Mercedes: What's inside counts for C-Class coupe
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When is a C-Class coupe not a C-Class coupe? When it's the old one.
Mercedes-Benz is working hard to downplay the similarities between its outgoing CLS and the shiny new C-Class coupe. The new car bears scant resemblance to the two-door CLC and, while the sharply priced coupe has been an equally sharp seller for the German giant, the company line is that the new two-door, which shares a face with the recently released sedan, is a whole new model.
There is truth to this tale - the new C-Class is a totally new look for the range and, while those who forked out for the CLC may get excited by the new coupe, its fresh look will be an up-sell.
And yes, it's a whole new car.
There's a four-pronged assault coming with the two-door in New Zealand - plus, of course, a fire-breathing AMG version with everything from a fairly timid four-pot 1.8 to a choice of poisons in the 2.5 versions, to the flagship six-cylinder variant - all using Mercedes' BlueEfficiency technology, which calms down mileage while cuddling trees.
A press launch in Victoria saw a fleet of nine cars tested on hundreds of kilometres of roads, from twisting mountain tracks to one of the steepest, brake-shagging hills in the Southern Hemisphere.
The upshot of this 450km odyssey was that, yes, the CLC isn't entirely dissimilar to the new coupe and, no, it's certainly not the same animal.
After driving three of the cars on offer, on roads that echo our own (although with a more savage law-enforcement organisation that writes as many tickets as the Biro allows), it must be noted that the new C Coupe is a nice piece of kit that resembles the CLC in little more than name.
New Zealand gets four new models, starting with the C180, followed by diesel or petrol versions of the C250 and topped by the six-cylinder C350.
A grumpy AMG version, bursting at the seams with 6.3 litres of stroppy V8 power, will be along shortly.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$127.46 p/w $509.82 p/m
Surprisingly for a car guy with an occasionally heavy right foot, the smaller, force-fed 2143cc C250 won out over its six-pot stablemate. While the C350 has more grunt, there was an unusual disjoin between the 225kW, 370Nm engine and Mercedes' much-vaunted 7G Tronic transmission.
This is a sophisticated trans, but it does tend to stick the car in a gear that tries to save a bit of the planet by sacrificing a slice of motoring joy.
It was almost always necessary to give the six-cylinder a big slap, down two or sometimes even three gears, to really push it along. This diluted any sense of urgency and, while the power on tap was delivered in spades, the delay between seeing the apex, mashing the pedal and getting the desired result was not ideal.
The four, on the other hand, was usually spooling up its turbo when it sensed the proximity of a size 10, which meant a less desperate exit from corners as plenty of torque was delivered cleanly. The 350 does have the grunt on paper, enough to sprint to 100km/h in 6 seconds as opposed to the 250 petrol's 7.2 seconds, but the four-cylinder definitely uses its size to its advantage. On winding roads, both cars were happy to be pushed, with a well-balanced chassis that gave a fairly compliant ride. The traction control and other computerised driver aids weren't annoyingly interruptive, either.
The CDi diesel version showed itself to be a solid performer - hitting 100km/h a tad quicker than the petrol, although with a narrow rev range for delivery of its 150kW - but with 500Nm of torque it was at its best when stuck in auto as it bounced repeatedly off its 4300rpm ceiling. The petrol version has the same power but only 310Nm - although all models in the range will smack into an electronic speed-limiter at 210km/h.
The interior of the C-Class is brilliant: comfortable leather seats and a dash that doesn't scream "plastic"; a tidy centre dash and high-tech sat-nav/audio options. The useful Bluetooth audio-streaming and phone functions are easily set up and administered, although your iPhone will spit its battery out fairly quickly. The electric memory seats are fitted on everything bar the 250 diesel, which had the electric switchgear moved from the upper part of the door down to the base of the seat, and no memory functions, presumably in an effort to differentiate the two models.
There's lots of room in the front, and a reasonable amount of rear legroom, although loftier passengers suffer for headspace because of the steep rake on the rear window.
One big gripe was the high-left-mounted stick that takes care of cruise control - its functionality was faultless but the stick was often struck while reaching for the indicator stalk.
The 12-button steering wheel was fairly easy to get around but did require a quick glance to make sure the right commands were being issued, which does defeat the purpose somewhat.
Attention Assist and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control are useful features, though, using a clever radar array to make sure the driver isn't getting too sleepy and warning of errant lane changes and other potentially dangerous moves.
The Pre Safe braking system also warns the driver of an impending collision.
The range starts at $69,990 for the 180 CGI BlueEfficiency, $86,900 and $89,500 for the petrol and diesel 250s respectively, and $112,900 for the big 350 CGI. Add another 50-odd grand if you've got AMG aspirations.