Hybrids don’t all roll strictly green, gliding slow and silent on skinny wheels.
Just ask Porsche and Ferrari. Both of the ferocious, road-eating brands fit electric motors now to some of their gas-powered vehicles, creating a stout mix of hot sparks and loud exhausts – high-performance hybrids.
Sign me up – or just plop me down in the driver’s seat of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe, a nominal hybrid that can sprint to 60 in less than 5 seconds and average an estimated 23 mpg.
As I said, the Benz barely qualifies as a hybrid, and best of all, doesn’t look even remotely like one.
But virtually all automakers continue to expand their pairing of electric motors with gas engines, often improving fuel economy and performance.
For now, hybrids make vastly more sense than electric vehicles, which lack a network of reliable charging stations.
The fleet red E450 coupe I had last week mostly relied on a stout turbocharged six-cylinder engine for motor-vation.
It also got help, though, from a 48-volt hybrid system that doubled as an electric supercharger to avoid turbo-lag at low speeds.
Nothing is simple anymore.
Mercedes lightly restyled the front and rear of the ’21 E450, giving it a bold rectangular grille flanked by sleek headlamps.
A fairly long, powerful hood with crisp character lines on its edges looked Benz-like, backing up the large three-pronged star on the 450’s grille.
However, the sides of the big mid-sized coupe struck me as oddly smooth -- curved and fairly muscular, but lacking the elegant definition in many Benzes.
In fact, don’t tell The Benz, but I think the four-door version of the 450 with its cleanly carved lines looks better than the coupe.
Still, the 450 Coupe was a handsome vehicle, settling on meaty 245/40 tires wrapped around good-looking multi-spoke 19-inch wheels.
Likewise, the rear of the coupe featured slender taillamps mounted high and flush to the body.
The car announced its arrival with confident subtlety.
The turbocharged 3-liter six in my 450 generated a smooth, torque-rich 362- horsepower that pushed the all-wheel-drive coupe around with polished ease.
Although the car didn’t feel really fast – it sometimes seemed a bit slow to reach a full boil – that might just be me.
Push the 450’s accelerator to the floor and it will accelerate to 60 mph in a fleet 4.7 seconds, according to Car and Driver, its nine-speed automatic clicking off decent shifts.
Despite moderate body lean in hard corners, the coupe dove into curves with reassuring grip, staying planted like a true sport-tourer.
Assisting it was quick, though fairly thick steering that invites you to play.
Moreover, the E450 provided a mildly firm ride that felt almost luxury-smooth on well-paved surfaces, sprinkling in a little sugar to complement the car’s salty performance.
Its black and white interior was pretty sweet as well -- the sort of environment you expect in an $86,000 car.
A flat dashboard in smooth leather-like material rolled down onto twin 12.3-inch rectangular bins – one for infotainment and one for the instrument panel.
They were stuffed with a Burmeister stereo system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, plus safety systems such as blind-spot assist, brake assist, lane-control assist and steering assist.
Although the long black boxes were attractive, they also contained one of the car’s most frustrating quirks – a stereo that had to be tuned through the infotainment screen and a touchpad co-conspirator on the console that was so overly sensitive it changed the station if you barely brushed it.
I directed many harsh words at it during the week I had the 450.
Most of the time, the coupe’s ventilated, massaging front seats with their black bolsters and white centers kept me from violence.
That black and white theme was supplemented by piano-black trim on the lower dash with slick white pinstripes in it.
The trim wrapped around to the door panels, which were stitched in the same smooth, high-dollar material as the dashboard.
You may even be able to keep the white portions of the interior clean because the 450, with its limited leg and head-room in back, is more of a two-passenger coupe than a four-passenger vehicle.
So, you might be able to leave those big sulking teen-agers at home.
Like most German luxury and near-luxury vehicles, my coupe came loaded with options, including the ventilated, massaging front seats ($910 total); a head-up display ($1,100); the driver-assist package ($1,700); and the AMG wheels, body-styling and brushed aluminum pedals ($2,500).
Sure, the E450 Coupe might not scream luxury, but it makes a compelling high-end statement with its combination of sporty drive and fine interior features.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe
- What I liked most: The E450’s smooth, effortless performance and confident handling.
- What I would change: That blankety-blank touchpad on the console, which richly deserves to be ejected from the interior for bad behavior.
- MSRP: Base price, $67,450; as equipped, $85,849.
- Official color: Patagonia Red Metallic.
- Fuel economy: Estimated 20 miles per gallon in town, 28 on the highway and 23 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,267 miles.
- Spare tire: None.
- Weight: About 4,500 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 194.3 inches long/72.9 inches wide/57.8 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 17.4 gallons.
- Towing capacity: Not applicable.
- 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe in a few words: An understated luxury coupe that delivers the goods quietly.
- Warranty: Forty-eight month, 50,000-mile overall protection.
- Final assembly location: Bremen, Germany
- Manufacturer’s website: www.mbusa.com
- E-mail me at email@example.com
- Up next: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S