REVIEW DATE: 11 Aug 2006
The Much Improved C-Class Sports Coupe Gives Mercedes Serious Clout In The Premium Coupe Sector. Andy Enright Reports…
As hatches get ever hotter and the price of a decent spoting GTi can nudge over £20,000, it's sometimes valuable to step back and get a little perspective. Why drop some serious coin on a front-wheel drive car that struggles to deploy its power when for much the same sort of money you could buy a swoopily styled coupe with a proper rear-wheel drive chassis and the bulletproof residual values that the Mercedes badge will bring? The C-Class Sports Coupe is a solution that surprisigly few have realised the merit of.
Don't take that as a slight on the car. Although the styling has divided opinion, the Sports Coupe offers a surprising amount of car for the money (prices from £18,555) given Mercedes' reputation for premium pricing. The C350 Range topper serves up a hefty 272bhp while the C200K model generates much the same power as a Hyundai Coupe V6 but will demand a premium of just over £2,000 over the Korean car - not a huge ask when you take time out to examine what you get for your money.
There's a choice of four 1.8-litre 16v petrol engines, the first (in the entry-level C160) developing 122bhp and then in Kompressor supercharged form, 143bhp (C180K), 163bhp (C200K) and 194bhp (C230K). Plus 122 and 150bhp turbo diesels (C200CDI and C220CDI) and the 272bhp 3.5-litre six cylinder C350. In recent times, the Sports Coupe Range has received the mildest of makeovers that few will spot. The front bumper has been redesigned and there's a radiator grille with three louvres. This apparently gives a 'more powerful feel'.
These louvres are either painted or feature a perforated design, dependent on which model you opt for and a 'black pack' option is also offered. Clear-lensed headlamps are also fitted as standard. A special scratch-resistant clearcoat finish has also been developed to further protect the paintwork, based on nano-particle technology. The interior has been given a slight revision too, with a redesigned three spoke sports steering wheel that features silver control buttons, sports seats and silver appliqués in the centre console. The look is still rather generic Mercedes-Benz but at least there's a little more flair evident.
"A chance to own a classically-styled Mercedes coupe at a price many more people can afford…."
The changes aren't just all about cosmetics. The Evolution AMG versions get a sports-tuned transmission with a shorter shift travel. Mercedes have less than stellar reputation when it comes to manual gearboxes but the latest Range of gearboxes do away with the lever and cable system in favour of a single rod, giving a far more direct feel.
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. For a long while Mercedes held out against offering a premium V6 version, insisiting that the 'Twinpulse' engined four cylinder cars would satisfy customer demand. Wrong. The C350 variant makes a sleekly attractive alternative to the really quick small coupes. An proper AMG version would really be something!
There still isn't going to be a Sports Coupe convertible model - the CLK really 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 also specify Panoramic twin glass sunroofs which extend from the windscreen to the top of the tailgate and slide electrically backwards and forwards. The designers hope that this will create a feeling of light and space - though not too much. To avoid creation of a greenhouse, the panels are smoked and two electrically operated roller blinds can slide across the glass to keep the cabin cool. When you do open up to let in the sunshine, you'll find that the aperture is a third larger than you'd get with a standard sunroof.
Sharing the same platform, suspension and steering with its C-class saloon stablemate guarantees a good drive and the C-class Sport Coupe doesn't disappoint. The base C160 model feels silky and surprisingly punchy, with the 150bhp C220 CDI offering a superb blend of performance and economy, averaging over 46mpg. Even the base C200CDI diesel rarely feels short of breath. The C350 model is the one to go for if you really want a coupe that goes as well as it looks. Capable of sprinting to 60mph in 6.4 seconds before hitting a top speed of over 150mph, this coupe offers up a very powerful argument.
As an overall package however, the Sports Coupe is a useful part of the company's portfolio, a chance to own a classically-styled Mercedes coupe at a price many more people can afford. For that reason, if no other, it's a car you can't ignore.
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|OVERALL||7.1 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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