Fewer doors are the key
The donor sedan is the secret of its sculpted success
PEOPLE who buy coupes are looking to get more from less. They are also, almost always, paying more for less.
In the case of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, downsizing from four doors to two — even sculpted, frameless doors — means paying an extra $4500 over the C200 sedan.
The starting price of $65,900 undercuts its closest rival, the BMW 420i from $68,900, although we’re still waiting to see what Audi does when it lands its handsome new A5 two-door in early 2017.
The coupe class is also crowded by the cheaper Lexus RC coupe from $64,000 and the Infiniti Q60 opens from $63,900, although it’s not a Carsguide favourite.
The C Coupe tips some extra fruit into the two-door salad, with a standard AMG body kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, genuine wood trim that looks genuine instead of over-glossed plastic, and seat belt “feeders” that mean you don’t have to reach way behind to grab the belt.
But the basics are shared with the sedan: 2.0-litre fourcylinder turbo, seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive and safety package with nine airbags, auto safety braking and blind-spot warning.
Moving up the range obviously plumps the package and the price tag — between the base car and the C63 performer are the C300 and C250 diesel.
But the pay-off in style and driving enjoyment, as with all coupes, are the bigger impact at the golf club and, usually, a little extra response for people who enjoy their driving. It’s the same story with the Hyundai Veloster (an i30 in disguise), BMW M4 and Jaguar F-Type.
ON THE ROAD
The C200 looks good and drives well. The price makes it attractive to fans of the German prestige coupes and solid value against the Japanese hopefuls. But what else does it have?
That’s the real question as the Benz lines up to vie for The Tick. There is no questioning the impact of the muscled-up C-Class two-doors, topping out with the C63, which thumps both its German opponents.
The C200, however, is for people who are sliding into the bottom end of the action and not taking the express elevator to the penthouse.
The styling is smooth and makes a solid statement with a more defined profile, the roof swooping down where the rear doors would normally hang and picking up cues from the flagship S-Class two-door.
Even with a little AMG fairy dust in the wheels and frontal treatment, it’s an awful lot like the basic C-Class sedan.
Inside, I really like the “open pore” wood trim. Moving away from a high-gloss finish to a more natural look, it’s reminiscent of the BMW i3 electric car,.
My seat belt arrives on a motorised stalk as I settle into the comfortable seat. There seems to be a little more room than before in the rear seat (mainly knee room) and the boot is well sorted.
It’s a similar story when I hit the road, as the C200 gets along briskly and rides well. It’s not as punchy or as plush as its upscale variants, losing out on air suspension and the massive outputs of the C63.
However, its 135kW is fine for the job and the 300Nm of torque is well distributed by the seven-speed automatic — which has paddle-shifters for the occasions when I need a bit of zip for overtaking.
The ride is good over all but the sharpest potholes and the handling balance is good, with crisp steering and plenty of cornering grip.
There is no ANCAP safety score for the coupe but, given the excellent performance of the sedan, this has to be one of the best in its class for occupant protection.
The infotainment package also works well with a big screen, the economy is good and 95-octane fuel is fine in the premium class, and the LED headlights are excellent.
Are you waiting for the “but”? Here it is. The C200 is missing the excitement I expect from a new coupe.
I’ve come to the car straight after a European preview drive in the Audi A5 (the two-door spin-off from the latest A4) that’s coming to Australia next year. I’ve also just driven the C-Class convertible, a ripper car with more of the sizzle I expect in the sporty class.
The A5, for me, has more coupe style than the Benz,
which is sedan-like all the way to the missing back doors. The C200 is not ugly, just a little bland, even compared with the BMW 420i.
It’s the same for the performance, which is fine for the price and people who only need a sedan but like to be a bit different with a coupe. But this one is more sensible than exciting.
This is a tough one. Very tough. Benz is doing great work on the C-Class family, starting from the bedrock of the four-door C200 and peaking with the two-door C63 AMG. The base sedan was Carsguide Car of the Year, even given our emphasis on cars that are more affordable for ordinary Aussies.
But the C200 Coupe is a bit flat and a bit uninspiring. It’s fine for the class and the price, drives well, is comfortable and quiet — but it’s more like a drink of water than a glass of bubbly.
The C63 would be an instant hit with The Tick. The C300 probably would too, given it has a little more of everything to make an impact.
On balance, the C200 Coupe sits right on the line. In some sports that would mean “out” but this time a lineball decision means it gets The Tick. Barely.