Mercedes coupé reborn

 

ROADTEST MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS COUPÉ SPORT AUTO C220 CDI:SURPRISES ARE thin on the ground these days when it comes to new cars. Much like the criminal profiler, motoring hacks use the experience built up over years of sifting through marketing manure and branded smokescreens to see whether old dogs can really learn new tricks. They seldom can.

Mercedes-Benz spent a long time seeking out new ideas, but had become so bloated and error-laden that its cars were becoming pretty predictable. Like owners who start looking like their pets, the Mercedes-Benz product line-up was more fat cat than fascinating. In the early part of the last decade they were still doing enough to sell cars to fans who wouldn’t be seen dead in another brand, but who were probably unlikely to know any better.

Experience would have told us, then, that a new Mercedes aimed at challenging the BMW 3 Series and Audi A5 would be looking at a bronze medal position.

We had years of experience of the CLK here in Ireland, which nobody would have mistaken for a sports car.

Truth be told, things have dramatically improved at Mercedes-Benz lately. The current E-Class doesn’t require an electronic engineer on speed dial any more, the C-Class is finally a proper 3 Series rival and, with the new SLK and the SLS, there are models that will make people break stride to stop and stare.

This new C-Class coupé is a prime example of this rebirth of the pointed star. It really is beautiful. Mercedes-Benz has got the proportions just right. It isn’t overly bloated, looking sharp and agile. The current C-Class saloon is a much better-looking car than before, so it seems like a natural progression that it would lend its design to a coupé. It might not have the obvious beauty of the Audi A5 coupé, but is prettier than the 3 Series coupé, which is due an overhaul any time now.

We were driving a C220 CDi Sport model shod with AMG alloys, and it was a stunning-looking car from every angle.

There is a choice of five engines. Diesel engines consist of two 2.2-litre models of 170bhp and 204bhp. Petrol models are two 1.8-litre units with 156bhp and 204bhp.

At the top of the standard petrol range is the 3.5-litre V6 with 306bhp. There is also the C63 AMG version, which uses a 6.2-litre V8, for €96,500. This will be available on order only.

Our test car was the entry-level diesel model, which will probably make up the majority of sales in Ireland. Traditionally we would have gone for the cheapest model, which in this case is actually the petrol version, but it seems likely that Irish buyers will now be drawn by the appeal of low emissions and the better residuals the diesel will bring.

You can have the car with a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic. We had the latter, with the AMG Sports package that comes with an additional “M” driving mode for manual shifts using the steering-wheel shift paddles. Both this and the manual gearbox now use an Eco start/stop function to cut the engine when stopped in traffic, to save fuel.

The interior is very impressive. The quality of C-Class interiors from the last decade was very poor, but this builds on the massive improvements made when the new C-Class was launched.

Visibility is obviously a little more restricted than you would find in the saloon or estate, but it is still quite good. This is strictly a four-seater, but it’s easy to get into the rear seats, and we even fitted a child seat thanks to Isofix points in the rear. The rear headroom will be enough for most kids except for the very tall.

The recipe for the new C-Class coupé appears to be just right. Our first few days with the car were standard journeys around town, where the automatic transmission and refined engine made for a relaxed drive, something that Mercedes-Benz has always been very good at doing.

But later in the week, a much longer drive on some challenging back roads gave us a chance to explore the car’s handling prowess. And we have to say that Mercedes-Benz’s engineers should take a bow. We were hugely impressed by just how agile the car’s chassis is, even with the entry-level diesel.

This coupé has a really nice blend of comfort and agility, a flavour that is very difficult to get right. Despite being fitted with the very tasty AMG wheels and being asked to perform on some challenging surfaces, this car performed brilliantly. We loved the gearbox, especially the paddle shifter, which was far more responsive than we expected.

The engine is impressive too. Putting out 167bhp and 400Nm of torque, it is very quiet and refined, and while it doesn’t feel blisteringly fast, it helps the car munch through long motorway trips with relative ease. Engine noise remains a problem when you kick down, but at cruising speeds it doesn’t speak much louder than the petrol versions. The AMG styling and suspension make the car look and feel great to drive.

The fuel economy, which in the case of our car is claimed to be 4.2 l/100km, is actually very realistic. The fuel gauge doesn’t move half as fast as you might expect it to, and even with the automatic transmission our car had emissions of 128g/km, which place it in motor tax band B, with annual road tax of just €156.

Prices start at €36,000, with the diesel range starting at €39,990. Our base model cost €46,115 – it was a C220 CDi Sport – but extras pushed it up to €52,509.

This is a very good car and that has now become the best in its class for the money. After spending too long on the gravy train, Mercedes-Benz really appears to be hitting form once again.

Factfile

Engine2,143cc four-cylinder turbo diesel putting out 167bhp at 3,000rpm, with 400Nm of torque at 1,400rpm with a seven-speed automatic transmission

0-100km/h8.1 secs

L/100km (mpg)urban - 4.9 (58); extra-urban - 6.1 (46); combined - 4.2 (67)

Emissions (motor tax)128g/km (€156)

SpecificationSafety features include ABS brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, traction control, stability control and front, side and curtain airbags. Front fog lights, day time running lights, rain sensing windscreen wipers. Computer includes average speed, average fuel consumption, instantaneous fuel consumption and range for remaining fuel, alloy and leather multifunction steering wheel with tilt adjustment and telescopic adjustment, automatic air conditioning with fully automated climate control and two climate control zones, Bluetooth connection, connections for USB and auxiliary audio devices, audio system with CD player that reads MP3 CDs; radio receives AM/FM and RDS.

Options fitted to test carAMG alloy wheels €630, LED light pack €523, upgraded stereo €531, media interface €390, metallic paint €1,364, Bengal Red leather upholstery €2,905

Price€46,115