2012 Mercedes C350 Coupe Review
This side of an AMG, this is the best C-Class of all
By Shahzad Sheikh
I can’t help looking back at it. That’s always a good sign as you walk away from a car. It also means the pen-men at Merc have got it right with the C-Class Coupe. Not always easy you understand. Subtracting two doors and adding a slopey roof to a saloon often looks more contrived than convincing. But does the rest of it measure up?
If you think that from the door onwards it looks like a regular C-Class saloon, then that’s because this is based on a C-Class saloon. Obvious, you think? Not necessarily. Mercedes has a habit of confusing and confounding with body shapes, as BMW has with its tailgate number designations – the engines are never quite what you think them to be.
In the case of Mercedes though, the E-Class Coupe is also based on the C-Class for example, whilst the CLK was based on the old C-Class and thankfully ignored by most buyers, the Mercedes CL Coupe is actually based the S-Class but is no longer called the SEC, and the Unimog truck is derived from an A-Class!
Black eye for the Three
Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the gist. One thing is without doubt, the new C-Class Coupe is based on a the regular C – but it’s better. And that’s impressive. Because the C-Saloon is a real cracker of a car that takes the fight to the BMW 3-series, loses, harrumphs disdainfully and then lays down a pair of precise 11s, followed by a wide drift arc, as it heads out on the town to soak up its valiant loser status. Meanwhile the Beemer heads back to the pit garage to examine its telemetry and ponder why the fight got so dangerously close.
So now the BMW is the serious one, whilst the Merc is the bad boy? Role reversal or what? But just look at it; sitting their brooding in its deep lustrous black body with its menacing AMG Sport Pack bodykit (bumpers, skirts and wheels). It looks the business, it means business, and take it for me, it is the business.
It ain’t even got a V8, the rumble and thrum of a fully AMG-ed muscle car is missing, as is the jaw-dropping power delivery, but this is not a car wanting for performance. With over 300bhp from its V6, this pulls in a highly impressive 0-100kph acceleration time of six seconds dead with a top speed of 250kph – that’s the same top speed as the C63 Coupe (both limited obviously), and whilst it’s a second and half slower to 100, the C350 is still the best of the rest of the range.
Compared to a full-fat AMG, on the road it feels fast not ferocious, solid not sensational, torquey not thundering – but utterly swift and certainly not one to be left behind. Unless you’re power mad, you’ll not be left wanting, even I was sated.
Sharpest mainstream Merc of all?
And then there’s the handling – we know the C-Class is sharp, whilst being just short of the super-grippy precision instrument of some rivals in order to inject a dose of hoonability (yes in a Merc). The good news is that whilst the dimensions of the Coupe are identical apart from being slightly lower, it’s sharper still, and with the AMG performance pack the suspension gets a workover too.
This thing is as keen as a cat caught out on six-lane highway at rush hour. The traction never really fully switches off, but there’s enough give to have a bit of fun. The steering is accurate and apart from being slightly dead on-centre, reasonably faithful.
Needless to add the brakes are strong enough with good response, and the ride errs on the firm side, particularly in Sports mode, but could never be described as uncomfortable – with good damping and remaining nicely level.
The seven-speed transmission comes with paddleshifts but after finding that whilst the downshifts do get a nice blip of the throttle, but that the upshifts appear to be an optional instruction as far as the gearbox is concerned, I resorted to just leaving the ‘S’ mode engaged rather than in ‘M’ – the box seemed to prefer that. Although a keener tranny might have livened things up even more.
If you can cough up for it, you’ll love living with it
But that’s about the only criticism with the drive. As for the rest, headroom does suffer a bit (so beware if you’re very tall), rear space is reserved only for two, and as long as they are dextrous enough to get in and out, they’ll be remarkably happy in the back pews. The driving environment is first rate – Merc interiors are managing to be functional and stark, yet refined and inviting all at the same time these days.
The basic price of this car is $47,600 (AED175k) – which doesn’t seem too high, but then the car we had totalled a more alarming $64,974 (AED239k). Of course you got to go for the AMG sports pack ($2740) but I can’t see the point of paying $3034 for the COMAND Online system. So drop that and on the options list if you also tick: revering camera, iPod or MP3 connections, better headlights; emergency wheel and the Harman Kardon sound system, you can get away with paying $53,108 (AED195k).
Bomb-proof build, luxury and desirability, an uncanny ability to do an impression of a sports car, supreme cruisability when you want it, and the chance to arrive in style whilst sporting the legendary three-pointed star but not having to pilot a behemoth. What’s not to like?
Price: $47,600 (base price)
Engine: 3498cc V6, 306bhp @ 6500rpm, 273lb ft @ 3500-5250rpm
Performance: 6secs 0-100kph, 250kph, 7L/100
Transmission: seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Shahzad’s verdict: Suave and sophisticated daily driver that leaves a grin on your face
(Check out Mohamed Humaid’s review of an old C55 AMG)