The Mercedes-Benz C-class coupe is better placed than ever before to put one over on its domestic rivals. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The smallest coupe that Mercedes-Benz makes could also arguably be said to be the best, at least from the point of view of an enthusiastic driver. This latest generation C-Class Coupe targets two-door versions of BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5 more effectively than the Three-Pointed Star has ever managed to do before.
It's been a long time since Mercedes could field a credible challenger to the cars that dominate the British executive coupe sector, two-door versions of BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5. In fact, over the years, efforts from the Stuttgart brand in this regard have been surprisingly muddled. Since the turn of the century, after all, they've given us first the CLK coupe, then E-Class Coupe models that were too pricey for many buyers. Those who couldn't stretch to these designs have for the last couple of decades been offered a C-Class Coupe model that though attractive, hasn't traditionally been in the same dynamic league as its German rivals. This latest generation C-Class Coupe model though, might well be.
There are certainly grounds for expecting that. For a start, the saloon version of this car has got itself on terms with BMW and Audi rivals in the compact executive segment and there's no reason why this coupe variant shouldn't do the same in its more specific market niche. To help it do just that, this generation model gets a lighter, stiffer chassis, the option of a range of suspension set-ups and a willing range of Euro6 petrol and diesel engines.
For the time being, there are five engines available for this C-Class Coupe. Many will want a diesel, the two options being a 170bhp C220d variant available with either six-speed manual transmission or Mercedes' smooth 7G-Tronic auto 'box. Or a 204bhp C250d model only offered with the auto 'box. The petrol variants start with the 184bhp C200 model, which likewise gets manual and auto options. The pokier alternative is an auto-only C300 derivative which offers 245bhp. At the top of the range is the fearsome C63 AMG model, with a 4.0-litre V8 Biturbo engine offering either 476 or 510bhp.
Whatever your choice of variant, you should find that this C-Class Coupe should certainly handle its power better than it did before: it is, after all, lighter and stiffer thanks to intelligent lightweight construction with a higher proportion of aluminium. Dynamics are further aided by a freshly developed 4-link front axle which enables sporty axle kinematics for plenty of grip and high lateral stability. As a result, the suspension responds more sensitively to steering movements and should allow for a sportier, more agile driving style. The 'Agility Control' suspension system that many buyers will want will help in this regard and Mercedes is also offering firmer sports suspension or AIRMATIC air suspension for those who want it. The AIRMATIC set-up offers continuously adjustable damping, so you can set the car up for the road you're on and the mood you're on.
Design and Build
The styling of the C-class Coupe is a mix of the new and the traditional. The latest Mercedes family face is grafted onto what is a very handsome but rather generic coupe shape. There's a sporty, striking front section featuring a diamond-style radiator grille and a long bonnet, with character creases flowing into a bold and powerful-looking rear end incorporating familiar Mercedes coupe genes. A high beltline and frameless doors with free-standing exterior mirrors aim to underscore the sporty character. One particular highlight is the long drawn-out dropping line typical of a coupe. In contrast to the C-Class Saloon, the dropping line extends further past the rear wheel arch. To underscore the Coupe's sporty disposition, the suspension is 15 millimetres lower than that of the Saloon.
This C-class Coupe model has an 80mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor and is 95mm longer and 40mm wider. That means a more spacious cabin, with extra shoulder room, elbow room and headroom in all seats. Flowing forms characterise the centre console as well as the door and rear side panelling, which smoothly merge into one another to emphasise the coupe character. There are front sports seats specifically designed for this Coupe variant and featuring automatic belt feeders for added convenience. The choice of materials and the finish have a hand-crafted feel with high-class appeal and aim to deliver a fresh take on modern luxury.
Market and Model
Expect pricing to be much as the previous generation C-Class Coupe model, which means that most models will be sold in the £30,000 to £40,000 bracket. As with all modern Mercedes vehicles, buyers will be attracted by solid build quality and a certain familiarity with the look and feel of the cabin. This coupe sees many of the features that previously only appeared on £50k+ models filtering down to more affordable versions. One example of this lies in the huge rosta of advanced safety equipment. Another is the air conditioning system that uses satellite navigation to detect tunnels. Having identified one, it closes the air recirculation flap automatically when you enter the tunnel to prevent bad smells from filtering into the cabin, then opens it again when you exit.
AMG Line trim really makes this car and includes special bumpers and sills featuring AMG bodystyling, a diamond radiator grille with chrome pins, plus 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels. Interior highlights of the AMG Line package include upholstery in ARTICO man-made leather, with black DINAMICA microfibre featuring contrasting top-stitching. There's also a multifunction sports steering wheel with flattened bottom section and AMG sports pedals. The trim in open-pore black ash, combined with aluminium in the dashboard and the doors, emphasises the sporty look. Another eye-catching feature is the optional Interior Chrome package featuring numerous highlights shrouded in silver chrome, including the instrument cluster, the air vents and the door openers.
Cost of Ownership
The powerful and efficient Euro6 four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines used across the Coupe line-up get an ECO start/stop function and are 27% more economic than those in the outgoing range. All units feature ecofriendly SCR technology (Selective Catalytic Reduction) for exhaust gas after-treatment. As a result, you can expect very low running costs for a car of this kind. Take the C220d variant. Its CO2 return is 106g/km, while a light right foot could see you recording over 65mpg on a regular basis. In the petrol range, the C200 manages 123g/km of CO2 in manual guise. Even the top C63 AMG model doesn't do too badly considering its fearsome performance. It returns 32.8mpg on the combined cycle and up to 200g/km of CO2.
What else? Well maintenance costs will be kept down thanks to an ASSYST Plus service indicator on the dash that'll calculates precisely when a dealer visit might be needed. And residual values will be as high if not higher than anything else in the class.
No luxury brand - come to think of it, no other brand of any kind - offers a wider choice when it comes to coupe motoring than Mercedes-Benz. This C-Class Coupe may be the marque's most affordable offering when it comes to this kind of car, but it still feels of very high quality indeed. But that you would expect. What might be more of a surprise is just how satisfying a driver's machine this model can be, especially in its more powerful forms thanks to clever suspension and a hi-tech range of engines.
The top C63 AMG variant is a potential BMW M4-beater and you can get much of its capability in the 2.0-litre C300 model too. Even more affordable versions - the volume diesel variants for example - can be remarkably rewarding on the right road, even if the sporty AMG add-ons do slightly affect running costs. You could argue that many potential Mercedes buyers won't especially value this car's more dynamic repertoire - and you might be right. Important though, we think, for the Stuttgart brand to show that it was capable of providing it. If that was the intention, then the job's been done well.