MODEL RUN FOR GLORY

Mercedes’ sec­ond at­tempt at its C-Class Coupe is more per­sua­sive than the first

The Weekend Australian - Life - - MOTORING - PHILIP KING Mo­tor­ing ed­i­tor

If Mercedes re­gains its crown as the lead­ing global lux­ury brand — af­ter three months, it’s on track to out­sell BMW for the first time in a decade — then it will have China to thank. Its ap­petite for SUVs has fu­elled a 36 per cent rise in Mercedes sales across the first three months of this year. At this rate, by year’s end the Mid­dle King­dom will be con­sum­ing ev­ery fourth Mercedes built.

To help its chances, Mercedes is mul­ti­ply­ing its SUV line-up with “coupe” ver­sions of reg­u­lar mod­els. The idea was pi­o­neered by BMW with the X6 and X4 and it was fre­quently mocked — who needs an off-road wagon that’s ac­tu­ally less prac­ti­cal? But it must be work­ing be­cause Mercedes has fol­lowed suit. It soon will add a smaller GLC Coupe to the GLE Coupe al­ready on sale.

One re­sult of this pro­lif­er­a­tion is that most coupes now have four doors in­stead of the usual two. How­ever, the fast­back shape of the tra­di­tional for­mat has been copied for a rea­son: buy­ers will pay a pre­mium.

At the top end of the lux­ury mar­ket, a large shapely car with only two doors is the ul­ti­mate state­ment of ex­trav­a­gance. It’s a place where Bent­ley dom­i­nates, though Mercedes has form here and, with the S-Class Coupe, re­cently re­turned to the seg­ment with a splash.

That goes for the next rung down too, where Mercedes pi­o­neered a trend with the CLS Coupe, which was a racier four-door spun off its E-Class.

In the mid-size divi­sion, though, Mercedes spent years of­fer­ing the Sports Coupe/CLC, which was lit­tle more than a glo­ri­fied hatch­back. Mean­while BMW was build­ing a strong fan base for as­pi­ra­tional two-door ver­sions of its 3 Series. These spawned a hero in the M3 Coupe, and the rest of the 3 Series line-up basked in its re­flected glory. That was a chal­lenge the CLC could not meet.

Audi en­tered the con­test with the A5 al­most a decade ago and the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion of that car will be un­veiled in Ger­many this month. But it took Mercedes un­til five years ago, mid­way through the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion C-Class, to add a proper twodoor to the line-up.

Al­most two years af­ter a gen­er­a­tional change to the sedan, the C Coupe joins the range at a $5000 pre­mium, at the en­try level, to the equiv­a­lent four­door. Its price-of-en­try sits be­neath ri­vals, though, with the A5 1.8 from $68,200 and the BMW 420i — af­ter the brand renum­bered its two-door 3 Series — at $71,100.

Longer and wider than the out­go­ing model, Mercedes says it’s more spa­cious inside with much of the ex­tra be­tween the axles. Shoul­der room ben­e­fits more than leg room, which re­mains tight for adults oc­cu­py­ing the two rear seats.

An at­trac­tive de­sign is vi­tal in this class and Audi’s hand­some A5 sets the bar high. The days when two-doors shared most of their pan­els with the sedan donor car are over.

The C Coupe looks sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent to the sedan from ev­ery an­gle, with pro­nounced fast­back pro­por­tions such as a short rear over­hang and shal­low side glass. It loses the un­ap­peal­ing wide-mouth look of its pre­de­ces­sor, and the creases on its flanks avoid seem­ing con­trived. It’s taut and mus­cu­lar.

The head­lamp LEDs form an eye­brow, in com­mon with other Mercedes, and the tail-lights are a vari­a­tion on the wrap­around shape be­com­ing ubiq­ui­tous for the brand af­ter ap­pear­ing on its GT sports car. Un­like more ex­pen­sive Mercedes coupes, the rear win­dows are fixed, so it’s im­pos­si­ble to drop all the glass for a fully open side. It’s a shame it has this in com­mon with other cars at this level.

Inside, there are good ameni­ties all around and fa­mil­iar switchgear with lik­able metal­lic de­tail­ing and open-pore wood trim. Sports seats and steer­ing wheel shift pad­dles are given, as are am­bi­ent light­ing and sat nav. Up­hol­stery is syn­thetic leather on the base model, with real hide ar­riv­ing in the C250d. There’s an ap­peal­ing ana­log clock and a raised, float­ing iPad-style screen to ac­cess all the car’s func­tions.

Over­all, the tone is blingy com­pared with the more aus­tere cab­ins of BMW and Audi, but it’s a com­fort­able place to be with few draw­backs. If you

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