Motoring: C-Class turns heads with two doors

But park beside the sedan's two-door sibling—the C-Class Coupe—and guess who steals the spotlight?

Classic coupe proportions—long hood

Neil Moore

Metroland Media

When it comes to cars, two doors are more fetching than four. This nearly irrefutable law holds true not only at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, with Honda Civic being a prime example, but also in the upper crust.

The current generation C-Class sedan, which launched as an ’08 model and was refreshed three years later, considerably outstyles its grandpa predecessor, and is still one of the sharpest rides in its segment.

But park beside its two-door sibling—the C-Class Coupe—and guess who steals the spotlight?

Indeed, the Coupe is more of a head-turner, with its sleeker, sexier lines, and riding 1.5 inches lower. Broad shoulders, narrow C-pillar and steeply-raked windshield create an athletic upper body that rests on a powerful wedge profile with its protruding wheel arches, and short front and rear overhangs.

I love the classic coupe proportions. A long hood and a greenhouse that extends over the rear axle, create a bobbed rear end that has you wondering if there’s much in the way of trunk space and rear leg room. More on that later.

My tester for the week was the C 350 Coupe, and its front view was my favourite. Here, the large, pentagonal upper grille opening is spanned by two chrome louvers either side of the bold central star. These taper towards the outer edges,  for an overall impression of facing the business end of an arrow.

The gaping lower grille, flanked by side air intakes with integrated LED running lights, add to the car’s ground-hugging appearance.

Surprisingly, both sedan and coupe share the same length and wheelbase, although I could swear the two-door is shorter.

Both cars, as well, are similarly equipped, although the coupe does not come in C 300 trim, which is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 producing 248 hp and 251 lb/ft of torque.

No matter, there’s a C-Class Coupe for a variety of budgets, starting with the rear-drive C 250 ($40,800), rear- and all-wheel-drive C 350 ($49,900 and $51,400) and the asphalt-ripping C 63 AMG variant, with the latter getting  a 6.2-litre V8 that pumps out a whopping 451 hp and 443 lb/ft of torque. But that comes with a whopping pricetag (starting at $67,700) and isn’t really in the same ìclassî as its siblings.

I haven’t yet driven the C 250, with its 1.8-litre turbo four (201 hp and 229 lb/ft), but will note that the C 350—in terms of power—did not disappoint.

Under the hood is a direct-injection 3.5-litre V6 that delivers 302 hp and 273 lb/ft of torque. This is a step up from 2011 where the same displacement provided only 268 hp and 258 lb/ft. Apparently the new mill even gets 10 percent better fuel economy.

But achieving the rated fuel consumption has never been my strong point, as the C 350 rewards the right foot with a snappy throttle response and brisk, linear acceleration. Zero to 100 km/h arrives in just 6.0 seconds, and only 0.2 seconds slower in the 4Matic (all-wheel-drive) model.

Of course, that’s in driver-selectable ‘Sport’ mode, and yet Eco mode doesn’t entirely throw a wet blanket on the fun. Throttle response isn’t as brisk, and the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic shifts a little earlier, but this default setting is still somewhat lively.

The Eco start/stop function can at first be unsettling, as most people don’t expect this in a non-hybrid vehicle. When the C Coupe comes to a stop, it will shut off the engine, with power delivered by a starter motor that doubles as a generator.

The engine comes back to life when you lift the brake, and does so with less of a shudder than in the BMW 3 Series. Still, if you don’t like it (and aren’t bothered about the fuel savings), start/stop can be disabled.

But the C-Class is not all about driving dynamics, and the lack of a manual gearbox is testament that it’s targeted more at the executive than at the enthusiast.

Consequently, the car comes chock-a-block with thoughtful conveniences.

Here’s one that helped me overlook the missing proximity key and pushbutton start, which should have been standard at this price point.

Flop the driver’s seatback forward and the entire unit automatically glides ahead, leaving ample room to climb in and out. Flop it back (another one-handed operation) and it silently returns to position—and at the same recline angle.

In back are a pair of buckets, with no centre position, where you can sit comfortably with plenty of leg room. What I can’t figure out is how M-B carved out the head room. The rear seat cushions seem a little higher than in front, and with the steeply raked roofline, you’d expect them to accommodate only the vertically challenged.

I’m five-foot-nine and had room to spare.

Throughout the interior of my tester, and as part of  the $1,450 Sport Package, was Artico/Dinamica leather upholstery with red contrast stitching. This combo really set off the front sports seats, as the suede-like inserts, flanked by large faux-leather bolsters, not only look great, but really grab you in the corners.

The panoramic sunroof, which spans both rows of seating, is made of solar glass to cut down on heat transfer. A nice feature in the dead of winter, but with temperatures on the rise, not to mention the car’s black interior, it kept the passenger cabin like a sauna—even with the perforated shade drawn.

Instrumentation is an attractive three-pot display with aluminum rings and black numbering on white faces. Aluminum can also be found trimming the dash, steering wheel and centre console, giving the interior a modern, upscale look.

Ergonomics are well thought out with, for example, positioning of the Comand knob is just where your hand drops from the centre armrest. Comand is the system that combines audio, phone and navigation in a user-friendly interface on seven-inch display. The knob acts much like a computer mouse.

But I won’t dwell on the techy stuff, most of which can be had in the competition, and even in cars costing thousands less. And it’s probably not why you’d buy a Mercedes.

Sure, there’s the cachet of M-B’s iconic logo—even a lowly journalist feels like a captain of industry behind the three-pointed star.

But there’s more to it than stroking the ego. Mercedes-Benz embodies craftsmanship, and it’s apparent in the car’s bank-vault construction—absent of squeaks and rattles—and its rock-solid composure.

Take one for a spin and you’ll see what I mean.

Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic Coupe 2013

Body Style: Luxury compact coupe

Drive Method: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, seven-speed automatic

Engine: 24-valve DOHC 3.5-litre V6 with direct injection (302 hp, 273 lb/ft torque)

Cargo: 450 litres, expandable with 60/40 rear seats

Fuel Economy: 7.3/10.7 L/100 km (city/hwy)

Price: C 250 $40,800, C 350 $49,900, C 350 4Matic $51,400

Website: www.mercedes-benz.ca

 

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