Performance. Luxury. German. These are three of the top qualifications for anyone looking to purchase an “entry-level” luxury sports coupe. One that isn’t likely to pop up, however, is “value.”
Shoppers more interested in a brand identity than in getting the most out of each dollar will undoubtedly flock to the conventional models from Munich, Stuttgart or even Ingolstadt and pay for the privilege of driving a European machine.
|1. An all-new model for 2012, the C-Class Coupe comes standard with a turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder making 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque.
2. Important stats include a 7.1 second 0-60 time and fuel economy of 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
3. Compared to the sedan the coupe weighs 100 lbs more and loses 1.5-inches of headroom.
4. C250 Coupe pricing starts at $37,220.
Taking into account the first three qualities, the new Meredes-Benz C250 Coupe is a solid competitor. With a broader perspective and a more open mind, however, it’s hardly the wisest choice.
Powerful it can be, with an optional 3.5-liter V6 engine that now sports direct injection and makes 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Our test car, however, is the C250, which sports an all-new, turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine.
UNREFINED AND UNDERPOWERED 4-CYLINDER
Despite a modest 201 hp the C250 can still hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and when pushed feels faster thanks in part to 229 lb-ft of torque at just 2200 rpm.
It also has a nice exhaust note when revved out, though it’s considerably less appealing during the sort of normal driving most Merc buyers will do. In fact, it sounds a good bit like a diesel engine thanks in part to the direct-injection system and overall, the coarseness of the 4-cylinder is simply unacceptable for a car wearing the three-pointed star badge. That’s not to say a Mercedes shouldn’t have a 4-cylinder engine, just not this one.
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Around town the mixture of a turbo and the standard seven-speed automatic transmissions (no manual is available) makes for quite a delay in power delivery. The standard Economy drive mode program is to blame here too. Push the Sport button and the C250 is decidedly more entertaining. In fact, we’d suggest you hit that Sport button every time you get behind the wheel.
Improved fuel economy is the obvious upside to this efficiency-minded engine. While the V6 gets a 19/28 mpg rating and 22 mpg combined, the C250 achieves 21/31 mpg or 25 mpg combined.
Hampering both fuel economy and performance is an odd statistic, with the coupe measuring in at 100 lbs heavier than the sedan.
LUXURY AND TYPICALLY-PRICEY GERMAN OPTIONS
Behind the wheel things get considerably less coarse, with soft leathers and the choice of wood or (preferably) aluminum trim. An all-new model for 2012, the Coupe is introduced with same cabin that is an update on the sedan. Included in that is a 4.5-inch color display between the main gauges to show trip info and other vehicle details, while a 5.8-inch screen sits atop the dash and allows for control of numerous vehicle functions from the audio system to Bluetooth using either voice commands, the COMMAND control knob, or steering wheel mounted controls.
As a whole, the cabin is undeniably premium, though at the same time stops short of any wow factor. Plus, due to a lower roof height than the sedan, it can feel cramped. A standard full glass roof, which does pour plenty of light into the cabin, does help to make cramped headroom less apparent.
Adding to the luxurious experience in our test model is the $1,750 full leather seating package and the $1,995 Premium Package with heated front seats, an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system, SiriusXM radio and an iPod interface. Taking it an expensive step further is a $2,790 Multimedia package that adds a backup camera and Navigation in a larger 7-inch display screen. Additional extras include an $850 lane-tracking package with blind spot assist and lane keeping assist, while a keyless access system with push button ignition (two things that should be standard on every Mercedes product) will run you $650.
Delivering the max level of driving enjoyment in this model is a $1,400 Dynamic Handling Package including a stiffer steering wheel mounted paddle shifters and an upgraded suspension with adjustable damping shocks that firm up when you press the sport button.
While quite the handling package, it’s a first for Mercedes and those who place priority on performance driving should also stick to stereotypes and buy BMW. What the Mercedes does best is deliver a smooth and quiet ride, though even the typically silent Mercedes interior can’t mask the unbecoming 4-cylinder. Once it’s up to speed though, the four settles in and like a true Mercedes the C250 Coupe will remain calm and relaxed on the highway, masking the fact that it thinks the speed limit sign reads 50% higher than it does.
AS HANDSOME AS LUXURY SPORT COUPES COME
Those who see it fly by will undoubtedly follow its sleek lines lustfully, much unlike the cutesy and unsuccessful C-Class SportCoupe (axed in 2005). While by all accounts identical to the sedan head-on, the low coupe profile is a handsome one and looks particularly smart in the Lunar Blue Metallic of our test car, contrasted with just enough brightwork, some appropriately sized 17-inch wheels and perhaps most importantly, that big grille and Mercedes-Benz logo.
That badge is an important one on the C250, helping cover up the rather un-Mercedes 4-cylinder while justifying the rather steep asking price.
Nicely equipped models can run up to the $45,000 mark, though the C250 Coupe starts at a more reasonable (or so it seems) $37,220.
Compared to the BMW 328i Coupe it’s not far off, and the engine certainly has its fuel economy advantages over the six-cylinder Bimmer. Still, a new 3 Series two door is on its way (reportedly badged as the 4 Series) and as it’s all but guaranteed to share its engines with the sedan, look for similar fuel economy numbers with plenty more power — around 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.
Those who can put aside their brand snobbery and who can take a shine to the stylings of Infiniti will be shocked at the results. In place of performance, luxury and German is performance, luxury, value… and more performance.
As impressed as your neighbors are certain to be with the new Benz in your driveway, for an additional $580 it’s possible create a much larger feeling of satisfaction by buying an Infiniti G37 Coupe – a car that boasts 129 more horsepower (an increase of 64%).
A push by Mercedes to take on the 3 Series Coupe, the C250 is mostly well-executed from a packaging and driving dynamics standpoint. In a bid to keep up with increasingly strict fuel economy and emissions standards, however, the 4-cylinder is a dud.
Taking a broader look at the segment (and a peak at what’s to come) reveals this luxury sport coupe is the antithesis of value and could, at least, use a solid power upgrade.
Would we recommend it to anyone looking for a luxury sports coupe? Only if their qualifications included that fact that it has to be a Mercedes.