Merc C-Class Coupe

Sleek style with extra dose of driving verve

TOBY HAGON

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

SAME wheelbase, same length, same width, but 60kg more metal. Oh, and you pay more for it.

Like many two-doors, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe doesnít start with the best sales pitch.

However, the brochure has glossy images of the elegant ďdiamond grilleĒ and the sleek S-Class-Coupe-esque rump, and thatís when the circa-$5K price premium over an equivalent C-Class sedan wins the Coupe some crucial, style-inspired points.

AMGís boffins have also chipped in with the suspension tune, diluting some of the cushiony ride of the C and injecting more cornering nous to liven things up.

Under the bonnet itís a similar game to the C-Class four-doors: C200, C250d and new C300. Thereís also a stonking C63 S AMG.

The petrol engines will account for the bulk of Coupe sales, with a tempting $65,900 price tag on the C200 key to its appeal. Itís no stripper, either: electric seats with memory functionality, sat-nav, LED headlights, digital radio and 18-inch wheels.

Less impressive is the 2.0-litre four-cylinder. The flexible 300Nm defines its character, with loads of muscle around 3000rpm, but rev it towards the 6300rpm cut-out and its 135kW peak is less convincing.

Those wanting more sparkle will find it in the C300, which uses a heavily revised version of the same engine. Torque jumps to 370Nm but itís the sizzle of 180kW that adds to its fun factor. The engine also produces a satisfying snarl above 4500rpm thanks to its sports exhaust. But the gearshifts in Sport+ mode come with a fullthrottle jerkiness that seems to bring little accelerative benefit.

Sport and Sport+ add muchneeded weight to the steering, for added confidence. However, the steering doesnít have the alacrity to match the rest of the car.

While the standard steel springs are well calibrated Ė thereís firmness that can make it busy on pockmarked roads but itís nicely controlled and not harsh Ė the optional air suspension is a worthy $2990 upgrade. The Sport+ suspension setting is superfluous for all but glass-smooth surfaces, but the Comfort setting brings a relaxing fluidity when youíre not in attack mode.

The 2.1-litre turbo-diesel four, with 150kW/500Nm of grunt, has near-instant force, but itís best for cruising effortlessly rather than dashing from corner to corner.

Space and comfort up front is superb, with generous headroom, excellent electric seat adjustment and lots of high-class surfaces.

Indeed, luxury is a large part of the elegant C-Class Coupe. The C200 and C250d, in particular, are about getting there in style. But the C300 has the rort to convince you itís more than just a good sport.

Coupe credentials

The Coupeís front seats sit 14mm lower than those in the sedan, and it makes a noticeable difference, combining with higher window sills to create a more cocooned feel. As with the sedan, simplicity and quality merge to deliver a classy cabin that exceeds its price tag.

Other Coupe changes include standard AMG-spec suspension and a quicker steering rack. Visually, apart from the coupe roofline, itís all about the ďdiamond grilleĒ.

PLUS & MINUS

Steering not as sharp as other dynamics; C200 and C250d drivetrains Sharp pricing and equipment; C300ís punch; Airmatic suspension; styling Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe 1991cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 180kW @ 5500rpm 370Nm @ 1300-4000rpm 7-speed automatic 1490kg 6.0sec (claimed) 6.6L/100km $83,400 Now