It’s taken long enough for Mercedes-Benz to become truly serious about taking on the BMW 3 Series Coupe. There have been CLKs and E-Class Coupes, but they inevitably suffer from focusing on two targets: the entry-level models aren’t priced appropriately, and top-end versions are more grand tourer than sports coupe. Never mind that the all-out M3 has been offered as a two-door right from its first generation, while hot C’s are always more staid sedans.
|1. C250 models get a new turbocharged 1.8L 4-cylinder engine making 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque, enabling a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds.
2. Pricing for the C-Class Coupe starts at $37,220 for the C250 model and jumps to $42,370 for the C350.
3. Those looking for added performance can go with the 451 hp C63 AMG Coupe or the outrageous 510-hp C63 AMG Coupe Black Series.
No more – ‘Benz is tired of the indirect comparisons, and to coincide with some freshened styling and new engines, the company launched a proper two-door C-Class Coupe. In the metal, there’s no mistaking the Coupe for what it is. It shares the same revised bold grille with embedded three-pointed star, a large lower air intake flanked by LED running lights. Even the new LED taillights, although different to the two-door, share a similar design with the sedan. Only in profile is the game truly given away, with a coupe’s sleeker greenhouse, longer doors, and canted-up character line around the side windows. Even the wheel designs are shared with the four-door.
Compared to its rivals, the C isn’t the most dramatic to the eye, but it’s pretty enough to attract new customers.
C-CLASS GETS THE INTERIOR IT DESERVES
The interior is more radically changed – critics charged that the harder plastics and modern design weren’t up to the company’s growing standards. Now the C takes much of its inspiration from the hit E-Class and sexy CLS. It’s more driver-focused with the COMAND and navigation screens canted to the left, and there’s a better meshing of wood, leathers, plastics and metals than before. The sporty three-spoke steering wheel is thicker than the previous sedan’s and features paddles behind the spokes to control up- and down-shifts. The seats are better shaped to keep you in place and also seem designed to support over the long-haul too, which isn’t always the case in performance-thinking cars.
The panoramic room, with dual panes of glass, is standard, and thankfully the coupe’s lower lines don’t impinge much on headroom. In front, anyway. Obviously, the back seat is another story. Also, it only has two sculpted seats, meaning smaller adults or children only.
A 4-CYLINDER MERCEDES?
The entry-level C 250 Coupe uses an all-new 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine that sends just over 201 horsepower to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. Mercedes estimates a 0-60 mph run in just over seven seconds. That’s not a huge amount of out-and-out power, although the 229 lb-ft of torque does come on nice and low to promote passing. (The old 2.5-liter V6 had similar power, but less torque.)
The side-benefit of the down-sized turbo? Great fuel efficiency: Mercedes-Benz claims 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
We’re familiar with the standard Agility Control suspension, which is a passive system that allows the shock absorbers to perform at their best in most situations. But, unlike the sedan, every Coupe sits lower on its stiffer coil springs, and those shocks are tuned more for enjoyment. The standard 17-inch wheels are wider in the back, using 245/40/17 tires compared to 225/45/17 in front; that’s something you might expect on the more powerful V6 models, but thankfully doesn’t affect the more modest C250’s great balance. Obviously, two styles of 18-inch AMG wheels are optional, but aren’t necessarily any better to drive.
Amazingly, the Coupe is 110 lb heavier than the sedan, but you wouldn’t know it. The power ratio is pretty good – not insane, but not slow as Mercedes-Benz’ other small coupe: the Smart Fortwo. It’s a perfect car to learn the driving techniques required for rear-wheel-drive fun. While learning, the C250 has all the usual Mercedes-Benz safety technology, including all the expected driving aids – ABS, brake assist, traction and stability control – and 11 airbags should you spin into the weeds.
Pricing starts at a reasonable $37,220 – about $2,000 more than an equivalent sedan; there is a less expensive C250 Sport Sedan, but all Coupes come in Luxury trim with more standard content including dual-zone climate control, 14-way power seats, rain-sensing wipers and a smart-key. Our tester also had the $1,995 Premium 1 package, which includes heated seats, an upgraded harmon/kardon seven-speaker sound system, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
Other ways to spend plenty of money include active bi-xenon headlights, full leather seating and a package that includes blind-spot warning and lane-keep assist. The big-dollar multimedia package includes a seven-inch LCD screen, a 10GB hard drive, navigation system and rear-view camera. Standalone options include parking assist and keyless ignition.
Get stupid with the options, and you’ll hit $50,000. But keep things reasonable, and you can stick to the low- to mid-forties without much trouble.
Benz’ big target, the BMW 328i coupe, begins at $38,500, and uses a 230-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six, which even with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, is quicker to 60 mph by three-tenths. And it is the outright sportier choice. But the 3 Series is aging rapidly – the new sedan has just arrived and BMW will likely introduce a two-door version in the next year.
Ultimately, the C250 Coupe will appeal to those wanting the solidity, brand strength and good manners that Mercedes-Benz offers in the popular sedan. Definitely worth a drive.