First drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe [Review]

A little extra prep has yielded a much improved C-Class Coupe.

The first-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, unveiled at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, was somewhat of a last second idea.

After ceding the compact luxury coupe segment to BMW and Audi, Mercedes decided to launch a two-door variant of its C-Class at the time of the four-door's mid-cycle refresh. That timing meant designers were limited in what they could do with the Coupe's lines, and engineers were somewhat stifled in terms of powertrain offerings.

But despite those constraints, the C-Class Coupe delivered strong enough sales for Mercedes to green light a second-generation. And, more importantly, Mercedes' decision to do a coupe variant of the new C-Class from the onset gave designers and engineers plenty of lead time.

So, is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe now a legitimate alternative to the BMW 4-Series and Audi A5? Come with us as we find out.

Form over functionThe C-Class Sedan is a handsome vehicle in its own right, but the C-Class Coupe takes things to a whole new level. Borrowing styling cues from the larger S-Class Coupe, the 2017 C-Class Coupe is far more slinky than its four-door counterpart and lightyears ahead of its slab-sided predecessor.

From the A-pillars forward the C-Class Coupe is essentially a carbon copy of the C-Class Sedan, which isn't a bad thing; we still think the C-Class Sedan is one of the best looking offerings in its segment. However, there are a few subtle differences between the two, including grille and lower bumper treatments, as well as standard LED headlights.

In profile the Coupe is obviously sleeker than its sedan counterpart thanks to a faster sloping roofline, but there are also differences in body work. Whereas the shoulder line on the sedan dips as it goes along the side of the car, the crease on the coupe remains relatively level, tricking the eye into thinking it's longer than it actually is. Like the previous generation, the 2017 C-Class coupe retains an upward kink in its rearmost side glass. Base cars come equipped with 18-wheels while 19-inchers are on offer.

The rear of the C-Class Coupe is similar in design to the larger S-Class Coupe. That means horizontal taillights in place of the Sedan's more vertical units, along with a license plate mount that has been moved from the trunk lid to the bumper. That last move cleared room for a more prominent placement of the Mercedes logo, which is not something that's lost on the image conscious coupe buyer. A set of dual exhaust outlets and bumper vents borrowed from Mercedes' AMG division round out the coupe's exterior looks.

Lopping off two doors and lowering the roofline didn't do much to improve the C-Class' interior space, but Mercedes has done an admirable job of keeping the Coupe's cockpit livable. After all, unlike an S-Class Coupe or an SLC, the C-Class coupe will be the only vehicle in the average buyer's garage, so it has to function as a daily driver.

In order to free up some extra leg room on the passenger's side, Mercedes moved the speaker that typically occupies space in the lower door area to within the footwell. In addition to adding a few extra inches of legroom, the move also improved the acoustics of the C-Class' sound system.

Although not cavernous, the storage space in the C-Class Coupe's center armrest has been improved from the previous generation. You'll also find a storage pocket located on the right side of the center stack in the passenger footwell area.

But other than a few minor tweaks, the C-Class Coupe's interior is essentially a carbon copy of the C-Class Sedan's. The center stack is dominated by a high-mounted LCD screen measuring 7-inches across. Heritage-inspired air vents are used throughout the cabin and boost the car's aesthetic appeal. Toggle switches for the HVAC system are equal parts stylish and easy to use.

Mercedes' now ubiquitous wheel and touchpad for the car's COMAND infotainment system are located at an easy reach in the center console. Although easy to reach, the system isn't always easy to use thanks to an aging interface that's rather cumbersome, especially compared to other systems on the market. Moreover, the C-Class Coupe isn't compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, so you're stuck with what Mercedes gives you. Making matters worse, Mercedes says the update to Android Auto and CarPlay will require new hardware rather than some kind of over-the-air update.

Rear-seat room isn't typically a coupe selling point, and the C-Class Coupe lives up to expectations. Room is tight for six-footers, but you can survive back there for an around town jaunt. If you carry passengers on a regular basis, we suggest sticking with the C-Class Sedan. You'll also have to pack less if you take the C-Class Coupe as it loses about two-cubic feet of trunk space to the sedan.

As you'd expect of a vehicle wearing the three-pointed star, materials are quite good across the board. Plastics are soft touch through and even the standard MB-Tex seating surfaces could pass for leather in certain circles. Brushed metal and piano black trims are available, but we suggest sticking with the up-scale looking matte wood finishes.

The mechanical stuffFor now the C-Class Coupe is available in just one flavor — C300. In the not-so-distance future Mercedes will expand the lineup to include the 362 horsepower C43 and the full boat C63 with 469 horsepower or an available 503 horsepower rating.

The C300 uses a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder rated at 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Of note, the C300's torque rating matches that of the old C350's 3.5L V6, but at a much lower engine speed (1,300rpm, to be exact). All C300 models use a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The C300 Coupe ships standard with rear-wheel drive but, unlike the last-generation C Coupe, buyers can now opt for Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. Mercedes says that should improve the C-Class Coupe's sales in colder climates.

The other big ticket item for the C-Class Coupe is an available AIRMATIC air suspension system with settings for Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Those that don't check the AIRMATIC's $1,190 option box will get a set of conventional springs. Although the C-Class Coupe's suspension is largely based on the sedan's, the two door gets a firmer setup to uphold its sportier image. Any even stiffer setup is available via the optional Sport Package. The C Coupe also uses a faster steering system than its sedan counterpart.

Acceleration from a standstill is quite good, with the sprint from 0-60 requiring a relatively brief 5.9 seconds. However, the C300 doesn't feel as strong during higher-speed blasts, like overtaking on the motorway.

Although not an all-out speed demon, the C300 sounds the part when you're laying into the throttle. Mercedes retuned the Coupe's exhaust system to emit a more guttural growl, but it never came across as obnoxious or annoying.

The seven-speed auto in the C300 is just OK; shifts didn't always occur as rapidly as we would've liked, and the unit sometimes had trouble deciding which gear it should be in. Taking control via the steering wheel-mounted shifters helped, but the system seemed to default to automatic mode after a few seconds, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a manual mode in the first place.

During our two-day drive we were able to sample both the C300's stiffer Sport Package suspension and the optional air setup. After spending time with both, we'd suggest springing for the AIRMATIC system.

The conventionally sprung Sport suspension in the C300 is simply unnecessarily firm. It tends to bounce and jolt over even moderately sized road imperfections, delivering a decidedly un-Mercedes-like driving experience. The AIRMATIC, on the other hand, is far more compliant in Comfort mode. And for those interested in keeping things firm, Sport and Sport+ settings are available.

Leftlane's bottom lineIn a segment that's driven by image, the sharp-looking 2017 C-Class Coupe should do well for Mercedes-Benz. Although Mercedes' omission of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is a bit puzzling, the C300 Coupe offers enough substance in the form of a comfy cabin and good performance to go along with its style. A little extra planning has done wonders for Mercedes' most affordable coupe.

Photos by Drew Johnson.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe base price, $44,650. As tested, $60,545.Selenite Grey Metallic, $720; Natural Grain Black Ash Wood Trim, $325; Head-up Display, $990; 19-inch AMG Wheels, $500; Heated front seats, $580; Premium 3 Package, $7,400; AIRMATIC Package, $1,190; Sport Package, $1,675; Night Package, $300; Parking Assist Package, $1,290; Destination, $925.

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