RAC

Mercedes-Benz C - Class Coupe

The Mercedes-Benz C-class coupe replaces the ancient CLC model and looks better set to put one over on its domestic rivals. Andy Enright reports.

Ten Second Review

Mercedes has been curiously reticent to go head to head with BMW's 3 Series Coupe, a car that has been on sale in the UK since the Seventies. The CLC skirted the issue but here comes the full frontal assault in the arresting shape of the C-class Coupe. It faces a big task but it looks to have the substance to back up the handsome styling.

Background

If there's one thing German car manufacturers like it's a well-established procedure. Procedures and traditions. Procedures, traditions and hierarchies. That's three, but you can see where this is going. Everything has a set place and it's never quite the done thing to aggressively target a rival's product with something directly comparable. That's why the likes of Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Audi have assiduously cultivated their own brand identities. A Mercedes C-class might seem to be a direct rival for the BMW 3 Series but each product says very different things to the savvy buyers in this sector. It's why there's been such relatively peaceful coexistence up until fairly recently. Much of this changed with an advertising war between BMW and Audi that all got a bit unnecessary. Then Audi started taking pot shots at Mercedes on US television, insinuating that Mercedes represented the old fashioned way of doing things. Mercedes has responded with the C-class coupe, a car that draws a direct bead on the BMW 3 Series coupe in a far bolder way than ever would have been imagined a couple of years ago. Open warfare has been declared and things could get messy.

Driving Experience

Mercedes has let rip with a broadside of engines for the C-class coupe opening with a 152bhp C180 petrol 1.8-litre and topping out with the 302bhp C350 CGI. In total there are three petrol units and a pair of diesels. The other petrol unit is a 204bhp C250 which uses the same 1796cc basis as the C180 but which cuts that car's sprint to 60mph from 9 to 7.2 seconds. Despite the potential firepower on offer, all of the engines wear Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco tag. Go diesel and the choice is between the C220 CDI and C250 CDI, both of which are of 2143cc capacity. The C220 CDI develops 170bhp while the C250 CDI is good for 204bhp. It's perhaps here that BMW can leverage their superiority, Mercedes having nothing in the locker to counter the awesome 286bhp 335d Coupe. Word on the grapevine is that the AMG version of the C-class coupe will get neither the 6208cc naturally aspirated V8 from the C63 AMG saloon nor the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 of the CLS63 AMG. The smart money at the moment seems to be on it receiving a normally aspirated version of the 5.5-litre V8. Hierarchies to be preserved, you see.

Design and Build

The styling of the C-class Coupe is a mix of the new and the traditional. The latest Mercedes family face is grafted onto what is a very handsome but rather generic coupe shape. It's the dressing that really makes it work, with details such as 18-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard. They combine with lowered suspension to give it a hunkered down stance with very little fresh air visible in the wheel arches. The line of the glasshouse is interesting with what appears to be litigiously close to a BMW-trademark 'Hofmeister Kink' in the rearmost side window pane. So far, so obvious. What Mercedes are perhaps a little more reluctant to let on is quite how closely related this car is to the E-class coupe. In fact, they both run on identical floorpans and share engines and transmissions. Whereas the E-class coupe is positioned as a successor to the CLK and aims for a more mature audience, the C-class coupe has a tougher job on its hands.

Market and Model

With prices starting at around £30,000, Mercedes isn't making any gestures towards conspicuous, rival-undercutting value, but then it probably feels it doesn't need to. As with all modern Mercedes vehicles, buyers will be attracted by solid build quality and a certain familiarity with the look and feel of the cabin. The C-class coupe sees many of the features that previously only appeared on £50k+ models filtering down to more affordable versions. One feature that's sure to be popular is the double glass sunroof system which gives an almost targa feel to the cabin without threatening to scalp you when you join the motorway.

Cost of Ownership

Mercedes has worked hard to keep a cap on its carbon dioxide emissions of late and the C-class coupe demonstrates that some fairly powerful engines can be compatible with modest emissions and very good economy. Let's start with what you'd expect to be the one that Mercedes would try to nudge behind a curtain when it came to a running costs discussion, the C350 CGI petrol engine. With 302bhp on tap, not to mention its 370Nm of torque, this model will nevertheless return a very creditable 41.5mpg. Emissions are pegged at just 159g/km, which is scarcely believable for a petrol-engined car capable of hitting 60mph in 5.7 seconds. To put that figure into perspective, that's the same amount of carbon dioxide that comes out of the back of an automatic BMW 320i coupe. Most customers will be drawn to the diesel models and the C220 CDI will doubtless mop up the majority of sales. This ekes 64.2 miles from a gallon of diesel and emits just 117g/km. One expects that business buyers are going to be filling Mercedes' order books rather rapidly, especially when residual values looks set to be strong.

