws back some points when it comes to ride comfort. On the standard Agility Control suspension set-up of our test car, it soaks up speed bumps and larger undulations very effectively, although expansion joints and potholes tend to send nasty shudders through the car. The A5 is always firmer (sports suspension is standard in Sport specification), so you feel more minor ripples as they pass beneath you, but actually it’s more controlled of the two over really beaten-up surfaces.
You get a whole lot of style and luxury for around £40k/$60k with the new Mercedes E-Class Coupé. We find out if it’s more tempting than its more powerful Audi A5 rival
What are they like inside?
The A5’s interior will be immediately familiar to anyone who has spent time in the latest A4 saloon – and that’s definitely no bad thing. The minimalist dashboard is in keeping with that subtle exterior, Audi’s MMI infotainment system is one of the most intuitive in the class and all of the switches operate in a reassuringly slick manner.
And yet, while the A5 has the edge on build quality, it looks rather ordinary inside next to its rival here. Slide behind the wheel of the E-Class and you feel as though you’re in a car from the class above. Acres of brushed wood, aluminium and man-made leather cover the dashboard, the optional 13-speaker Burmester sound system is superb and the Comand infotainment (a must-have £1495/$2245 option) looks great and has clearer menus than the standard system, even if it isn’t quite as intuitive as the A5’s MMI.
Your back seat passengers will definitely thank you for choosing the E-Class. True, it has only fractionally more head room than the A5, but there’s loads more leg room; even a couple of 6ft-tall occupants won’t grumble too much. In the A5, they will.
However, when it comes to boot space, the smaller A5 actually wins the battle. Not only can it ultimately swallow more luggage, but its load bay is also squarer and longer, making it easier to pack. The E-Class’s boot is wider right at the back of the car but tapers to a narrower point towards the rear seatbacks. Split-folding rear seats come as standard on both contenders, and when down they leave only a gentle slope in the floor of the extended boot.
What will they cost?
If you’re a company car driver, there’s very little in it. Although the A5 is the cheaper option, choosing the E-Class will mean sacrificing just £82/$123 more of your salary over the next three years (assuming you’re a 40% taxpayer). Leasing rates follow a similar pattern, with our contract hire provider quoting £468/$702 a month for the A5 and £496/$744 for the E-Class.
If you are buying privately with cash, however, the tables swing in favour of the E-Class. Despite the fact that the A5 is cheaper to insure and service, the E-Class’s strong desirability and relative newness mean it’s predicted to depreciate more slowly. As a result, the E-Class will cost you around £2000/$3000 less to own over a period of three years.
That said, if you plan to take out a finance agreement, the A5 is the much cheaper option. Put down a £7116/$10674 deposit on a three-year PCP deal (with a 10,000-mile annual limit) and you’ll pay £385/$577 a month, compared with a hefty £499/$748 for the E-Class on exactly the same terms. It’s also deeply impressive that the four-wheel-drive, 3.0-litre A5 can match the rear-wheel-drive, 2.0-litre E-Class on official fuel economy and CO2 emissions.
Standard equipment is broadly similar. Essentials such as DAB radio, sat-nav and Bluetooth are fitted to both, as are climate and cruise controls. Euro NCAP awarded the A5 a five-star safety rating but hasn’t yet tested the E-Class Coupé. Regardless, both cars come with automatic emergency braking as standard and are rated equally highly by Thatcham for resisting break-ins and being stolen.
The new E-Class Coupé is an accomplished car, and with surprisingly low running costs, it makes a strong case for itself if you’re buying outright. However, that’s not enough for the victory here. With its smooth V6 engine, confidence-inspiring all-weather handling and exquisitely finished interior, the A5 is everything you’d want from a posh coupé. The fact that you can have such strong performance and good fuel economy at the same time is simply a bonus.
1st – Audi A5 Coupé
- For : Superb all-weather usability; smoother engine; slicker infotainment
- Against : Firmer ride; less space in the back; restrained interior design
- Verdict : Conservative, but a fine all-rounder
Specifications: Audi A5 Coupé 3.0 TDI 218 quattro Sport
- Engine size : 3.0-litre V6, diesel
- List price : £39,885/$59,827
- Target Price : £36,762/$55,143
- Power : 215bhp @ 4000-5000rpm
- Torque : 295lb ft @ 1250-3750rpm
- 0-60mph : 6.2sec
- Top speed : 155mph
- Gov’t fuel economy : 61.4mpg
- CO2 emissions : 119g/km
2nd – Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé
- For : More rear leg room; snazzy interior; holds its value better
- Against : Noisier engine; stodgy handling; inconsistent steering
- Verdict : An accomplished package, but not as complete as the A5
Specifications: Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé E 220 d AMG Line
- Engine size : 2.0-litre diesel
- List price : £40,135/$60,202
- Target Price : £38,193/$57,289
- Power : 191bhp @ 3800rpm
- Torque : 295lb ft @ 1600-2800rpm
- 0-60mph : 7.3sec
- Top speed : 150mph
- Gov’t fuel economy : 61.4mpg
- CO2 emissions : 119g/km