If you’ve always fancied the idea of a classy executive coupe, now’s a good time to buy. Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch picks out three of the best models worth looking at.
Three German brands dominate the market for classy executive coupes – and always have. Audi, BMW and Mercedes set the standard by which cars of this kind must be judged and in recent years, have spurred each other on to even greater heights in this segment.
The true is that you could buy one of the cars we’re going to look at here and enjoy an ownership experience not very much different to that you’d have at the wheel of an exotic luxury coupe sporting a six-figure price tag.
The BMW option – 4 Series Coupe (2013 - 2017)
BMW has a long track record in bringing us desirable mid-sized sporty coupes. This 4 Series Coupe model, launched in 2013, turned out to be the most stylish yet, with class-leading 3 Series handling dynamics matched to extra exclusivity, a powerful road presence and, if specified correctly, an even sharper-feeling drive. Potentially, it’s everything you’d want in a car of this kind.
Prices for 4 Series Coupe motoring tend to start at around £14,500 for one of the earliest 420d diesel models, with values rising to around £21,300 for a later early-’17-era car. That’s for base ‘SE’ trim. If you want plusher ‘Sport’ spec, you’ll need to allow a premium of around £1,000 on those prices; for top ‘M Sport’ trim, the premium is around £2,000. If you like the idea of a diesel but want more grunt, then the 6 cylinder 430d version beckons. For one of these, you’re looking at needing around £21,700 for an earlier ’14-era car, with values rising to around £27,000 for a later ’17-era model. There’s a premium of around £1,000 for smarter ‘M Sport’ trim.
What about if you want a petrol-powered 4 Series Coupe model? Well, the base 420i is, in base ‘SE’ guise, priced from around £16,000 for an earlier ’13-era car, with values rising to around £22,200 for a later ’17-era car. There’s a premium of around £2,000 for smarter ‘M Sport’ trim. If you want a pokier petrol model, a 306bhp 435i variant can be yours for around £21,300, with prices rising to around £30,500 for a later ’17-era car. That’s for a ‘Luxury’-spec variant; in this case, there’s a premium of around £1,000 for smarter ‘M Sport’ trim.
Overall, assuming you can afford the asking price, just about the only thing that's perhaps open to complaint with this Munich model is that the interior isn’t quite as exciting as maybe it ought to be. But a carefully specified version of this 4 Series can still be pretty special in that respect. What’s not up for debate is that here, BMW built decisively the best driver’s car in its class.
The Audi option – A5 Coupe (2012 - 2015)
In the 2012 to 2016 era, the Audi A5 was the market’s most complete compact executive coupe, its credentials emphasised by a package of improvements made to the first generation model five years into its production run. Performance statistics, running costs, residual values, practicality – all of these were ruthlessly checked to improve upon standards set by rivals from Mercedes and BMW. It was a clinical approach. And not surprisingly, it produced a car that’s very difficult to fault.
As for prices for this post-2012-era model, well the 2.0 TDI 161PS variant most buyers will want costs from around £15,500 with base or ‘SE’ trim, rising up to around £19,200 for a later ’14-era variant. If you can find a plusher ‘SE Technik’ variant, you’re looking at between £16,500 and £20,500. Go for the 3.0 TDI diesel Quattro model and you’re looking at from around £20,250 for a ’11-era model, rising to around £31,250 for the last of the ’15-era models. The rare 3.0 TFSI petrol S5 sporting derivative sits in the £20,000 to £25,000 bracket for ’11 to ’13-era models. For a later S5, you’re looking at between £30,500 and £36,500 for a ’14 to ’15-era variant.
Overall, the Audi A5 Coupe may not be the sportiest or the most prestigiously-badged compact executive sports coupe you can buy but the sales figures from new suggested that it was the one that most customers in this segment would rather have. That was the case even before the far-reaching changes made to the post-2012-era model we’ve been looking at here. So were they really needed? Well, Audi’s a brand with little time for such questions. The brand is all about constant product evolution – and this improved first generation two-door A5 is a good example of that.
In terms of driving satisfaction, it got surprisingly close to the class-leading rear wheel drive BMW 3 Series Coupe – certainly as close as any front-driven rival was ever likely to get. In every other respect – quality, practicality, value and running costs – this A5 is unequalled in its segment for coupes in this class from this era. 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.
The Mercedes option – E-Class Coupe (2013 - 2016)
Mercedes’ modern-era E-Class Coupe was first introduced in 2009, but here we look at the lightly facelifted version of that car that was introduced in 2013. It offers even sleeker looks and delivers 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. Let’s check this model out as a used car buy.
Prices for petrol versions of this facelifted fifth generation E-Class Coupe model start at around £20,000 for a 2014-era E200 and prices will rise up to around £26,000 for a better-specified 2016-era version of this variant. The pokier E400 petrol model is priced from around £22,500 for a ’14-era car, with values rising to around £33,500 for a later ’17-era model.
Most potential buyers will be looking for a diesel though, probably the four cylinder E220 CDI: prices here in the 2014 to 2017-era range typically between £17,600 and £26,800, again depending on the age, spec and mileage of the car you’re looking at. Add on a premium of around £1,500 for sportier ‘AMG Line’ trim. Go for the pokier E350 CDI AMG Line model and you’re looking at between £20,200 and £31,500 for the same 2014 to 2017 production period.
The improvements made to this facelifted fifth generation Mercedes E-Class Coupe – the more efficient engines, the smarter looks, the extra equipment – were certainly welcome, but the essence of its appeal changed very little. It was first launched to fully restore the powerful, luxurious, Grand Touring sports coupe brand values that Mercedes had unwisely compromised with the cheaply underpinned CLK models that directly preceded the original introduction of this car back in 2009. They didn’t feel particularly special in the way that a Mercedes coupe always should. With this design, that was put right.
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 a considerable amount more on a Maserati GranTurismo or Jaguar XK. This Mercedes could be. And that about sums it up.