When first seeing the new 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe in person, it’s hard not to admire its curvy rear end. In fact, the overall design of the body looks great, with an imposing nose featuring a gaping air dam matched to a sleek two-door profile. But it’s the hind end that draws the most attention. In a beauty contest between competitors like the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series, Cadillac ATS Coupe and Lexus RC, this Benz is the clear winner on my scorecard, with looks that are subtle and elegant, yet have just the right amount of attitude.
Before you go off thinking I’m a superficial pig, let me say that the new C300 Coupe has inner beauty, too. The gorgeous cabin that we first saw in the C-Class sedan naturally carries over to the two-door, and is light-years ahead of the previous generation’s confines. Materials are of high quality throughout, with soft-touch surfaces sitting alongside handsome wood trims (my favorite being the natural-grain black ash) and contrasting stitching. The standard panoramic sunroof lets in plenty of daylight to help you admire the surroundings.
Thanks in part to a 3.1-inch-longer wheelbase, the car itself is 3.7 inches longer than its predecessor overall, and 1.6 inches wider. Those changes help yield an interior that’s also a little roomier than the old model for both front and rear passengers. Adults will have enough space up front in the comfortable and supportive seats, but in back, things are still tight and best suited for short trips and children.
Mercedes hasn’t forgotten about the tech in the C300’s cabin, with a standard 7-inch central infotainment display or an optional 8.4-inch unit, available navigation, head-up display and 13-speaker Burmester surround-sound system. Five years of Benz’s Mbrace connected car services come standard (giving features like remote remote start via smartphone app), while a Wi-Fi hotspot function is available if you subscribe to the Mbrace Entertain service package. A couple of things Mercedes did forget are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a Benz spokesman could not confirm if or when either would be available.
Safety features include standard Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which audibly warns drivers of potential frontal impacts at speeds above 4 mph. If the driver fails to take action, the system will automatically brake at speeds up to 124 mph to lessen the severity of a crash, or avoid one entirely. Adaptive cruise control can adjust speeds from 0 to 124 mph, active lane-keep assist uses the brakes to keep the car from wandering out of its lane and an enhanced brake-assist system that detects cross traffic and pedestrians is optional. Blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera and active park assist for semi-automatic parallel parking are also available.
The C-Coupe’s fantastic looks inside and out and its strong technology hand are the cherries on top of a package that’s both pleasant and rather engaging to drive. Past Non-AMG Mercedes models have tended to offer more ride comfort than rivals, albeit at the expense of a noticeably duller drive character. This isn’t the case with the C300 Coupe, which delivers a high level of ride compliance while also bringing sharper driving dynamics to the party. Compared with the sedan, the base coupe’s sport suspension gets firmer shocks and a 0.6-inch lower ride height, while optional 19-inch wheels wrapped with Pirelli P Zero high-performance tires further enhance handling prowess.
Out on winding roadways throughout New England’s countryside, the C300 confidently hustled through bends with oodles of grip from the P Zeros and little body roll to speak of. The coupe’s electromechanical steering system had some play on center, but became responsive when more angle was dialed in. The C300 had no problems changing directions in a brisk manner, with lateral weight transfers happening in a tidy fashion on the most challenging ribbons of road I faced.
Power from the C300’s 2.0-liter, 241-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder is lively when you have the car’s Dynamic Select system set to Sport+. Turbo lag is nonexistent, with 273 pound-feet of peak torque available between 1,300 and 4,000rpm, meaning the powerband is nice and wide. For a four-cylinder, the engine doesn’t sound half bad at wide-open throttle, and it’s fairly fuel-efficient, netting EPA ratings of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The engine’s near-seamless stop/start system helps achieve those respectable fuel figures, but for people who do not like such technology, it can be deactivated by a push of a button on the center console.
Mercedes has also done good work to the C300’s seven-speed automatic, giving it snappy and smooth gear changes, along with a surprisingly competent manual mode that responds to both up- and downshift steering paddle commands in a near-instant manner. High marks also go to the brakes that are strong, with firm pedal feedback.
When I wasn’t taking on twisty roads, I toggled the Dynamic Select system into Comfort mode to lighten up the steering and mellow out the engine and transmission behavior for proper cruising. There’s hardly any tire noise coming from the wide Pirelli rubber, and the cabin stays impressively quiet, sheltered from wind and road noise at expressway speeds. However, you will feel the impact from frost heaves and medium-size road hazards. The ride definitely isn’t harsh, but it’s a bit choppier over pavement that isn’t perfect.
If you want the best of both worlds and don’t mind tacking an additional $1,190 on to the C300’s $42,650 base price, then you can get the optional adaptive Airmatic suspension system. Damping properties of the air suspension adjust along with the Dynamic Select system, which means it’s really comfortable in Comfort mode and firms up for optimal handling in Sport and Sport+ modes. After covering more than a hundred miles in a car equipped with Airmatic, it’s a feature I would get, but surprisingly, Benz officials say they’re only expecting about 10 percent of buyers to pony up for it.
An option that Mercedes sees a much higher 50 percent take rate for is 4Matic all-wheel drive, which bumps up the base price of the C300 by $2,000 to $44,650. No doubt, people living in areas that experience real winters are more likely to go the 4Matic route for better slick-weather performance. With all-wheel drive, the C300 gains 132 pounds and loses 1 mpg on the EPA fuel economy highway cycle for a 29 mpg rating. Dynamically, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the 4Matic on dry pavement, meaning that the car still feels agile and accelerates in a brisk manner when you mat the pedal.
Still, even with the new C300 Coupe’s tighter handling traits, this Benz still doesn’t behave quite as eagerly as a 4 Series or ATS Coupe. Its steering just isn’t quite as sharp, and it doesn’t feel as hunkered down in corners. But the Benz is certainly in the same ballpark on handling, while still bettering both in ride quality, cabin furnishings and for me, exterior design.
For those who are interested in a more potent C-Class Coupe, there will be a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe coming out in fall with a twin-turbocharged V-6 producing 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. If that’s not enough, a C63 Coupe with a twin-turbo V-8 churning out 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque is on deck, too. A C63 S Coupe packing 503 ponies and 516 pound-feet of twist will sit atop the range. Both C63s will land at the end of summer.
The C-Class family’s growth doesn’t end with the coupe, either. Convertible fans will also be catered to with a full lineup of C-Class Cabriolets arriving this fall.
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