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Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2012 Review

Its smallish engine helps it feel balanced and planted
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THERE are more Mercedes coupes than descendants of the Romanovs and working out their lineage is almost as difficult.

That's because Mercedes has been very un-Germanic about its two-doors and failed to line them up in a nice orderly fashion.

So where its sedans come in three easy-to-understand sizes, C, E and S, the coupes have been all over the place. For example, there was the CLK, which can still be seen double-parked outside any establishment popular with ladies who lunch.

It fitted somewhere between the C and the E. If you preferred gravy to jus there was the CLC, which is smaller than a C and, in any case, really a hatchback. Or the CLS, which stretches the definition even further because it has four doors.

It's an E in running shoes. Then there's the retro SLS, which has wings instead of doors, and the CL, which is the rich uncle of an S.

Obviously, even Germans were confused and for some time they've been trying to sort it out. First, Mercedes replaced the CLK with the E Coupe. It has mixed parentage, but at least you know where it stands.

Now, in a sign it's getting the hang of the whole model family idea, Mercedes has ditched the old-tech CLC and brought out something unambiguously related to the C. It has even called it the C Coupe. It has two doors, different panels and grille, plus a unique rear diffuser. But it clearly carries the same genes as the C sedan and wagon.

VALUE

It squares off against the Audi A5 and BMW 3 Series coupe but, unusually for a Merc, starts under them on price. The C180 BE, at $58,900, is designed to lure the price-conscious shoppers who would previously have gone for a CLC, which began just above $52,000.

The C250 BE feels like the coupe sweet spot at this end of the market. It starts at $69,900, which would also buy a BMW 320d Coupe, with a four-cylinder diesel, or the Audi A5 2.0TFSI, which is the only front-wheel drive of the trio. With the C250 BE in the mix, the choice just got more difficult.

DESIGN

All the coupes get the upgraded interior recently fitted to the sedans and wagons, which means it feels suitably premium for the money. The seats, with integrated headrests, are first rate and there's enough room in the back as long as you're no more than average height and your feet aren't too big. With the sunroof fitted, headroom is a bit cramped and, before you order one, make sure you can live with the mesh screen, which cannot keep out Australian sun.

Access to the rear is fine, although that's partly because the doors are 30cm longer than the ones in the sedan. So you won't be able to get out in a car park.But the boot is as large as the one in the E Coupe and the two are closer than you may expect on some dimensions, such as wheelbase and width. If you don't need the extra presence, equipment and bling of the longer car, then the C Coupe may be enough.

TECHNOLOGY

I didn't sample the 180 BE on the drive program in Victoria this week, so I can't say whether it's any good. However, from the spec sheet it's clearly much slower and, amazingly, thirstier than the C250 BE, which uses a more powerful version of the same 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine.

Mercedes believes the C250 BE will be the most popular variant and if you can live without a V8's ability to break traction on demand, or the better torque and soundtrack of the 225kW 3.5-litre V6 in the C350 BE, then it's worth a look. It certainly seems like value against the C350 BE, which is another $30,000.

The BE stands for Blue Efficiency, which is Mercedes' suite of fuel-saving tricks. So it's also frugal, consuming 7.0 litres of premium for every 100km, even though it misses out on stop-at-idle, which is fitted to the diesel. 

The diesel four-cylinder C250 CDI is the same price as the petrol and with stop-start delivers impressive economy of 5.1l/100km and a slightly faster sprint time to 100km/h. But it didn't feel as quick and makes noises that verge on loud and coarse. With another 110kg of weight, it's not as pleasant on the road either.

DRIVE

Its acceleration won't impress HSV owners, but for a small four-cylinder it feels adequately feisty. Its 150kW mean a 0-100km/h time of 7.2 and it builds speed with conviction. And while the engine does emit a few odd noises, for a turbo four it doesn't sound too bad.

On a twisty road you can have fun in this car. The steering is light but accurate and gets better when the sport button is pressed. You can turn quickly into corners confident it will hold its line and grip, even when the tarmac deteriorates. Its smallish engine helps it feel balanced and planted; it doesn't have the heavy nose feel of some bigger-engined cars.

MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS COUPE

Price: From $69,900
Engines: 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol or 2.1-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Outputs: 150kW at 5500rpm and 310Nm at 2300rpm (C250 BE); 150kW at 4200rpm and 500Nm at 1600rpm (C250 CDI)
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

Pricing guides

$21,990
Based on 114 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$15,913
Highest Price
$62,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
C63 AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $55,800 – 70,510 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2012 C63 AMG Pricing and Specs
C63 AMG Black Series 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $88,700 – 112,090 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2012 C63 AMG Black Series Pricing and Specs
C350 BE 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $25,100 – 33,330 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2012 C350 BE Pricing and Specs
C250 CDI BE 2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $20,700 – 28,050 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2012 C250 CDI BE Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$15,913

Lowest price, based on 104 car listings in the last 6 months

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