The Coupe has power to excite and tech to stay comfortably out of strife.
Coupe buyers are a different breed from their four-door brethren. A touch more extroverted, if not at the level of convertible egotism, and far more driven by the design.
Every car brand knows it and Mercedes-Benz is trying hard to differentiate its latest coupe from the award-winning sedan it is based on, in much the same way Audi and BMW have the A4/A5 and 3 Series/4 Series respectively.
So, in many ways this coupe tries hard to differ from the donor car, from the sportier-shifting transmission to the frameless doors.
Beyond the diamond-pattern grille, the looks are scaled-down S-Class Coupe, from the taut profile to the curved rear. The interior bling is also a step above its sedan equivalent — as it should be for the premium of roughly $5000 over the comparable four-door.
The two-door line-up starts with the C200, from $65,900. The money buys a sprightly engine matched to the ever-improving seven-speed automatic transmission.
In addition to the sedan’s standard satnav, LED headlamps, blind-spot warning, digital radio and automated parallel and reverse parking there are the AMG exterior and interior styling line of tweaks, automatic seat belt feeders, powered memory seats, a 360-degree camera, faux-leather dash and black ash wood trim.
The C250d, at $74,900, is a rorty diesel that easily accounts for the C200 in acceleration and driving enjoyment. Wheels are 19-inchers, it adds privacy glass and leather upholstery.
The hallmarks of the C-Class sedan — deft steering and a compliant chassis — are evident here.
The driver assistance pack includes adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot and lane-departure assist and rear cross-traffic assist.
Topping the range (until June, when the $162,400 AMG C63 S arrives) is the C300. At $83,400, it uses the same 2.0-litre engine as the C200 in a higher state of tune.
The C300 bundles 13-speaker Burmester audio, sports exhaust and Benz’s Comand Online software using an 8.5-inch multimedia screen with internet access and a 10GB music store.
On the road
A rain-slicked Dandenong Ranges road helps illustrate the coupe’s abilities — those who buy it as a driver’s car won’t be let down. The hallmarks of the C-Class sedan — deft steering and a compliant chassis — are evident here as the plumes of rainwater mark its progress.
Step beyond the limits of adhesion and there’s very gentle software intervention, to the point where you need to be watching the dash to pick it.
Even a deliberate sideways lunge on to mid-corner corrugations couldn’t cause the car any distress — though I guarantee it wouldn’t do passengers much good.
The steel suspension (adaptive air suspension is an option) is firm but not harsh — it took a particularly savage train track crossing to make the C-Class rebound and it isn’t going to spill drinks while going over speed humps.
Acceleration in the C200 is rarely found wanting on anything short of the steepest hill, in which case the transmission will shuffle through the seven ratios until it finds a gear to match the pressure on the accelerator.
There’s very little to criticise in the C-Class Coupe.
The C300 isn’t found wanting anywhere. It surges off the line and out of a turn with the intensity of a professional footballer, without ever feeling as hurried as the speedo would indicate.
The biggest disappointment with either of the petrol coupes is the engine noise, or lack thereof. The four-cylinder engines sound suitably smooth and industrious under load but they lack the visceral overtones you really want in a car that’s as sexy as this one.
Gruff engine note aside, there’s very little to criticise in the C-Class Coupe. Rear headroom isn’t huge for tall adults, though shoulder and legroom are up on the outgoing model.
The front seat automatically slides forwards to grant access to those rear pews but I wouldn’t encourage installing anyone who’s had a few ales in those seats — they may not exit in a manner they or you would prefer.
The chunky windscreen pillars aren’t the easiest to see past on right-hand turns and … there’s not a lot more to complain about.
I’d take the optional head-up display and curse as I paid $1531 — or more — for metallic paint but I wouldn’t begrudge the decision to buy the C-Class Coupe. That said, the BMW 4 Series will prove a formidable adversary, particularly the excellent 428i.