Have American motorists forgotten the joys of extravagance? Given the preponderance of utility vehicles and pickup trucks, it seems we have.

Consider the Mercedes-Benz most popular in the U.S.: the compact C-Class.

The latest rendition of the C-Class sedan launched in 2014 and was followed the next year by its sibling, the GLC crossover utility vehicle. Both will vastly outsell the newest version of the C-Class family: the 2017 C300 Coupe, and that’s a pity.

Unlike the CLA and CLS “four-door” coupes that wear the three-pointed star, this is a true two-door, just like the E-Class, S-Class and AMG GTS coupes.

And, like them, the C300 Coupe fulfills an emotional need mostly felt by younger buyers and women.

Given its launch in the middle of a model cycle, the previous generation C300 Coupe was fairly conservative, lacking the designer panache typical of Mercedes-Benz two-doors.

Unlike that model, the new coupe (base price, $42,650) is purpose-built as a coupe, which explains its expanding waistline. It’s grown 4 inches in length, 3 inches in wheelbase, 2 inches in width and is slightly lower in overall height, endowing the C-Class Coupe with the long, wide and low proportion that gives this model an evocative presence good enough for the runway.

The added length blends seamlessly with softly assertive sheet metal that lends the car the elegantly aggressive look that’s classic Mercedes-Benz.

Helping matters on the test car was the optional Sport Package, which adds AMG styling elements such as the single bar grille, larger front air intakes, a chrome-accented grille, 19-inch AMG wheels with high-performance tires and front brakes with perforated discs.

Inside, sporting touches include a flat bottom steering wheel, black headliner, aluminum pedals, AMG floor mats and an instrument panel finished with topstitching. Most importantly, it adds a sport suspension with quicker steering.

The Coupe’s suspension is based on the sedan’s, but it’s tuned for a much sportier response. The same is true of the steering, which is also much quicker than the sedan’s, and ride height is slightly lower. A $1,200 optional Airmatic air suspension provides the best of both worlds, providing an adept balance of comfort and sport that one expects of a luxury ride, something absent from the base-level, steel suspension.

Powering the car is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s used in the C-Class sedan as well. It’s rated at 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, with both these figures representing 20 percent bumps over the old coupe.

In fact, the new four-cylinder produces as much torque as the old model’s six-cylinder engine, but its available at 1,300 rpm, versus the six-cylinder’s 3,500 rpm. As a result, performance has improved, with a zero to 60 mph run taking 5.9 seconds.

All-wheel drive is now available with the four-cylinder engine and is the powerplant most buyers will choose. It’s a boon to buyers in chillier climes.

But the feature that drivers will truly appreciate is Dynamic Select, which adjusts the car’s performance parameters based on driving conditions and your mood. There are four different drive moods – or, um – modes including Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport-Plus as well as an Individual setting, which allows for customization.

The system does have a dramatic effect on the car’s personality, taking it from mild to wild. The car reverts to Comfort on start-up, although it would be better if stayed on the last setting the driver selected.

Regardless, it’s quite fun. While not the quickest coupe out there, it’s more than fast enough to get your yay-yas out, with quick shifts delivered from a seven-speed automatic transmission.

And while the Sport Package does add a measure of sporting nature to the car, the forthcoming AMG C-Class models are the true choice for those who need a Mercedes-Benz with a truly fierce performance capability.


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