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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - C300 Coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Great interior and exterior design, willing drivetrain, surefooted dynamics, equipment levels, feel-good personality
Room for improvement
Thirsty for a four-cylinder, driver’s seat a bit too high

Gallery

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Mercedes-Benz logo26 Aug 2016

Price and equipment

TO THROW more than $83,355 (plus on-road costs) at a C-Class Coupe would require the purchase of an AMG variant or to visit the options list of an already well-equipped C300.

Having neither read nor memorised the spec-sheet before jumping behind the wheel of our C300 test vehicle, we were genuinely and pleasantly surprised to see a sub-$100,000 total on the ledger, including the extras fitted.

Included as standard is dual-zone climate control with vents for rear passengers, an 8.4-inch widescreen infotainment system with voice recognition, touchpad and rotary controls for accessing the sat-nav, internet apps, hard-drive music library, radio with DAB+ digital reception, Bluetooth streaming and full USB/iPod/auxiliary audio compatibility – all piped through a 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester surround sound system.

There is also a suite of driver and safety aids including radar cruise control, with self-steering lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot recognition, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, driver alertness monitor, all-round parking sensors with rear cross-traffic alert and automated-parking.

A 360-degree camera system helps avoid parking scrapes, too, which we appreciated due to the $2990 lavished on our test car’s Designo Diamond White Bright metallic paint.

A sporty flat-bottomed leather multi-function steering wheel goes with the AMG sports pedals and carpet mats, the Affalterbach theme running to the car’s exterior with a bodykit and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Back inside, perforated Cranberry Red leather upholstery – with electric front-seat adjustment including lumbar and thigh support – juxtaposes against the black ash wood centre console and brushed aluminium trim on the dashboard and doors, while upper interior surfaces are covered with Artico imitation leather.

Other inclusions comprise keyless entry and start, a powered boot lid, privacy glass, a comprehensive multi-function trip computer, a sports exhaust, automatic LED headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

In addition to the pricy paint package, our C300 was optioned up with the $4490 Vision Package that includes adaptive headlights (excellent), a head-up display (useful) and a panoramic glass roof (nice on grey days but with an electric black-out blind for sunny ones).

There were also heated front seats ($690) and what Mercedes calls Air Balance ($490), essentially an expensive glovebox-space-robbing air freshener with different fragrance canisters available from dealerships.

Interior

Like the C-Class sedan and wagon, as well as the GLC SUV, the C-Coupe bestows its occupants with an expensive-feeling interior design that takes cues from much further up the pay scale – we’re talking Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

There is no way the materials and craftsmanship come close to those British super-luxury land yachts but what Mercedes has done here sure is effective.

Classy looking and feeling air-conditioning vents, convincing large swathes of wood and metal finishes and the stunning – if cheese-grater sharp – Burmester speaker grilles are pure class.

Seat comfort and support is good, too, but we never stopped feeling as though we wished the driver’s pew would sink a little lower. We wished there was an option to angle the squab by lowering the rear rather than raising the front.

Other than that, the range of adjustments – especially the extendable thigh supports and electric headrest height – was excellent.

Front-seat space was also plentiful, although the rear seats would find their comfort limits at those in their mid-teens, especially as headroom is so restricted (made worse no doubt by the optional panoramic roof of our test car).

But this is a coupe, and practical enough, especially as the back seats fold – with the central divider doubling as a ski hatch – for additional space if the boot’s generous 400-litre volume isn’t quite enough.

As the C300 rocks runflats there is no spare tyre, the recess where it would usually live filled with thoughtful cargo-carrying accessories including a divider/crate and luggage net for use with the natty chrome tie-downs. Being a German car, there is also the obligatory inclusion of first-aid kit, a pair of hi-vi vests and a warning triangle.

Back in the cabin, total storage is pretty impressive, even though the air freshener takes up a lot of space in the already small and awkward-to-access glove compartment. A huge bin in the front armrest is accompanied by another in front of a pair of versatile cupholders in the centre console and the door bins can carry more than is obvious – including drinks bottles at an angle.

Rear passengers get a small storage recess beneath the air-conditioning vents, three cupholders in the central seat divider and more rectangular bins between the seat cushion and the outboard armrests.

Everything felt well put together and we experienced no rattles or creaks. Road and wind noise was well suppressed, while engine noise only became apparent when gunning it – with an oddly artificial-sounding note.

Mercedes does infotainment well – even if the combination of large rotary and touchpad controllers divides opinion – and the widescreen format of the C300’s upgraded system looks a bit less like an afterthought of a cheap iPad knockoff than the 7.0-inch version in lowlier variants.

Meanwhile the optional head-up display and full-featured trip computer made life easy with at-a-glance usability.

Other than the seat height, our only other gripe with the C300 cabin was the Burmester audio system not quite living up to its looks with a muddy and slightly distorted sound output at higher volumes. That said, it impressed us at less eardrum-edifying levels.

Engine and transmission

Punching out 180kW and 370Nm from its 2.0-litre displacement, the C300’s turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine does a great job of pretending it is a 3.0-litre V6 – even down to its artificial-sounding enhanced exhaust note in the two Sport modes.