Summary

The Mercedes C-class coupe isn't an easy vehicle to pigeonhole. In many ways it's deeply conservative and old-school Mercedes in its approach, not pushing stylistic boundaries in any particular regard. On the other hand it's a very aggressive political statement, driving deep into BMW heartland and with economy and emissions figures that look extremely impressive, there's no doubt it'll carve great swathes of sales from Munich's bottom line. While I would have liked to have seen something a little more adventurous from newly-emboldened Mercedes, one suspects that its designers understand their target customers very well. The fact that it looks so BMW-like in its profile cannot be a coincidental.

The Mercedes C-class coupe isn't an easy vehicle to pigeonhole. In many ways it's deeply conservative and old-school Mercedes in its approach, not pushing stylistic boundaries in any particular regard. On the other hand it's a very aggressive political statement, driving deep into BMW heartland and with economy and emissions figures that look extremely impressive, there's no doubt it'll carve great swathes of sales from Munich's bottom line. While I would have liked to have seen something a little more adventurous from newly-emboldened Mercedes, one suspects that its designers understand their target customers very well. The fact that it looks so BMW-like in its profile cannot be a coincidental.

The Mercedes C-class coupe isn't an easy vehicle to pigeonhole. In many ways it's deeply conservative and old-school Mercedes in its approach, not pushing stylistic boundaries in any particular regard. On the other hand it's a very aggressive political statement, driving deep into BMW heartland and with economy and emissions figures that look extremely impressive, there's no doubt it'll carve great swathes of sales from Munich's bottom line. Mercedes has let rip with a broadside of engines for the C-class coupe opening with a 152bhp C180 petrol 1.8-litre and topping out with the 302bhp C350 CGI. In total there are three petrol units and a pair of diesels. The other petrol unit is a 204bhp C250 which uses the same 1796cc basis as the C180 but which cuts that car's sprint to 60mph from 9 to 7.2 seconds. Despite the potential firepower on offer, all of the engines wear Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco tag. Go diesel and the choice is between the C220 CDI and C250 CDI, both of which are of 2143cc capacity. The C220 CDI develops 170bhp while the C250 CDI is good for 204bhp. It's perhaps here that BMW can leverage their superiority, Mercedes having nothing in the locker to counter the awesome 286bhp 335d Coupe. While I would have liked to have seen something a little more adventurous from newly-emboldened Mercedes, one suspects that its designers understand their target customers very well. The fact that it looks so BMW-like in its profile cannot be a coincidental.

Mercedes has been curiously reticent to go head to head with BMW's 3 Series Coupe, a car that has been on sale in the UK since the Seventies. The CLC skirted the issue but here comes the full frontal assault in the arresting shape of the C-class Coupe. It faces a big task but it looks to have the substance to back up the handsome styling. Mercedes has let rip with a broadside of engines for the C-class coupe opening with a 152bhp C180 petrol 1.8-litre and topping out with the 302bhp C350 CGI. In total there are three petrol units and a pair of diesels. The other petrol unit is a 204bhp C250 which uses the same 1796cc basis as the C180 but which cuts that car's sprint to 60mph from 9 to 7.2 seconds. Despite the potential firepower on offer, all of the engines wear Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco tag. Go diesel and the choice is between the C220 CDI and C250 CDI, both of which are of 2143cc capacity. The C220 CDI develops 170bhp while the C250 CDI is good for 204bhp. It's perhaps here that BMW can leverage their superiority, Mercedes having nothing in the locker to counter the awesome 286bhp 335d Coupe. Word on the grapevine is that the AMG version of the C-class coupe will get neither the 6208cc naturally aspirated V8 from the C63 AMG saloon nor the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 of the CLS63 AMG. The smart money at the moment seems to be on it receiving a normally aspirated version of the 5.5-litre V8. Hierarchies to be preserved, you see. The styling of the C-class Coupe is a mix of the new and the traditional. The latest Mercedes family face is grafted onto what is a very handsome but rather generic coupe shape. It's the dressing that really makes it work, with details such as 18-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard. They combine with lowered suspension to give it a hunkered down stance with very little fresh air visible in the wheel arches. The line of the glasshouse is interesting with what appears to be litigiously close to a BMW-trademark 'Hofmeister Kink' in the rearmost side window pane. So far, so obvious. What Mercedes are perhaps a little more reluctant to let on is quite how closely related this car is to the E-class coupe. In fact, they both run on identical floorpans and share engines and transmissions. Whereas the E-class coupe is positioned as a successor to the CLK and aims for a more mature audience, the C-class coupe has a tougher job on its hands. The Mercedes C-class coupe isn't an easy vehicle to pigeonhole. In many ways it's deeply conservative and old-school Mercedes in its approach, not pushing stylistic boundaries in any particular regard. On the other hand it's a very aggressive political statement, driving deep into BMW heartland and with economy and emissions figures that look extremely impressive, there's no doubt it'll carve great swathes of sales from Munich's bottom line. While I would have liked to have seen something a little more adventurous from newly-emboldened Mercedes, one suspects that its designers understand their target customers very well. The fact that it looks so BMW-like in its profile cannot be a coincidental.

Scores
Performance 8
Handling 8
Comfort 8
Space 7
Styling 8
Build 9
Value 7
Equipment 8
Economy 8
Depreciation 8
Insurance 7
Total 86
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