First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Coupe

Saguenay, QC - Purchasing a coupe over a sedan is a right-brain manoeuver. It’s all about aesthetics. Paying more money for less practicality might not be the most rational strategy, but to snag a line from Janis Joplin, “If it makes you feel good…” then why not?

Nicely resolved from any angle, this coupe does not rely on gimmicks to make an impression.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Coupe is a sleek two-door take on the C300 sedan. It certainly ticks all the right boxes for those seeking a dash of style in a compact Benz. It’s a fine-looking car that adopts the automaker’s recent push to more gentle, flowing and elegant lines. Nicely resolved from any angle, this coupe does not rely on gimmicks to make an impression.

Consider its understated styling to be the antithesis of what’s happening in Japanese design studios of late, where no crease, weird headlight or gaping maw is too much.

It’s a similar story inside the cabin. First-class fit and finish mate with fine design and exquisite detailing to produce an interior worthy of the marque. A few might take exception to the MMI infotainment screen that perches atop the centre console like an afterthought, but the comfortable front seats and overarching quality win over.

Faux Artico “leather” and panoramic sunroof are standard. There’s lots of real metal bright-work in here, and Mercedes has bestowed the dash with a useful array of hard buttons for HVAC and audio that are well marked and easy to use. Thank you.

Standard issue is a touchpad/hand-rest just aft of the MMI rotary controller that responds to swipe, pinch and handwriting gestures.

The screen graphics aren’t as colourful as those from Audi and BMW, but once familiar with the system it’s quite easy to navigate.

Back-seat passengers won’t be quite so happy as ingress is a fairly inelegant process and headroom is tight. This is a coupe, remember? If your left brain is complaining about rear-seat accommodation, you should have listened to that side of your noggin while in the Benz showroom.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Coupe lands with a starting price of $48,100. That’s a $4,300 premium over the C 300 4Matic Sedan.

Under the hood we find Mercedes’ ubiquitous 2.0L direct-injection turbo four-cylinder, here making 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It is mated to a 7G-Tronic seven-speed auto with paddle shifters, and it drives all four wheels via 4Matic all-wheel-drive. For 2018, this car will get Benz’s new nine-speed auto. Other markets see a rear-wheel-drive version, but we Canucks get the one best suited to our weather (and buying preferences).

As we course the gently winding black-top through rural Quebec in our white C 300 4Matic Coupe, it becomes evident Mercedes has tailored this two-door for the relaxed cruise. It’s a smooth operator that plays perfectly into what most buyers expect the Mercedes experience to be. It has no aspirations of being a sports car, unlike its more edgy and engaging crosstown rival, the BMW 428i.

At first blush: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé

Larger and lighter than the outgoing C Class Coupe, this 2017 model gets standard blind spot assist, Collision Attention Assist Plus (forward collision mitigation) Pre-Safe (which preps the seatbelts, seat angles, windows and sunroof if a collision is imminent) and Crosswind Assist that reduces lateral drift when the no’r-easter hits your pretty flanks.

Also standard is Dynamic Select with up to five driving modes that tailor transmission mapping, throttle response, steering feel and air suspension (if so equipped).

Our white tester appears to be nicely kitted. It benefits from the $2,000 Sport Package that bestows interior and exterior AMG treatment, 18-inch AMG 5-spoke alloys, Diamond Grill in chrome, Artico trimmed dash and AMG velour floor mats.

The engine has decent pull and the tranny shifts with the expected smoothness. There’s nothing particularly outstanding or charismatic about this powertrain, but it gets the job done with reasonable efficiency (we saw 9.8 L/100 km at day’s end) and when not pressed it settles into a hushed cruise. Cycling the Dynamic Select to Sport gives the Coupe a bit more attitude for twisting sections of road. If you want to play with the shift paddles they are pretty quick to respond, but not up BMW/eight-speed ZF standards.

As with most Mercedes products, the C 300’s calm composure disguises its speed quite well. The limit on these roads was 90 km/h but our white steed seemed determined to run at 120 km/h.

Mercedes-Benz Canada predicts most C 300 customers will spec the $3,400 Premium Package with LED headlights, rearview camera and navigation. Another $3,000 (Premium Plus Package) nets SiriusXM, garage door opener, power trunk closer, active parking assist, proximity key with push-button start, ambient lighting and illuminated door sills. For this, the Premium Package is required.

You want Benz’s latest driving aids that hint at autonomous motoring? The $2,700 Intelligent Drive Package arms the Coupe with more radar power and a stereo camera that enables Distronic Plus (adaptive cruise control) with steering assist, active blind spot and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic assist and extended Pre-Safe for both forward and rear collision. Recommended is the $1,800 air suspension system (Airmatic Agility System) that smooths out the ride and gives more stability in the corners.

Our car was also fitted with lovely Dark Ashwood Open Pore Trim ($250) and fine Burmester audio. A leather upgrade costs $1,990, with the full-on designo Nappa Leather treatment running $5,290.

If you’ve ever shopped for a premium German automobile, this pattern will be familiar. Bring your wallet.

The next day we slipped into a more modestly equipped silver Coupe that lacked the groovy AMG treatment and air suspension. Without the former, it still looked good, and without the latter, the ride was proved perfectly acceptable.

Lest you be concerned about such things, Mercedes-Benz is not turning its back on enthusiasts with this fresh coupe. Coming later in the year are the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Coupe and the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe. You won’t find any rationale in the numbering system, but you will find more performance.

The middle-child C 43 4Matic runs with a twin-turbo 3.0L V6 making 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. It gets a nine-speed transmission and AMG-tuned 4Matic with a 69 percent rear bias. This could very well be the Goldilocks variant of Benz’s fetching new coupe, as the rear-drive C 63 with its 4.0L twin-turbo V8 (496 hp or 503 hp in S trim) will have a price commensurate with its sledgehammer performance.

Purchasing a coupe over a sedan is a right-brain manoeuver. It’s all about aesthetics. 6/6/2016 10:30:15 AM