Fewer doors are the key

The donor sedan is the se­cret of its sculpted suc­cess

Herald Sun - Motoring - - THE TICK - WITH PAUL GOVER

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.

THE TICK

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.

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