If you thought the current iteration of the C-Class sedan was a tad too sedate in the styling department, the latest Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe is sure to reignite your interest.
Proper two-door coupes are supposed to look like something special next to their four-door counterparts – and few if any luxury carmakers can boast such a bounty of stunners as Mercedes-Benz.
For me, it started with the 1963 220SE. The old man had come across a slightly earlier version of the sedan and while it looked spectacular alongside his outgoing Ford Falcon, it paled next to its highly-prized coupe sibling.
This was an elegant two-door of beautifully balanced proportions, powered by Benz’s equally svelte fuel-injected, six-cylinder petrol engine. Here was a car that movie stars and royalty drove, perhaps more regularly than their Rolls-Royce or Bentleys.
First and foremost, though, this was a Mercedes-Benz coupe selling luxury and style over outright performance, whereas the all-new 2016 C300 Coupe is clearly pushing the sporty barrow in equal measure to bling and beauty.
Entry-level for C-Class Coupe ownership kicks off with the $65,900 turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 135kW and 300Nm of torque. Unlike the sedan line-up, there’s no C250 petrol, so stepping up puts you in the $74,900 C250d turbo-four diesel, producing 150kW and 500Nm of torque.
Our $83,400 (plus on-roads) C300 Coupe long-termer is the most potent version, sitting below the monster-powered C63 S AMG twin-turbo V8 which is effectively a supercar.
Not so long ago, if you bought a Mercedes-Benz 300 in any guise you would have got a silky smooth V6 powertrain under the bonnet – but not these days. Today, it’s all about satisfying global emissions regulations with smaller, more efficient engines, which is why in this 300 Coupe sits the same 2.0-litre turbo four you’ll find in the entry model, only this one has been tuned to punch out a more serious 180kW and 370Nm.
And it does get along with a fair degree of poke, particularly if driven in the most aggressive Sport Plus setting. There are several other drive modes available at the flick of a switch (Eco, Comfort and Sport), each one altering the coupe’s character from a docile boulevard cruiser to an eager corner carver.
There’s some typical turbo lag down low on throttle tip-in, but once you start piling on the revs, there’s plenty of go from this small displacement powertrain. Eco and Comfort modes tend to offer a rather doughy throttle response of different degrees, obviously geared toward lower consumption, whereas the two Sports settings provide a decidedly more immediate response to any right foot prod, along with a considerably bigger hit at the petrol bowser.
The only way you’ll come close to Benz’s claim of 6.6L/100km is in the Eco setting with a light foot (tried and tested). But drive it with a bit of passion and you’re likely to see that number rise to around 12L/100km – still, it’s not a bad price to pay for the kind of fun to be had behind the wheel of this thing.
This engine is paired with a 7-speed auto, and while gearshifts are relatively smooth in the less aggressive settings, they’re still not as sharp or as quick as a dual-clutch transmission, even in the two Sport modes.
That said, this chassis is very good. Pop it in sport+ and you can confidently enjoy your favourite twisty road, with hot-hatch-style composure and poise. There’s good grip too, from the split-size Pirellis (225s up front, 255 down back) allowing you to get on the power early on corner exit. And while there isn’t a lot of feedback through the tiller, the steering itself is comfortably quick and well weighted.
The whole car feels nicely tied down and eager to push on – shame about the engine note, then, which is entirely unrewarding. This is a car begging for a silky six-cylinder engine – if only for the refinement and more characterful noise it might offer.
Thankfully, that wish will be granted later this year when the Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe (and sedan) joins the C-Class line-up. It will, of course, be more expensive, sitting above the C300 as the top-shelf C-Class model under the range-topping AMG C63 S.
Here’s why. Packing a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 engine punching out a respectable 270kW of power (from 5500rpm) and 520Nm of torque (from 2000rpm) at both axles, the C43’s performance is scintillating.
Mercedes-AMG is claiming a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.7 seconds— only three-tenths slower than the previous generation C63 AMG coupe. It’s bound to find more than a few eager customers who can’t quite stretch the budget.
Our C300 coupe rides on the standard spring and damper suspension system, and the ride errs on the firm side in keeping with the car’s sporty focus. A softer set-up is available in the form of factory air suspension, but it costs another three grand. I’d argue that it should come standard with this relatively high-spec variant.
Inside, there’s no less sense of occasion than with its swoopy, two-door exterior. The thoroughly contemporary design is thoughtfully matched with high quality materials and a top-shelf fit and finish. The Burmester audio system is standard fitment, but it doesn’t look that way, with beautifully crafted metal speaker grilles similar to what you might find in a Maybach.
The centrepiece is a large floating screen sitting atop the three large climate control vents, which can be controlled by either a rotary dial or mouse-style system, but you just end up using the shortcut buttons on the dash purely to save time.
I also like the sports seats as they feel perfectly moulded to the small of your back, but they’re also quite firm in the cushioning department.
It’s longer and wider than its predecessor, so there’s noticeably more rear legroom for the two rear passengers, but taller folks will suffer back there with still compromised headroom.
There’s certainly no lack of space in the boot either, which can be conveniently opened (and closed) by swinging your foot forward under the rear of the car. While it’s not a unique feature these days, it’s brilliant if you’ve got your hands full of grocery bags.
There’s no doubt the C300’s key selling point is its beautiful styling and richly appointed cabin. Add to that, plenty of get up and go and more space than ever before, and this Mercedes-Benz coupe represents a very attractive proposition for well under a hundred grand.