REVIEW DATE: 05 Jun 2006
Mercedes Has Come Around To The Idea Of Adding Value In Recent Times. The C-Class Sports Coupe Evolution S Models Are A Good Example. Jonathan Crouch Checks Them Out…
If you're going to do something, then you might as well do it properly. No point, for example, in buying a beautiful Mercedes C-class Sports Coupe if you don't dress it up a bit. This, after all, is one of those cars that looks just great with a few well chosen extras.
Extras like those in the 'Evolution AMG Sports' package that comes as a pricey option on the C-class Sports Coupe price list. Or at least it does with most of the models in the Range. But not if you're choosing the popular C180K or C220 CDI variants. For around £400 more than the standard versions, these cars come in 'Evolution S' guise with all the 'Evolution AMG Sports' kit fitted as standard.
Which is? Well stand by to note all this down: you get an AMG bodystyling kit, 17" AMG 5-spoke alloy wheels, a leather trimmed 3-spoke sports steering wheel, a leather/aluminium trimmed sports gearshift lever, a perforated radiator grille, body coloured door handles, a polished stainless steel exhaust tailpipe, 'Alu-tecra' aluminium interior trim, steering wheel gearshift paddles and floor mats with 'Evolution' lettering in the front. All for £19,995 in the case of the C180K or £22,295 in the case of the C220 CDI.
The C180K comes with a good deal more than you might expect in the way of performance. The reason why is found in the 'K' that's added to this model's moniker. It designates 'Kompressor', German for 'Supercharger', reflecting the fact that the engine used in this car is one of the Twinpulse variety. As a result, power increased from 129 to 143bhp. All right, the overall capacity has fallen (this is now a 1.8 rather than a 2.0-litre) but even so, performance is a good deal better, with the rest to sixty sprint time reduced by 1.3s to 9.7s and the maximum speed up to 139mph. As a result, you could buy this model as a sportscar and hold your head up high. It's certainly got more credability about it than the entry-level C160 which scrapes by with 122bhp.
"It's hard to tell that there isn't a six cylinder engine under the bonnet…"
It won't escape the attention of potential buyers that, thanks to clever technology and lighter weight, fuel consumption is impressive for a sports-orientated model, the combined figure of 33.6mpg giving a theoretical Range of 527 miles. Perhaps most significant however, is the improvement in emissions which have fallen by nearly 50grams to 183g. Predictably, that makes a huge difference with the tax man: business users will love it.
On the road, the differences in Twinpulse motoring ought to be fairly readily apparent. Thanks to a specially developed Lanchester balancer shaft, refinement and acoustics are much closer to those of a six cylinder engine than those of a four. Go for the badge-delete option, take your colleagues out and see if they can tell that there isn't a six cylinder unit under the bonnet. In the latest round of revisions, the suspension pick up points have been tweaked for better driver feedback, the width of the track has grown by 18mm and the steering is also a good deal more direct. Whereas the first Sports Coupes were a little uninvolving, the latest generation promise a good deal more fun.
Another part of the Twinpulse recipe is an Electronic Control Unit that through throttle pedal movements, recognises your driving style and adapts the drive characteristics of the engine Accordingly. If, like many potential C-class Sports Coupe customers, you fancy yourself as a racing driver, the ECU will do its best to accommodate you, improving throttle response. If on the other hand, the computer detects a driver looking for comfort rather than speed, it harmonises the engine settings to suit.
What all of this means is that the £1,500 price jump to the next C-class Sports Coupe model up - the C200 Kompressor - is now much more difficult to justify. Though this variant too has Twinpulse technology, the 163bhp output is not massively superior. Mercedes do point out however, that torque - the pulling power you need through the gears - is much improved in this car and that fuel consumption is more than 12% better.
Of course, even if you opt for the C180K, around £20,000 is still a lot to pay for a smallish three-door sports coupe and there's tough competition from prestige rivals. Having said that, it's true to say that you'll get a lot of that back come trade-in time - far more in fact than you would with most rivals.
As a two-door, more dynamic-looking C-class saloon or an entry-level CLK wannabe, the Sports Coupe makes a lot of sense. It's smaller than the larger CLK coupe of course - but you won't really notice any difference unless you habitually sit in the back. To keep the two products apart, there is no Sports Coupe convertible - the CLK will get to keep that market niche to itself. BMW and Saab - whose products can substantially undercut the CLK Cabriolet but would struggle against a Sports Coupe version - will be delighted to hear it. Not that Mercedes wants to totally ignore the affordable realms of the open air coupe market. Buyers can specify Panoramic twin glass sunroofs which extend from the windscreen to the top of the tailgate and slide electrically backwards and forwards.
This model might share the same platform, suspension and steering with its C-class saloon stablemate but in almost every other respect, the designers have been keen to differentiate the two cars. It's 20mm lower for a start - which could put headroom at a premium if you're loftily built. Despite the compact length (just 4343mm) and the reduced headroom for rear seat passengers, Mercedes still contend that this car is a genuine four-seater. They do however, admit that luggage space is necessarily down on what you could expect from the four-door model (falling from 455 to 310 litres). Still, you will be able to 50/50 split-fold the rear seats and in doing so, increase the capacity to some 1,100 litres.
With the introduction of the Evolution S models, it's hard to imagine anyone in the market for a C180K or C220CDI C-class Sports Coupe opting for a standard version. And it's not hard to see such a package bringing in customers who otherwise might have rejected Mercedes' pretty little coupe on the grounds of cost.
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