Ten years since ‘the car that killed sobriety’ was announced. Time for a backward glance.
The 2009 (W212) Mercedes-Benz E-Class is unlikely to go down in history as an indestructible exemplar of marque values like its W123 forebear, or indeed as a design landmark, like its W124 descendant. Indeed, it probably won’t even be remembered with the acute embarrassment which characterises the risible W210 series from the mid-’90s.
Instead, the W212 will be recalled largely for its ‘Ponton’ haunches – a piece of retro styling contrivance aimed at evoking a period when the three pointed star had nothing to prove and no awkward questions surrounding its durability in service to answer.
Is that all there is to the car? Not quite. The ‘212 is significant more for what it represented than for its abilities or its stylistic attributes, such as they were. Mercedes had a job to do, in order to address serious reliability deficiencies in the model’s immediate predecessor – a matter for which it appears to have been broadly successful.
Less so however was the car’s appearance, which not only was subject to considerable criticism (not unusual during this phase of Mercedes’ design evolution), but also became subject to perhaps the most expensive facelift of the time.
Illustrating today’s introductory preamble is the concurrent C207 Coupé model, which launched the same year. For the two previous model cycles the mid-sized Mercedes Coupés were based upon the architecture of the more compact (and cheaper) C-Class model, each receiving their own CLK moniker.
For the C207, this conceit was abandoned, the model once again affixed to the E-Class’ lineup, despite retaining the lesser car’s underpinnings. Some might call that deceptive, others expedient. I will leave that for you to judge.
Stylistically, the C207 cleaved to the saloon, from which it was conjoined, also sporting the pronounced rear three-quarter haunches, which were no better a visual metaphor in this application. Allegedly attributed to amongst others, Mercedes designer, Carl Heinz Bauer, who was certainly on hand to defend the car at launch, it was, despite the ascension of Gorden Wagener to the top job at Sindelfingen, very much a Peter Pfeiffer car.
Clumsy details abounded (most shared with the saloon), one of the more annoying being the awkward shutline in the rear quarterlight, added to facilitate the sideglass to retract. But shutline management was already a noted Mercedes bugbear by then – a matter from which they still grievously suffer. Interestingly, the Coupé and its convertible sibling only partly benefited from the styling alterations which graced the saloon at the 2013 facelift, being allowed to soldier on with their bingo-wings unsullied. Clearly the costs were not deemed worth it.
But rather than go into a forensic examination of the W212/C207, I will leave that to co-contributor, Christopher Butt (who knows about these things), who has already subjected the model to his gimlet-like gaze. And given that the ‘212 marks its first decade upon this spinning globe we call home, it seems appropriate to revisit his words here.