Lincolnshire

Test Drive: Five minutes with a Mercedes-Benz C 250 d Coupe

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What is it?

The latest Mercedes C-Class Coupe, which – along with the closely-related Cabriolet model – provides the visual flair in the otherwise sensible C-Class family.

Mercedes hasn’t really ever made a huge stylistic effort with the preceding C-Coupe models but this time around, Stuttgart has made sure the two-door C-Class is much differentiated and thus far sexier to behold than your average four-door Mercedes executive saloon.

It uses fairly prosaic engines, though (unless you go for one of the Mercedes-AMG variants, which are the C 43 or the truly exceptional C 63), these powerplants comprising a variety of turbocharged four-cylinder petrols and diesels.

This model, the C 250 d, is the most potent diesel, using the venerable 2.1-litre twin-turbo unit that has seen service since 2008. That means it has 204hp, as opposed to the same mill in the C 220 d, where it makes 170hp.

Apart from that lower-spec diesel, which is manual as standard or auto as a cost option, all C-Class Coupes have the nine-speed 9G-Tronic gearbox and there’s also the ability to send power to the front axle as well as the rear, courtesy of 4Matic on the option lists. This C 250 d is in AMG Line specification, which is preferred by most buyers over and above the cheaper Sport models.

Why are you driving it?

Premium four-seat coupes like this might seem like niche cars but they’re very popular with buyers who want practicality allied to plenty of visual excitement.

There are some obvious quality rivals for the C-Coupe – such as the Audi A5, BMW 4 Series and Lexus RC – but, while previous generations of the Mercedes two-door have always had a whiff of the also-ran about them, the sleek appearance of this new model might just make the C-Class Coupe the first car you should be looking at if you’re in the market for this sort of thing.

What do you like about it?

Well, as we’ve alluded to, the C 250 d is lovely to behold. Mercedes is getting stick at the moment because its C-Class Saloon looks very much like an E-Class Saloon, which in turn is just a slightly smaller S-Class Saloon; ‘Russian Doll Syndrome’, some critics call this.

Well, RDS applies to Mercedes’ current coupes too, because this C-Class is visually near-identical to the E-Class and S-Class two-door variants higher up the food chain. Yet there’s no shame in that, because Mercedes has the visual aesthetic spot on.

There’s a slightly odd trick of the eye if you look at the front three-quarters of the car from a low perspective, as its defined rear shoulders can appear odd after the tapered glasshouse, but from all other angles it has immense kerb appeal. And surely, if you’re buying a coupe, then one of your primary motivators is that you want it to look good? No question the Mercedes is leading the pack on that score.

It also has a beautiful cabin with lovely appointments and finishes, while it’s an enjoyable car to drive in a variety of scenarios. The 204hp engine bestows effortless pace on the C 250 d and while it is as magnificently refined as you would expect of a Mercedes-Benz when it’s cruising along big, fast, open roads, it’s actually a very decent steer on tighter, quieter country lanes.

The steering is fantastic, one of the best EPAS set-ups we’ve encountered, and with optional Airmatic Dynamic Handling adjustable air suspension (£895), you can fine-tune the balance between ride comfort and rock-solid body control as you wish. Even with a diesel powerplant, this Merc is a coupe which backs up its aesthetic elan with true dynamic polish.

Any issues?

Like any optioned-up Mercedes, the C 250 d is not cheap – you’re talking about the best part of 50 grand for a machine which uses an engine that is now almost a decade old. And while the 2.1 is one of the best applications of this four-cylinder we’ve yet tried, it’s still not as hushed, smooth and refined as the newer 2.0-litre turbodiesel that has been introduced in the bigger E-Class; we’re not sure why Mercedes isn’t just rolling out the fresher motor in all its models from this point on.

Also, it is a strict four-seater and with a six-foot driver sitting up front, legroom in the rear of the C-Class Coupe is pretty limited.

Access to those back pews isn’t the easiest, either, despite the electric front seats automatically moving forward to their fullest extent when you tilt the backrest forward.

What’s it like as a business vehicle – are there any tax benefits?

You pick the C 250 d (or C 220 d) over any of the C 200, C 300 or AMG-powered petrol alternatives because it makes much more sense from a fiscal point of view. Low CO2 emissions and impressive economy claims of 64mpg-plus make this a superb blend of power and parsimony.

We actually churned out 46.3mpg from it across 375 miles, with a real-world 55mpg on a long motorway run being deeply impressive for a relatively powerful, sporty car like this. Benefit-in-Kind is a very decent 24%, although watch for options tipping the Merc’s list price beyond the £40,000 threshold, as this increases the road tax burden from years two to six of ownership from £140 per annum to £450 annually.

Where does it rank in class right now?

We’d pick the Mercedes C-Class Coupe before any of its obvious rivals.

The 4 Series is about to be refreshed but it’s getting on a bit now and it has never been BMW’s most scintillating car; there’s also no direct analogue for the C 250 d, as you have to either spend the same and get the less-powerful 420d, or shell out more for the six-cylinder 430d.

The brand-new Audi A5 is a lovely car in many respects, but its strangely stretched front-end design isn’t the most pleasing on the eye.

And the Lexus? It’s a leftfield choice: you have it because you just want to be different, when – in reality – you know in your heart of hearts that it simply isn’t as good as the German opposition.

So, all things considered, if you’re after a rakish four-seat premium machine, there’s nothing finer than the Mercedes C-Class Coupe. And we’d go so far as to say that the C 250 d AMG Line is the pick of the ‘regular’ models, because it offers the best of many worlds in one attractive package.

It’s a rather splendid, grown-up sports car, all things considered, and that’s why we love it, despite its ageing engine.

TECH SPEC

  • Model: Mercedes-Benz C 250 d Coupe AMG Line
  • Price: C-Class Coupe range starts from £32,280; C 250 d AMG Line from £38,245, car as tested £47,820
  • Drivetrain: 2.1-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
  • Economy: 64.2mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 112g/km – £160 VED first 12 months, then £450 per annum next five years, then £140 annually thereafter; 24% benefit in kind
  • Top speed: 153mph
  • 0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
  • Power: 204hp at 3,800rpm
  • Torque: 500Nm at 1,600- to 1,800rpm