For those that remember it, the secretary-special two-door CLC hatchback, built on last-generation C-class bits and pieces, was rather embarrassing for Mercedes-Benz. It was a dumpy thing, but at least Daimler was smart enough to not even attempt selling it in the States.
Thankfully, the decidedly easier-on-the-eyes C204 C-Class Coupe has just arrived, and we're getting this hot toddy. So what took Stuttgart so long to bring us this no-brainer variant of the C-Class? Were they worried about coupe clutter between the CLC- and E-Class? Too many two-doors, too soon? Funnily, we asked, and all we heard back were sheepish "We were waiting for the mothership to come around and give us the go-ahead for this car" comments.
From 2001 through 2007, Mercedes tried valiantly with the CLC's predecessor, the C-Class Sport Coupe hatch (it even sold a handful in the States for a couple of years), going so far as to market a sales-proof AMG version of the C30 CDI diesel as an experiment for them whacked-out Yurpeens. We barely ever see this model in Europe these days, but the company insists that around 250,000 of them were sold.
Mercedes-Benz finally intends for the coupe body to play a much more serious role in its C-Class lineup, despite the next-gen C-Class lurking only a couple of years away. Company spokespeople insist that the coupe will come along much sooner in the next version, all of this being made easier by a quiet and permanent goodbye to the lowly CLC. (A future A-Class coupe will suffice as the "starter" Mercedes two-door).
While overall height at 55.4 inches is exactly the same as the past C Sport Coupe (and 1.6 inches shorter than the current W204 C-Class sedan), wheelbase is 1.8 inches longer to go along with its 180.7-inch total length - making this coupe actually a tick longer than the sedan.
"We" are nearly six feet tall, so choosing a smaller two-plus-two coupe over an equivalent sedan is not a decision to be taken lightly. First, like all coupe buyers, we have to be of a mindset that's fixated on the coupe lifestyle even if there are one or two kids in the picture. We admit that the lion's share of coupe buyers in this segment probably don't have children, but it's important that your coupe is accommodating enough to stick around in case those tiny feet show up.
The C-Class Coupe's packaging has this covered. While its body form may be more conservative and less sexy than the BMW 3 Series Coupe or the Audi A5, there's more usable space inside than its rakish rivals. Once in the back seat of your choice, legroom with the front passengers set up comfortably is just fine if you have a 36-inch inseam or less. Even so, headroom is truly fine only up to about five feet, eleven inches; your author's head brushed regularly up against the top of the backlight.
Parking woes aside, we always hope for longer doors on two-plus-two models to ease rear seat ingress and egress. Alas, this is not always possible, as re-engineering tends to cost a bundle. That's the case here, too, as the C's doors could be longer. The front chairs motor forward when the seatbacks are tilted forward, but they do so very slowly, and the getting in and out is still not as easy as one-two-three. Every little bit helps, certainly, but the latest C-Class sedan is about as sexy as this coupe while being easier to live with by nature. If, on the other hand, a traditional sedan shouts "I rarely have sex anymore" to you, this coupe is a ready solution.
Our C350 coupe's 302-horsepower, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 was good for most of the day's frolic in southern Spain. We also drove for a bit in the C250 GDI coupe with its turbocharged, 201-hp 1.8-liter inline-four that's also coming over to the States in September. If you're worried about the latter being up to snuff for U.S. tastes, don't be. The 229 pound-feet of torque available between 2,300 and 4,300 revs takes this 3,418-pounder to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds flat. That's more than adequate for this less costly and more efficient package. Prices, by the by, won't come out until midsummer, but a base C250 coupe should begin in the neighborhood of $35,400 and the C350 coupe at around $40,900.
The 3,560-pound C350 coupe is paired exclusively with a seven-speed 7G-tronic Plus automatic, good for a 0-60 time of around 5.8 seconds on its best day - about three tenths of a second slower than an Infiniti G37 Coupe 6MT. But the Infiniti suffers from both lousy trunk space and rear passenger room, and the everyday ride of the Japanese coupe just doesn't compare with the more versatile chassis setup offered by this Benz. Cargo space in the Infiniti's trunk is just 7.4 cubic feet and the Mercedes C Coupe leads this size group at a minimum of 15.9 cubic feet. Knock the seats down in back of the sloping Merc and the cubed footsies just about triple.
Our C350 tester also had the full European AMG Sport Package, which includes optional $1,040 18-inch wheels with sturdy ContiSportContact3 treads, the six-tenths-of-an-inch lower Sport suspension and full silver anodized interior touches, among other things.
The best part of the C Coupe is that its body structure is stiffer by its very two-door nature. This resulting C350 Coupe drives more finely than any other V6-equipped model offered by Stuttgart. Granted, the full-on C63 AMG Coupe we also tried at this same event felt very nice at the Monteblanco circuit outside of Seville, but the AMG-accoutered C350 was spectacular on lively Spanish roads. There were times when the seven-speed 7G-tronic Plus auto was slow to respond with downshifts - even while in most aggressive Manual mode - but everything else was appropriate for this not-quite-AMG trim. Keep the adaptive suspension in Sport, ESP in Sport Handling mode, and the auto in Manual, and it's all ready for your favorite rolling two-lanes in desolate, unpoliced places.
The 273 lb-ft of torque from this newly direct-injected M276 V6 is exactly as we just tried in the midlife E350 Sport sedan, and like that model, fuel consumption is improved by near 20 percent versus its outgoing port-injected predecessor. It's not final yet, but that could mean EPA numbers of 20 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for the coupe.
While the C Coupe's typical premium/sport/cush Mercedes cabin treatment might not be your personal cup o' tea, the execution here is supreme, nay, divine. The quality of the interior is up for this new model year, with better feeling plastics, displays that are at once more colorful and clear, and in general, a more premium aura. The choice on the sportier coupe to fit four individual seats is also the right one - we'd much rather have two more comfortable perches in back than a seldom-used apology for a center seat.
Once the 2012 Mercedes C-Class coupe shows up at the end of summer, the full range will include the aforementioned 201-hp turbocharged C250, the 302-hp C350 V6, the 228-hp C300 4Matic with the current-gen V6. Naturally, there will also be the 451-hp naturally aspirated C63 AMG coupe that will be available with a 480-hp Performance Pack and what looks to be a 4.3-second scorch to 60 mph. We'll have more on the latter in a separate First Drive soon.
There will no doubt be a lighter Black Series edition of the AMG C-Class Coupe soon, as well. Maybe even with a snappy six-speed manual available by request. C'mon, Mercedes, let your hair get tossed out of place a bit.