Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Coupé review (2011 onwards)
Model: Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI AMG Sport Coupé
Bodystyle: three-door coupé
Engine: 2.1 CDi turbodiesel
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
Date of test: May 2012
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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé
What is it?
Upon launching the current generation of its C-Class compact executive saloon Mercedes told us it was branching off in a more dynamic direction. The old three-pointed star still spoke of class and quality but wasn't saying sporty in the way that a BMW or Audi badge did.
Mercedes wanted to get down with the kids, or at least the younger car buyers who still associated the venerable German car brand with giant saloons and opulent coupés for people gently cruising towards retirement. These 'younger' customers tend to be well into their 30s by the time they amass the funds for a new Merc but that's what counts for youth in car buying terms.
That was 2007 and while the C-Class did tilt Mercedes in a more spunky direction, with its alert handling and two grille choices (one for the traditionalists, one for the trendies), it wasn't the dramatic departure many expected. It took until 2011, for example, before the sharky C-Class Coupé arrived to bring some real visual spice to the range.
It's that long-awaited coupé we're looking at here. Is it just a pretty face or has the car finally arrived to spread the Stuttgart gospel to a different audience?
Where does it fit?
Like just about every other Mercedes-Benz product, the C-Class Coupé is defined by its equivalent cars from BMW and Audi. The 3-Series Coupé and the A5 will lock horns with the Merc in a three-way tussle that will dominate market for compact executive three-doors.
The model we're looking at will have a bigger say than most in who wins out. It's the C220 CDI, currently the cheapest way into C-Class Coupé diesel and therefore destined to catch the interest of the ever-influential company car users and fleet executives.
The list price for a C220 CDI Coupé in AMG Sport trim is in the £32,000 ballpark. However, with the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox, full leather adornments, the high-tech Driver Assistance Package of safety add-ons, a Harman Kardon stereo and a frightening array of other titbits, our test car is over £41,000.
the Coupe looks a good few notches sharper than the saloon
You can get a diesel BMW 3-Series Coupe with more power for less but the Merc does look well-equipped by comparison. The Audi A5 is more money if you factor in quattro all-wheel drive and less if you're happy sending power only to the front wheels.
Is it for you?
It's a familiar story. Those who can live without the practicality of back doors, can get the elongated, flowing lines of the Coupé bodystyle and a slightly sharper driving experience thanks to Agility Control suspension with adaptive dampers. They can also just about claim to own a sports car without being laughed out of the pub.
There's no denying the C-Class Coupé looks a good few notches sharper than the saloon and estate alternatives. You wouldn't call the shape pioneering but the bold sinewy lines and planted stance ensure it's well worth that glance into a roadside shop window to see yourself go by.
What does it do well?
Different people will have different ideas about what the right amount of sporty is in a car like this. It can't go overboard with a bone shaking suspension set-up and the responses of a jet fighter. Otherwise the execs who drive it would turn up for their meetings looking as if they'd arrived by spacehopper. For my money, the C-Class Coupé gets a good balance between cosseting the driver and laying on a bit of entertainment.
The ride has a level of suppleness that masks the hard edges of the road surface but also keeps everything planted and together in the corners. The car turns in sharply and alters its line on command. It feels compact and nimble as a result, qualities that lots of mainstream Mercedes products sacrifice in favour of comfort.
What doesn't it do well?
The engine is a good one, a twin-turbo diesel with 295lb ft or torque on hand at 1,400rpm. It pulls strongly but it's a little loud when doing so, particularly from low speeds and before it warms up.
The C-Class Coupé is also a strict four-seater
The syrupy smoothness of the 7G-tronic automatic gearbox blunts some of the fun you feel you could be having with the car. The shifts are quick and almost imperceptible at times but even using the paddle shifters isn't a substitute for a good manual in a car of this type. Buyers can save themselves £1,500 by changing gear themselves but manual Merc's can be a problem on the used market.
What's it like to live with?
The seats deserve special mention. They're extremely comfortable and there's enough side support to stop your spine going walkabout in quick corners. Elsewhere in the cabin there are some classy metallic finishes to lift the doors and dashboard controls.
The dash is quite flat in profile, more of a cliff-face than a gentle slope rising away from you. It doesn't curve around at the sides to meet the door linings either and as a result, you don't feel as cocooned in the car as you do in some coupes. The layout is clear and the systems are straightforward to use - with a little practice.
Rear legroom isn't going to keep tall adults happy on long journeys but that tends to be the way in the compact executive coupé class. At least the front seats slide forward a long way to help rear passngers get in easily. The C-Class Coupé is also a strict four-seater, there are just two seats in the back separated by a storage console. The boot is a healthy 450 litres, slightly up on the BMW 3-Series.
How green is it?
Bundled up with the automatic gearbox option is a stop-start system that contributes to economy of 53mpg. The manual car manages 55mpg and and emissions of 133g/km compared to 139g/km in the auto. The returns you could expect from a BMW 320d auto are identical but it is a shade quicker.
Would we buy it?
Mercedes hasn't done mainstream sporty cars all that well in the past but the C-Class Coupé is a well-judged package. It's got the looks, comfort levels and driving experience to get BMW and Audi worried, so that's the main box ticked. In diesel C220 CDI guise it makes a cost-effective company car that you can feel genuinely good about driving.
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First drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
First drive: BMW 3-Series Coupe
First drive: Audi A5