Lots of people dream about speeding down Germany’s Autobahn. I know I did. But when that dream becomes reality, and you’re suddenly fighting years of instincts that shout at you to keep speeds low and sensible, it quickly becomes a white-knuckle experience. And when the car you’re driving is an as-yet unreleased Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, well, that’s when the dream turns feverish.
Though this “dream” of mine happened a couple of years ago, the memories are so vivid. Not only did this sedan feel calm, quiet, and composed as it broke triple-digit speeds, it was also sublimely easy to drive. But most of all, I remember how it felt just like an S-Class inside, only scaled down slightly. And as I returned the keys to the friendly Mercedes-Benz rep a few hours later, I wondered if the North American version of the car would be just as impressive.
Spoiler alert: it is. The latter part of 2016 saw the North American introduction of an all-new version of the C-Class, the sporty two-door coupe. Mercedes-Benz was kind enough to let us test a 2017 C300 4MATIC coupe, complete with the optional AMG dress-up kit. Would this car help me relive my memories of the Autobahn? Or at the very least, would it still feel like a baby S-Class? I had a week to find out.
This latest C-Class coupe is one beautiful machine, with Mercedes-Benz seeming to have re-embraced the curves that turned cars like the Gullwing SL into icons. Lines flow with near perfection, opening up to allow massive front grille and brake ducts to further remind all onlookers of this brand’s performance pedigree. Sculpted fenders stretch and bulge over the large-diameter AMG wheels, further enhancing the sporty profile.
Of course, when looked at with a critical eye, there are a couple of minor flaws. The taillights, for example, feel as if they were lifted from an old Volkswagen CC. And the C pillars look great from the outside, but once you try backing out from a parking space, you’ll find that they completely obstruct your rearward field of view. Outward visibility isn’t as important as style, I guess.
Luckily, this is a Benz, so there’s a whole lot of tech available — like the high-definition backup camera connected to the semi-floating 8.4-inch screen. My inner photographer was stunned by the picture detail here, with the image of what’s happening out back displaying like a high-end CES demo. And out of all the features found inside, it was this display that earned the most oohs and ahs.
As with other German cars, the C300 Coupe puts the driver in the perfect driving position. The pedals, steering wheel, and controls all fall comfortably into place, making this cabin comfortable for drives short or long. Material choice, as expected, is also top-notch. Unless you venture into Bentley territory, the softness and suppleness of the leathers, for example, are among the best in the industry. Smart material choices abound, like the metal “salt shaker” grilles that cover the speakers, further elevating the premium feel.
The only real complaint is the gesture-controlled, console-mounted track pad, used to adjust things like song selection and navigation input. Maybe it’s because I’m left-handed and am trying to input characters with my right finger, but I could never get the thing to do what I wanted. For example, when I drew an “A”, the car perceived that input as the number “9,” making even simple tasks take way, way too long. Luckily the voice recognition is really good, alleviating a lot of the issues. And as for the back seats … Well, adults can fit back there, but any rides longer than 15 minutes will leave them complaining.
Much like the C300 I drove on the Autobahn, the US-spec C300 Coupe delivers one solid drive. The ride is firm, yet comfortable, making this car a great partner for those longer, grand-touring road trips.
But it isn’t a sports car. Powering it all is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 241 horsepower. Connected to the backside of this engine is Mercedes-Benz’ standard 7-speed transmission. And as this car is the 4MATIC version, all-wheel drive is standard.
The vehicle’s 5.9-second 0-60 time is quick, but makes it only slightly faster than a Toyota Camry. And while the Sport Mode function gives the exhaust a pleasing burble, it doesn’t really add any oomph to the drive. And despite it also making the steering feel artificially heavy, this coupe still exhibits that luxury-car “detachment” from the road. Best to leave this car in Comfort mode, point it down a long stretch of highway, and simply enjoy the ride.
There’s no doubt that the Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe is a stunning car, with a well-appointed interior and a superb drive to match. And with the C-Class no longer pulling double-duty as the “entry-level” Benz, this current version is by far the best C-Class yet.
While I love the Coupe’s looks, I can’t help but feel that the Sedan is the better package. Those extra doors and space offer a lot more practicality, making it the better choice for those with families, or those who are always taking friends and clients out to lunch. But for those simply looking for a grand touring machine for themselves—and possibly a partner—this C300 coupe is one ride that can’t be ignored. Now if only I can convince Mercedes-Benz to let me take one of these two-doors down the Autobahn…