Things are getting tough all over. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
is the product of a brand that is ever mindful of the stranglehold on the economy these days. With the introduction in Frankfurt of the US-destined B-Class vehicles and other segment-filling variants, they are trying to be a one-stop shop for buyers of cars and crossovers that suit nearly every category and lifestyle.
The C-Class Coupe fills a directed need that finally gets the proverbial ball rolling in the two-door, three-box, sporty car niche that is presently the realm of the BMW 3-Series
Coupe. Is it up to the task, you ask? Grab a lobster roll, your New England-ish rain slicker and L.L. Bean Duck Boots as we visit Maine in the newest Merc to hit these shores.
A new gateway
C-Class product manager Todd Grieco points out how the new C Coupe "will be the gateway to the brand."
The C-Class sedan has been the major volume driver for the company here (It sells smaller and less costly vehicles overseas), with the C-Class 4Matic model being responsible for nearly 50-percent of current sales, now typically in the 50-year-old, Gen X and Gen Y segments of the population.
A sporty group for sure, they are responsible for a nearly 90-percent take rate of AMG-cladded Sport version vehicles in the C-Class segment alone.
The C-Class has, since its introduction, been a single sedan body style vehicle line that was offered in Sport and Luxury sedan models here (a wagon is popular abroad). The 2012 sedan has received a thorough once over including more than 2,000 new parts for what has been the most expensive redo in company history.
In an odd reversal, the new Coupe has been purpose-built for our market, but it will soon be a citizen of the world. Its competitors have been in place for a while. All eventually comes to he who waits. For those who are of the opinion that too much is never enough, the brand will offer a limited edition 510-horsepower C63 AMG Black Series model, complete with pedestal rear spoiler, but most buyers will take home more pedestrian models.
The new C Coupe is a true coupe, not a hatchback. As is the case with most two-doors, this is more of a swept-back design that starts with the three-point star in the grille, which connotes performance, as opposed to the hood-mounted star that designates a luxury vehicle. LED lamps that are unique in this segment flank the two-lamella grille trim. The Coupe's roofline is 1.5-inches lower than its sedan sibling. It sits on the same 108.7-inch wheelbase as the sedan.
A topless C Coupe seems all but a natural addition to the line, but it's unclear if Mercedes will continue to rely on its E-Class range to fulfill that mission alone.
The usual acronyms
Safety is foremost in the new C Coupe, Mercedes-Benz says. Equipped with Attention Assist, a HOLD feature allows the driver to remove his foot after stopping, when the vehicle is equipped with the Adaptive Brake system. Available Blind Spot Assist supplies a warning whenever the turn signal is activated. Additionally, Lane Keeping Assist lets the driver know if he is veering out of his lane without using an indicator. Finally, Parktronic offers a parking guide that determines a correct size parking space.
Adaptive high beam assist is an updated throwback to the old electric eye system that was found on Grandpa's old Sedan Deville. With the new Mercedes system, a video camera senses head and taillights and adjust the high and low beam settings as required. They are continuously variable from 200 to nearly 1,000 feet.
A well-executed interior utilizes accoutrements that are utterly familiar if you have been anywhere within the brand before this Coupe. A flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel allows you to get your Lewis Hamilton F1-groove on, while well designed bolstered front seats keep you and a guest firmly placed while attacking the limits of this coupe's handling.
A standard panoramic sunroof actually lifts and slides rearward to let the elements in. The two rear seats are fairly comfortable for short stints back in economy class. For extra cargo capacity, the rear seats split and fold. A 5.8-inch full-color LCD screen displays navigation, audio, Bluetooth and other information. A secondary color LCD screen occupies the center of the floating speedometer and can be configured to show audio, navigation, and mileage/trip measurements according to its owner's wishes. Finally, as a means of adding to its sporting pretensions, all C-Class coupes are now equipped with paddle shift levers as standard equipment.
As we have seen in Mercedes-Benz cars of recent vintage, the assembly quality remains top-shelf.
Pick a flavor, any flavor
The new Coupe is available with two base engines: As the C250, equipped with a 200 horsepower, 1.8-liter direct injected turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 229 lb-ft of torque, and the C350, a direct injected 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist.
For those who crave a little higher boost of adrenaline through their veins, there is the C63 AMG with a normally aspirated 6.3-liter V8 that makes 451 horses and 443 lb-ft of torque. An available AMG development package boosts it even further to 481 ponies for the total E-Ticket experience. As we've seen many times with its sedan brother, it's our favorite model in the lineup. We look forward to sampling it soon.
All C Coupes, with the exception of the AMG models, run with the new seven-speed G-Tronic automatic transmission. Featuring a more advanced torque converter lock-up clutch, Mercedes claims "it offers more responsive driving, better fuel efficiency, and increased reliability." The C63 utilizes a multi-clutch setup high-performance automatic transmission.
During our drive through the Kennebunkport area of Maine, we felt the four-cylinder up to most tasks but noticed a substantial tip-in before things started getting motivated. A totally smooth form of power, it offered adequate oomph, but would not be our first choice in motivation. Once at speed, it felt sufficient to pass the Maine-ish boys (apologies to Muddy Waters) who adhere to the artificially low 35 mph speed limits found on most of the country back roads. The engine did require some degree of planning and downshifting to confidently accomplish passing maneuvers on tight roads with limited passing lane distances, and even shorter sight lines. Zero to 60 comes on in 7.1-seconds. EPA numbers should be in the vicinity of 21/31, with an average of 25 mpg
Our second day in the land of the Gorton's Fisherman presented the C350 coupe with its 3.5-liter direct injection powerplant. A much more satisfying form of motivation, it offered a nice kick in the pants with 302-horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. That's an improvement of 102 horsepower and 44 extra lb-ft of torque over the 1.8-liter mill. That it also happens to sound good while getting its go pedal squeezed was extra money in the bank. With the seven-speed automatic, power was available on demand, and enabled confident passing moves where we might have thought twice about doing it with the four-banger. Expect 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds for the 3,700-pounder. Look for mileage of 19/28 or 22 mpg combined.
The C-Class Coupe's Agility Control with Parameter steering offered variable steering boost that increased or decreased depending on the Coupe's speed at any one moment. So too, the suspension that was made of coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a stabilizer bar in front and a five-arm multilink setup carried the rear.
Able to isolate bumpy roads, it changed the suspension parameters on the fly to maintain a quiet ride with little in the way of untoward noise and vibrations. We found it handled most every rutted road and off-camber turn that we encountered en route to the world famous Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth.
Leftlane's bottom line
Mercedes-Benz takes direct aim at the BMW 3-Series Coupe
with its new two-door sport player.
Sure, the guys from Munich have been in the hunt for much longer than the folks at Daimler, but we say let the games begin... again.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C250
base price, $37,220.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C350
base price, $42,370.
Words and photos by Mark Elias.