By Jim Bray
Mercedes-Benz certainly seems to be on a roll these days. The German luxury car manufacturer is currently making some of the most attractive vehicles in its history, beauty being in the eye of the beholder of course, and they're integrating the latest technology into their models without making most of it unnecessarily annoying and/or obtrusive.
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And that's on top of their long-held reputation as the maker of some of the finest cars on the market - an impression they continue to foster via their slogan "The best, or nothing."
The result of their work can be seen in cars such as the new C 300 coupe, with which I spent a week recently. It's a beautiful car, though its roofline seems a tad Honda Accord Coupe-like to these eyes (which would be a compliment were I not also whining about it being a bit derivative), and it drives very nicely too. Oh, it isn't a "real sport coupe" like a BMW M4, but it doesn't claim to be - and it's undoubtedly easier to live with than a BMW thanks to its easier-to-figure-out interfaces.
And it starts at a quite reasonable $48,100 CAD - reasonable in a class that also includes the aforementioned 4 series (starting price $49,450), Audi A5 (from $44,700) and Lexus RC 300 ($48,350). Naturally, you can option it up from there, but the basic package is still pretty nice.
Mercedes-Benz Canada's sample was optioned up more than a tad; it had added to it a lovely blue metallic paint job ($900), two Premium packages and the Sport package ($8,400 altogether). It also had $250 worth of Dark Ash Wood Trim Open-Pore (wood with zits?) interior trim, the AIRMATIC Agility System ($1,800) and Burmester Surround Sound System ($1,000), all of which brought the as-driven price to $60,440, a healthy tally but understandable in this niche.
We aren't talking entry level here, obviously.
The new C Class coupe replaces a car that was already a winner, and an attractive one at that. And while the old version didn't really seem particularly long in the tooth, this one definitely ups the ante in nearly every way. It looks more modern and it embraces today's technology very well. And as a bonus, you can even turn off some of that technology, including nannies, if you so choose.
I did so choose, when it came to the trackpad on the centre console you can use to control what's happening on the big, top of the dashboard-mounted LCD screen. Many folk may like it, but I found myself forgetting about it but activating it when I was trying to use the handy little knob below it. Since I prefer the knob anyway (I hate trackpads on my computers, too), I just shut it off and Bob was my uncle. I never thought about it again, until I sat down to write this.
Speaking of the C Class coupe being attractive, it isn't often that I've driven a lower end Benz and have it draw onlookers captivated by its exterior styling - but that happened with the C. It was quite remarkable, but not surprising considering how great this car looks. And if you think the coupe looks great, wait till you get a view of the new sedan version, which I actually prefer not only because it's less "Accordlike," but because its four doors make it more practical. Not as much of a babe magnet, though, perhaps.
The manufacturer notes that the new C Coupe is 60 millimetres longer between the firewall and front axle than the outgoing model - drop in that V12! - and features a high beltline and frameless doors (it's impossible to accuse them of a crime they didn't do, I guess) with freestanding exterior mirrors. To "underscore the Coupe's sporty disposition," Mercedes-Benz has lowered the suspension by 15 millimetres compared to the sedan, which should help it stick to the road nicely (and stick to the road it does). Standard wheels are 17 inchers.
The C Coupe gets its motivation from an inline, four cylinder engine with twin-scroll turbocharging - and very little lag to notice - and it's more than adequate. Mercedes-Benz rates its power output as 241 hosses @ 5,500 rpm, with an even better torque rating of 273 lb.-ft. available from a low 1,300 - 4,000 rpm. Needless to say, while this doesn't translate into world-beating acceleration I never had issues keeping up with, or passing, other traffic when I wanted to. In fact, though I'm generally of the "Tim the Tool Man Taylor" school of "more power!", or at least more torque, I never found the Coupe lacking.
This is becoming the rule rather than the exception these days, of course, and not just with Mercedes-Benz. I had the same experience when I drove the BMW 328 wagon a couple of months back, which also sported a turbo four rather than the 2.8 inline six its model designation used to mean, and it was plenty fun.
To put the oomph amount into perspective, four cylinder engines - even non-turbos - are now putting out the power that used to be the territory of sixes. Heck, I owned a 1983 Toyota Supra for 20 years and its lovely inline six put out 150 horses (and it was a fast car for the era), which I'd be complaining about as pretty well entry level (a Toyota Corolla puts out 132 horses, for example) today - because it is.
So everything's relative.
Power gets to the wheels via Mercedes' 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven speed automatic transmission, which is equipped with the "DIRECT SELECT" selector lever on the steering column and accompanied by paddle shifters. Shifts are silky and intuitive; it's a very nice automatic, though it would be nice if a manual were offered as well.
Mercedes-Benz Canada's sample C coupe was of the 4MATIC persuasion, which means it came equipped with all-wheel drive instead of the rear wheel drive-only configuration that's only available currently on the awesome C 63 AMG S version. I like rear wheel drive, but have no issue with having all wheels driven; it's certainly more steady and serene when roads get snaky or conditions get crummy.
There's a new four link front suspension now, too, and it works in conjunction with a multi-link rear - and you can choose from two optional "selective damping" ones including the AIRMATIC AGILITY CONTROL suspension and a sport suspension.
The sample's AIRMATIC suspension was very nice. It's controlled electronically, adjusting the damping on the front and rear axle continuously and you can select from five driving modes: "ECO", "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport +" and "Individual". Selecting "Individual" lets you customise the vehicle settings via the LCD screen and control knob - and it gives you plenty of parameters to partake of.
In fact, the amount of customization you can do to the car - not just its dynamics but its overall settings, interfaces and other capabilities, is dizzying - yet the COMAND system continues to be logical and mostly easy to fathom.
The electro-mechanical Direct-Steer system, which the manufacturer says combines speed-sensitive power assist with a steering ratio that varies according to the given steering angle, imparts a decent feel, neither sloppy nor too "Armstrong-type."
The brakes, discs all-around of course, work very well and include an adaptive feature that gives you a hill start assist function that prevents you from rolling back on a grade; there's also a brake-drying function that wipes the moisture from the discs to help prevent mushiness, and there's an electric parking brake with "Comfort Go" automatic release that, since it releases the parking brake when you start off, means you can pretty well ignore it most of the time.
The interior is classy, luxurious, and up to date. Seats, as expected, are very comfortable and everything you need is where it ought to be, though I still have issues getting used to the Benz folk's penchant to put the seat adjustment controls on the doors.
On the other hand, since Mercedes has moved the gear selector to the steering column, there's more room for storage on the centre console, including a space in front of the COMAND knob thingy as well as a decently sized bin that can double as an armrest.
Getting into the rear seats is as challenging for a fat middle aged guy as they are on any coupe, but the front seats move out of the way well. The rear seats are a tad tight, but that's to be expected in this type of car.
You can partake of the usual bevy of safety systems available today, including Mercedes-Benz's drowsiness combatting system as well as optional stuff like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and blind spot monitoring with cross traffic assist. Naturally you can also get stuff like a rear view camera, though a camera should be standard in 2016.
I really enjoyed my time with the C Class coupe. While I'm more of a sedan-type of guy, the coupe looks and drives great and, since it's a Mercedes-Benz, will coddle you in comfort and luxury while you peel off the kilometres.
I can't wait to try the sedan, especially the mighty AMG version!
Copyright 2016 Jim Bray
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