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