Unfortunately this four-pot also drinks 98 RON. We recorded 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres in urban crawl, 9.3L/100km litres in mixed driving, 13.9L/100km during a back-road blast and 7.3L/100km on the motorway.

Compare this to the official figures: 8.6L/100km city, 5.6L/100km highway and 6.6L/100km combined.

But forgetting fuel consumption for a minute, paired well with the snappy seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the C300 engine impressed with its linear acceleration and free-revving nature. It really is all the engine most people need.

Driving in Eco or Comfort modes was fine for almost all occasions, while Sport and Sport+ liven things in dramatic increments. During wet-weather driving on the dynamic section of our road test route, the touchy accelerator pedal of Sport+ could cause difficult progress, but switching back to Sport made things more manageable.

The two Sport modes also bring a new level of character to the transmission, with quite violent upshifts accompanied by a blurt from the exhausts.

Regardless of mode, changes are almost always quick and crisp, but also often a bit hesitant on manual down-changes using the paddle-shifters.

For everyday use, we found both Eco and Comfort modes pleasant to use. Some cars become doughy, sluggish, joy-free zones in such modes but Mercedes has calibrated the settings well – everything hangs together seamlessly, smoothly and allows the driver get on with the job of driving.

There’s more than enough performance, the transmission is unobtrusive and the ambience relaxed. The C300 Coupe does effortless very well indeed, helped even further by the sheer number of electronic driver aids that make parking and motorway cruising a breeze.

Ride and handling

The C300 Coupe has understandably firm suspension tune, given the fact it is German, a coupe and has 19-inch wheels.

But we rarely found it uncomfortable or jiggly, with only the odd pothole sending a thump or shudder through the body and only the worst surfaces we could find upsetting the steering mid-corner or challenging the damping to keep up.

In Eco and Comfort modes, the constantly changing weight of the steering could be disconcerting, but the Sport modes bring a welcome consistency that reveals the car’s inherent accuracy.

The steering is pointy too, darting eagerly into bends at which point the lack of bodyroll becomes apparent – as does the amount of front-end grip from the Pirelli P Zeros, even in the damp conditions experienced during our test. We just wished for more feel and feedback through the steering.

Sport mode provides much of the transmission and throttle sharpness available in Sport+ but the stability and traction control calibration calls time at the first hint of a slide with a subtle and invisible guiding hand that pulls the C300 back into line before the driver needs to make their own correction.

Up the ante to Sport+ and the driver is allowed to experience the C-Coupe’s beautifully predictable breakaway, even in the wet.

Too much speed into a corner results in understeer represented as a gently increasing cornering radius, while too much throttle too soon on exit will kick the tail out just enough for the driver to have time to apply some steering correction before the electronics reel everything back in – in the most beautifully fuss-free manner.

Where the steering remained frustratingly silent before and during these little slides, this was partially compensated by a pleasing amount of feel through the seat of the pants.

Don’t get us wrong, the C300 is a lot of fun, but we couldn’t help feel it would be much more rewarding if the steering was more communicative.

No doubt the C63 AMG – and perhaps even the C43 – deliver a helm that positively fizzes in the hands. That’s what they call an up-sell.

Safety and servicing

ANCAP awarded the C-Class sedan the full five stars in 2014, with 15.46 out of 16 in the frontal offset test, 16 out of 16 in the side impact test and 2 out of 2 in the pole test. Whiplash and pedestrian protection were deemed ‘good’.

Being a Benz, there is a long list of standard safety equipment including nine airbags, collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km but Mercedes does not offer capped-price servicing on the C-Class. As is becoming common with premium marques, owners can pre-pay for a number of different service plans with terms ranging from two to five years and up to 125,000km.

Verdict

Inside and out the C300 looks and feels special, and it backs this up with a great driving experience that ranges from effortless urban or motorway cruiser to pseudo-sportscar with the selection of the right mode on the right road.

Heart satisfied. For the head, a generous amount of standard equipment and competitive pricing.

The C300 is such a likeable car that we easily forgave its minor niggles.

Mercedes-Benz thinks it is going to sell a lot of these coupes.

And from our experience, every customer will be making a good decision.

Rivals

BMW 430i from $79,855 plus on-road costs
Recently revamped with added value and sharper pricing to help BMW fight off the C-Class Coupe and the 428i replaced by the punchier 430i – but still packing a 2.0-litre turbo four. Relies on adaptive damping for its handling smarts where the C300 is an altogether more analogue animal. Risks looking plain compared with the Benz, too.

Lexus RC 200t Sports Luxury from $83,216 plus on-road costs
Put it this way: The only option Lexus offers on this RC variant is premium paint. It is fully loaded. If you dislike options lists and like your coupe to have an old-school low-slung feel, but without any other old-school traits, this is it. Quiet and smooth enough to cosset you day-to-day as is the Lexus tradition, but numb steering and portly kerb weight fail to cash the dynamic cheques written by its styling.

Audi A5 2.0 TFSI quattro coupe from $75,395 plus on-road costs
A replacement has just been revealed, so to purchase an A5 now is to risk driving yesterday’s car. Can’t really take it up to the other Germans in terms of driver satisfaction but still a great coupe to cruise about in. Because it’s old deals will be on offer and there is already plenty of change to lavish on options at this price, which your Audi sales representative will be delighted to assist with.

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