Since the dawn of the modern automobile, buyers have had the desire to lose their four-door practicality in return for some two-door style. Even the name is just that little bit fancy - coupe.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé is aimed squarely at these image-conscious buyers, but is more than just a duo-door sedan. The swoopy styling brings a host of other changes that Mercedes-Benz hope will shift the little coupe into junior GT territory.
Place it side-by-side to a C-Class sedan too, and the name is basically the only thing that is the same. The coupe is 95mm longer (60mm of that is in the bonnet), 40mm wider and 1mm lower.
To help amplify the ‘sporty’ nature of the C-coupe, all models in Australia are fitted with the AMG-Line body styling as standard. This places the three-point star and single grille divider front and centre (the AMG-line saloon has two horizontal dividers).
Jewelled LED headlights and a diamond-style grille fascia complete the nose, and give the C a very classy first impression.
At the rear, the steeply raked C-pillar drops into the short boot and slimline, wraparound LED tail lamps, that from a distance, make the little C-Class hard to distinguish from the much larger (in size and price) S-Class coupe.
The hip above the rear wheel arch is quite big, and the rear-quarter can look a little plumpy from some angles, but there is no doubting its lineage and it is a definite improvement over the more angular W204.
Step inside, via the solid-but-not-heavy rimless doors, and the C-Class family resemblance becomes much clearer.
The much lauded interior is a near replication of the sedan, although strangely you score 8mm more headroom and 28mm more shoulder room in the coupe thanks to lower positioning of the seats.
Somewhat of a trademark of two-door Mercedes-Benzes, an automatic arm gently hands you the seatbelt as you settle in for a drive.
The back seats? Nope. I couldn’t fit with the seat in my driving position, so it is very much a space limited to children and perhaps small, fashionable dogs.
For the range launch, there are three versions of the C-Class coupe available. The 135kW/300Nm C200 2.0-litre petrol, 150kW/500Nm C250 2.1-litre diesel and 180kW/370Nm C300 2.0-litre petrol. Both petrols feature the seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox and the diesel receives the new 9G-Tronic unit.
We headed out in the $65,900 (before options and on-road costs) C200, which is expected to make up the bulk of coupe sales.
Along with the standard AMG-Line body kit, the C200 rolls on standard 18-inch wheels, and features automatic parking and the basic driver assistance package (blind spot detection and forward collision alert), along with a 360-degree camera, DAB radio and electric seats with memory function.
It feels like a sporty, luxury tourer from the outset – more so than the sedan - and in its default COMFORT drive setting, is smooth and responsive from the get go.
You find there is just enough zip from the 2.0-litre ‘four to maintain that sporty look. It’s not going to scare anyone, but like a flashy pair of sneaks, has the basic go to match the show.
Selecting SPORT or SPORT PLUS is done using the lovely aluminium ‘rolling toggle’ on the console. The action is not as comfortable or intuitive as it could be, and as we found on the international launch, the placement of the switchgear is actually the same in the European left-hand drive cars, meaning that we poor colonials get lumped with a slightly less ergonomic, backwards implementation of the COMAND controller and console buttons.
Not a critical point, and certainly not a thing that has stopped a further 2000 C-Class sedans selling this year, but if you feel this action is more awkward than it should be, now you know why!
That said, driving in SPORT PLUS in traffic is a bit pointless as the car feels unnecessarily twitchy under foot and will hold gears waaaaaaay too long if you leave it in automatic.
Split the difference and SPORT is a real sweet spot. Throttle response is heightened and the car feels just that little bit more fun to punt around.
Our drive loop took in the C424 to Gembrook, which for the uninitiated is a terrific piece of tarmac in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne. The 200 felt light on turn in and very well balanced through the corners.
Even at speeds between 80 and 100km/h, the response from the turbo-petrol engine is impressive, with peak torque available between 1200 and 4000rpm.
One thing worth noting, the car started to exhibit some push understeer and light tyre-squeal when cornering to the right, but not to the left. This may have been a specific tyre issue with our test car, but we’ll be sure to investigate further when we have a chance to review a C-Class coupe over a longer period of time.
Our 113km run yielded 8.0L/100km against the Mercedes-Benz claim of 5.9 (combined cycle), although ours was not simply a leisurely commute.
All models in the range have AIRMATIC suspension available as an option, and running a short loop in an $83,400 C300 fitted with the system, we noted a big difference in comfort at lower speeds.
While the standard suspension was mostly compliant and comfortable, the twin-chamber air-system took any slightly harsh edges of any bumps and imperfections in the road, to provide a much softer ride.
The system adapts to the drive mode, so when stiffened up the ride is still firm and sporty, while retaining a bit more comfort. When pushing the car on a more ‘spirited’ run though, the standard suspension tended to feel a bit more communicative – but it depends what you want from your car. Knowing that most C-coupes will happily cruise their chosen neighbourhoods without too much apex action – I’d suggest to option the AIRMATIC system for a bit more pleasant daily running.
And the 300? Despite still being a four-pot motor it sounds much better than the 200, due to a standard sports exhaust, offering some nice pops on gear changes and more purposeful snarl under acceleration. We’ll have one of these on long-term test soon, so stay tuned for a more detailed review.
We took the final link in the chain, the $74,900 diesel C250d back to town, and immediately noted the extra 50Nm served up by the turbo-diesel – particularly in SPORT mode. There’s just a nice bit of extra punch down low, but while the noise in the car is pleasantly muted, outside it sounds like Vito on a courier run. Ah diesel, a land of such contrasts.
Speaking of noise, I took a phone call on the run back and the caller commented how clear the Bluetooth connection was. Not bad considering the car has a large panoramic sunroof and I was travelling about 100km/h at the time.
Most importantly, for the extra $9000 (over the C200), the 250d receives some additional goodies which includes the excellent DISTRONIC+ driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control, lane keep assistant etc) and 19-inch AMG wheels.
You are hard-pressed to notice a difference in ride from the 18s on the C200 to the 19s here, and they do fill the guards a lot better – which is important for a coupe.
Like the C200, the 250 doesn’t thump, it doesn’t glide – it sits somewhere in the middle, giving good comfort and good response.
We saw 6.0L/100km on the run back from the oiler too, again up on the claim of 4.4 but still within range. Must be that mountain air...
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe is an enjoyable thing to drive, and steps above the clinical ‘coldness’ than many non-AMG Benzes deliver.
The coupe rewards a sporting drive, but is still not quite a sports car. A junior GT then, is a great way to describe the newest swoopy Benz, and perhaps a more apt way to set the expectation for buyers.
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