Taming Mercedes-Benz's new C-Class coupe
EXCLUSIVE: WE’RE IN SPAIN FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE ALL-NEW MERCEDES-BENZ C-CLASS COUPE
It’s mid-morning in a quiet hillside village inland from Marbella and the only locals to be seen are the obligatory older men sitting in front of a cafe enjoying their coffee. Until a German vehicular version of a rampaging bull heads towards them. Cups pause midway to their lips as the Mercedes-AMG C63 S coupe enters the village, the V8’s exhausts snorting and bellowing as we change down gears.
The coupe is in Sport Plus mode, which adjusts the AMG from slightly angry bull in Comfort mode to extremely angry bull that has its sights set on a cornered matador.
“Jeeze, this car doesn’t do subtle,” says my Australian colleague, as the C63 S lets out another cackling snort as he taps the brakes to slow us to near the speed limit of the village.
The locals are not amused and I daren’t mention that there is also a Race mode that would have them scampering into the cafe, fearing for their lives. My colleague dials the AMG back to Sport mode to prevent any attention from the local polizia, but the moment we’re out of the village and heading down a winding road, it’s back to Sport Plus. As we reach the dip, we hit a slight bump and gain air — or maybe the AMG is again channelling its inner bull and is trying to buck us.
After the success worldwide of the new C-Class sedan and wagon, Mercedes has added coupes to its line-up: eight models initially — from the C220 diesel, to a C300 petrol and then on to the C63 and C63 S. New Zealand will have three models at the local launch mid-next year: the C300, C250 diesel and that bullish AMG C63 S.
A C450 petrol model will be added later in the year.
Mercedes-Benz New Zealand will confirm prices closer to the local launch but expects prices to be similar to the outgoing range that starts at $69,900.
Coupes are historically not big sellers in New Zealand, but we have one of the highest uptakes of AMGs per head of population. Australia and South Africa are also keen markets for Mercedes’ performance vehicles, so you can expect to see a few of the C63 S coupes on our roads.
The all-new C-Class coupe is 95mm longer and 40mm wider than its predecessor and it stands out visually thanks to its frameless windows and wing mirrors mounted to the door, not near the side mirror. The coupe retains Mercedes’ diamond grille and sculptured side panels, but its C-pillar has been extended further past the rear wheel arch and the suspension is 15mm lower to give it a more sporty appearance.
The four-seater coupe is 4686mm long, 1810mm wide, 1405mm high and has a 2849mm wheelbase. The increased volume gives more headroom for all occupants.
Inside, the coupe continues the clean lines of the C-Class and S-Class sedans and the dash still has the infotainment screen plonked on rather than integrated into the dash or console as we’re seeing in more European marques.
At the Malaga launch, I drove the C250 diesel and C300 petrol around the Costa del Sol before testing the C63 S coupe at the private 5.5km Ascari race track.
The 250 diesel produces 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque and in New Zealand will be paired with Mercedes’ nine-speed auto transmission.
The 300 petrol gets a 2-litre 180kW/370Nm engine and has a seven-speed auto gearbox. Heading down the winding mountain road from Ronda to Marbella this model proved a little battler thanks to the dynamic select driving mode option.
You can dial in Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus or Individual to dictate the drive and performance of your vehicle.
In Comfort mode, which I use while driving on busy thoroughfares around Malaga and Marbella, the set-up focuses on smooth suspension, fuel-efficient performance and quiet exhaust notes.
Dial in Sport and you not only hear a difference but feel the enhancement in performance with faster gear changes and more power surge.
The C300’s low road stance is part of a driving dynamic strategy across the C-Class coupe range for Mercedes, and adding optional air suspension creates a more spirited performance from the vehicle.
But if you really want spirited performance, then the star of the line-up has to be the C63 S, thanks in part to the engine, the coupe size, sporty chassis and rigid body.
The 4-litre, V8 biturbo 375kW/700Nm engine for the C63 S is closely related to the AMG GT S sports car, says Mercedes, and gains a sports exhaust system.
It claims 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds, fuel consumption of 8.9l/100km and a kerb weight of 1725kg.
The C63 S has a top speed of 250km/h, which most of the international journos at the Ascari track would have been close to tapping; fortunately there is a 290km/h limit on the AMG Driver’s Package.
At the Malaga launch, AMG’s CEO Tobias Moers said the C63 S coupe was “clearly marking the next performance for AMG”.
“While our focus is on driving dynamics our next primary goal is to produce a vehicle where form follows function,” said Moers at the evening press conference.
A few hours earlier Moers was showing the driving dynamics of the C63 S coupe to Christian Fruh, the director of development for all the C-Class range, at the Ascari track by taking his colleague for a hot lap.
As is Moers’ style, he dialled in Race mode, turned off traction control and had the coupe often more sideways than straight ahead — at top speed — on the often-challenging circuit.
Asked later how he drove through a tough right-then-left corrugated corner that dropped into a sweeping right-hand turn, Moers simply answers, “I drifted through it, of course”.
Most of these coupes won’t be doing much drifting during their lifetime, but the vehicle is a dynamic sporty addition to the C-Class.
There is still no word on a convertible for the C-Class range, and Fruh deflected Driven’s query about an open-top by highlighting the recently launched S-Class convertible.
If a convertible C-Class followed the lines of the coupe, it would be one sexy beast. Just sayin’, Mercedes and Herr Fruh.