2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe Review
The C-Class Coupe brings efficiency and style to the 2-door segment.
- C63 AMG Coupe body work is perfectly aggressive
- C250 Coupe uses a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
- Supportive front seats
- C63 AMG Coupe needs more tire
- Steering is light, disconnected
- Auto-tightening seatbelt is overzealous
Mercedes-Benz is a little late to the entry-level luxury coupe game. Rivals from Audi and BMW have been boasting attractive 2-doors for years, and even Cadillac has gotten in on the game with the CTS coupe. But with a range of engines that includes a thrifty 4-cylinder and a fire-breathing V8, the Silver Arrow has demonstrated something that we knew all along: This company can build an amazing 2-door.
The 2012 C-Class coupe is available in three configurations in the U.S. market. The base model C250 ships with the most efficient engine option available, as well as a laundry list of standard equipment, including a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a 14-way power adjustable driver's seat, Bluetooth audio streaming and rain-sensing automatic wipers, just to name a few highlights.
The C350 serves as the middle child of the family, but will probably be the volume seller. With a slightly more powerful engine and extra touches such as standard Sirius satellite radio, burl walnut interior trim and a 12-speaker Harmon Kardon sound system (up from eight speakers in the C250), the V6-equipped 2-door could easily be called the ultimate comfortable cruiser.
But Mercedes-Benz wasn't about to leave its power-hungry fans in the cold. The C63 AMG coupe takes care of those buyers who need a little more adrenaline in their commute. Along with the most powerful engine option available in the line, the factory-tuned racer wears custom-tailored body work that includes aggressive fascias front and rear, a unique bulging hood and stylish 18-inch wheels.
Under the Hood
The C250 coupe is equipped with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers may seem small for a vehicle that weighs 3,419 pounds, but the standard 7-speed automatic transmission makes smart use of the available power. Mercedes-Benz claims that the C250 coupe can arrive at 60 mph from a dead stop in as little as 7.1 seconds, which is adequately quick. More impressively, the small 4-cylinder and clever transmission combo can return an estimated 30 mpg highway.
Step into the midrange C350 coupe and you'll get a velvety smooth 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 with 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The 6-cylinder is mated with the same 7-speed automatic transmission found in the C250, though fuel economy is expected to be slightly less — an estimated 22 mpg combined, compared with the base vehicle's estimated 24 mpg combined.
If fuel economy doesn't factor into your purchase decision, the C63 AMG coupe offers a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 that spins the rear tires to the tune of 451 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. If that's not enough, you can further option in 30 extra horsepower, courtesy of engine internals sourced from the vaunted SLS AMG. In order to handle all of that power, Mercedes-Benz equipped the sports coupe with an AMG SpeedShift Plus 7-speed multiclutch automatic transmission. The more muscular hardware helps the C63 AMG coupe get to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds.
Inside, the various C-Class coupe models coddle occupants with all of the kindness we've come to expect from Mercedes-Benz. The leather front seats with integrated headrests are comfortable and supportive enough to endorse a day's worth of driving, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel — standard even on the base C250 coupe — feels excellent. The driver's seat comes with a memory function to accommodate multiple drivers of various sizes, though don't expect the front bucket to move with anything resembling quickness. Adjustments take the kind of time that only the fabulously wealthy can waste.
Brilliant, easy-to-read gauges are augmented by a small color LCD screen that communicates all sorts of pertinent vehicle information, while a 5.8-inch color LCD screen handles central control duties. There's seating for two children or small adults in the back, though ingress and egress is an exercise in humiliation. Leave that area open for bosses, in-laws and other undesirables.
On the Road
We were able to spend time in all three variants of the C-Class coupe, and as strange as it may sound, we were completely taken by the C250. While the C350 comes with more standard equipment and extra power, the small-displacement 4-cylinder in the C250 coupe produces enough muscle to keep us entertained. With the windows down, we could even occasionally hear the turbocharger relief valve echo off of guard rails and surrounding traffic, which painted a smile on our faces wider than the Rhine.
It's clear that the C-Class coupe isn't designed to have the steering or handling precision of the BMW 3-Series or even the Audi S5, and as a result, the chassis is much happier loafing along than having its neck wrung. That shouldn't be taken as a slight, however. There's a place in this market for comfortable cruisers, and the C250 nails it dead-on.
Meanwhile, the C63 AMG coupe is a work of mechanical art. With its wet-clutches in place of the standard torque converter, shifts are impossibly quick and rock solid. We've never encountered an automatic transmission that feels so self-confident. Though the C63 AMG still feels like it could use rubber that's twice as wide and twice as sticky, acceleration from the big V8 is the kind of thing worthy of the AMG badge. Throw in the optional carbon ceramic brakes, and you could almost trick yourself into believing that this is a car that someone could take to the track. Bluntly, though, the BMW M3 would be happy to correct you for thinking it.
Right for You?
At $37,220, the C250 coupe starts a few thousand dollars higher than the equivalent $35,220 C250 sedan. With its subtly attractive exterior, comfortable ride and efficient base 4-cylinder engine, the C-Class coupe should find a comfortable niche among the more power-obsessed mainstays of the segment.
(As part of an automaker-sponsored press event, Mercedes-Benz provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.