2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe First Drive Review

#hashtags: #Class Coupe #Coupe

A few years ago, I saw the then-new C-Class sedan parked next to its predecessor, and it wasn’t pretty for the old guard. The new (current) car with its baby S-Class looks inside and out made the old car look ancient. The only thing they seemed to share was the star. The C-Class Coupe has, as expected, done the same. Its look is clearly baby S-Class Coupe, and it makes the old C-Class Coupe look ancient.

The change goes right down to the bones. The new Coupe is longer, wider, and (slightly) lower, and although it shares the new sedan’s chassis, they share no body panels. What’s under the hood isn’t shared, either, with the laggy 1.8-liter turbo-four replaced with a new 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s linear enough and gutsy enough to fool you into thinking it’s a slow V-6. The old and new cars do share a seven-speed automatic, though it’s come a long way in refinement and calibration. It’s also slated to be replaced with a new nine-speed auto in a year’s time.

There’s something different in the car’s character, too. The old C-Class felt like it was trying to be a BMW 3 Series, and although it was fun to drive once the turbo joined the party, it wasn’t a 3 Series. The new C-Class has given that nonsense up. Like the sedan, the new C-Class Coupe is less interested in being a sports car and more interested in being a luxury car. You know, like a Mercedes used to be.

That’s not to say this car can’t go around a corner. In fact, one of the stronger lasting impressions this car leaves is of how good its chassis is. Whether in sharp corners or long sweepers, the C300 feels confident, buttoned-down, and in control. It doesn’t want to attack corners like a Lotus, but you don’t have to baby it around them, either. You can lean comfortably into the car, and it will reward you with smooth, solid cornering not likely to disturb your passengers. The steering is responsive and linear, nicely weighted and mostly devoid of road feel, because it’s a luxury car, not a sports car.

“Confident” sums up the whole demeanor of this car. You drive the C300 like the guy in the TV commercial, in a button-down shirt and a tie with a slight but cocky smile on your face. You don’t drive too fast, because you have nothing to prove, but you don’t slow down for corners nearly as much as the lesser cars around you.

It’s not just the handling or the low-lag powertrain that imbue this with confidence. The quiet, comfortable interior has a modern look with rich materials, handsome design, and seemingly endless options list, and it feels a full class above the competition. The motor keeps to itself, not bothering to try to impress you with an exhaust note or induction noise. Our car’s optional air suspension and adjustable dampers rode nicely, though they seemed calibrated for a bit more sport than the rest of the car and could’ve been a touch softer without ruining the handling.

The C300 isn’t without its demons. As noted, the engine could use a bit more punch across the board, and the handoff from Sailing mode (in which the transmission is decoupled from the engine and the car coasts to save fuel) could be smoother. The sloping roofline, though pretty, is a double whammy; it keeps average-height adults out of the rear seats (which are otherwise spacious for a coupe of this size) and severely limits rear visibility.

As it’s not trying to be a sports car, the C300 comes across as more of a statement. It looks sleeker and sportier than the sedan, but it’s still mature. Inside and out, the message is clear: I’ve made it, and I’m going to enjoy some of the finer things. It’s not trying to impress anyone with raw numbers or angry exhaust notes but rather with comfort, design, and quality. If you want a sports coupe, there’s a C450 AMG Sport Coupe on the way and a C63 AMG Coupe already on the market. This is a luxury coupe, nothing more, nothing less, and for around 40,000 clams, you could do a lot worse.