Some 10 years ago, Mercedes- Benz launched the C230 Sport Coupe in the U.S. market. It was the German automaker's answer to the breed of new sports coupes entering the market that had the younger crowd turning their heads.
Unfortunately, the two-door hatchback failed to win the hearts of younger car enthusiasts, because they thought the C230 didn't feel like a true Mercedes.
Fast-forward to 2012, when the German maker of luxury cars impressed the automotive world with the launch of the C-Class Coupe, the first real coupe lineup from Mercedes-Benz based on the impressive new C-Class sedan.
The C-Class Coupe lineup includes a turbocharged four-cylinder C250 and our test model, the top-of-the-line, six-cylinder C350. While both vehicles share the same sleek silhouette and sporty interior layout, they are strikingly different from a performance standpoint.
The C350 Coupe provides plenty of reasons to look twice at the new 302-horsepower (hp), direct-injected V6 engine and the surprisingly precise calibration of its suspension.
With a finely crafted cabin and enough technological gadgets to impress the most demanding geek, the C350 Coupe is just what the doctor ordered to attract a younger, hipper audience to Mercedes- Benz showrooms.
The C350 can go head-to-head against some tough segment competitors, especially the benchmark stalwart, the BMW 335i, with its 300-hp, turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine. Other strong segment competitors include the Cadillac CTS and Infiniti G37, both featuring 300-hp, naturally aspirated V6 engines.
A PERFORMANCE COUPE
The C350 Coupe uses a novel direct-injection version of the new 3.5-liter, double-overhead cam (DOHC), Mercedes V6 engine. Equipped with variable-valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves, the new engine is a smooth runner from start-up to its 6,750 rpm redline.
It is mated to Mercedes' new seven- speed shiftable automatic transmission. No manual transmission is available.
Power jumps to 302-hp at 6,500 rpm, a substantial increase over the 268-hp of the previous 3.5-liter engine. There's also more torque, 273 foot-pounds versus the 258 foot-pounds in the previous model, although the new engine produces the torque between 3,500 rpm and 5,250 rpm versus the 2,400 rpm to 5,000 rpm range of the previous V6.
While the engine might not be big on low-end power, it more than makes up for it with an exciting high-rpm rush, along with a nice roar from the exhaust.
Mercedes claims the extra power and quicker shifting of the seven-speed automatic transmission results in a zero-to-60-miles-per-hour sprint of 5.9 seconds.
Despite the extra power, fuel economy has improved, thanks to the engine's direct injection and more efficient seven-speed transmission. The C350 has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mileage estimate of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
While both the C250 and C350 Coupe come standard with a sport suspension, our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Advanced Agility package, which features electronically controlled adaptive dampers. The driver can switch from the standard setting to Sport with the press of a button, not only providing firmer damping rate for more body control, but also delivering quicker, sharper throttle response and heavier steering effort.
Needless to say, the Sport setting truly means sport, transforming the 3,562-pound coupe into a sharp sport coupe with noticeably less body roll. In this mode, the C350 feels glued to the road, with a more tightly controlled suspension and sharper and more precise steering response.
On the road, the smooth V6 and seven-speed transmission combo for the C350 Coupe complement each other very well, with the engine delivering the needed power and the transmission responding quickly when required.
In typical Mercedes fashion, the C350's interior is superbly well-finished, but certainly not overly styled. Metal trim certainly adds some zip to the nice interior.
The front seats do an excellent job holding you in place during hard cornering, thanks to supportive side bolsters. The seat cushions are firm in typical Mercedes style, but are up to the task for all-day touring.
The cabin is well-laid out, although we would prefer larger gear indicators on the instrument panel for manual shifting because it is difficult to figure out which gear is highlighted.
The control buttons have a nice, quality look and certainly don't feel cheap to the touch. The three-spoke steering wheel has a perfect thickness to it, with gripping, perforated leather just where you really need itóat the nine and three clock positions.
A nice standard feature on both C-Class Coupes is the two-piece panorama sunroof, which provides the roof a very sporty tinted look from the outside.
The only downside to the C350's radical roofline is its reduced head and knee room for the two rear bucket seats. Even though headroom is down by 1.4 inches over the sedan, average-size adults can survive in the back thanks to cutouts in the roof.
Both the C250 and the C350 have a full array of Mercedes- Benz driver aids available either as standard equipment or as an option, such as the standard Attention Assist, which detects typical signs of drowsiness, while Adaptive High Beam Assist, Lane-Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist are available as extra-cost options.
The C Coupe has lost little space in the cargo department when compared with the sedan, down to 11.7 cubic feet from the sedan's 12.4 cubic feet. Better yet, the C Coupe's rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split, for greater cargo capacity.
While the C-Class Coupe's interior impresses with Mercedes- Benz's legendary attention to quality, detail and fit & finish, it is the car's exterior that will certainly draw buyers (young and not so young) to this Coupe. Its fastback roofline truly gives it a sporty fl air, while the aggressive front end and two-bar coupe grille makes it stand out from the crowd.