What is it?
The new Mercedes C-Class Coupé is more than just a three-door version of the C-Class saloon, that’s for sure. This sporting take on Merc’s staple compact executive shares only its wings and bonnet with the saloon and gets a different take on the multi-link front suspension set-up, 15mm lowered ride height and tweaked steering software.
The question is, does this slippery-looking new coupé live up to its sports car billing even on UK roads, and when fitted with the twin-turbocharged 2.1-litre diesel and new nine-speed automatic gearbox?
What's it like?
It's really very good - substantially sharper overall than the saloon. Sure, it’s not a car that feels overtly pointy and eager the minute you set off; rather, it feels quite calm, yet connected enough through the noticeably improved steering to satisfy in the everyday muddle of busy town or motorway commuting.
The new nine-speed automatic gearbox is another big improvement over the seven-speeder that you still currently get with the C 250 d saloon. Step-off is smooth and progressive, and shifts are well blurred even in vigorous driving, which lets you make the most of the gruff-sounding but impressively gutsy diesel.
Give it everything and you get a pause on kickdown and a slight shunt on upshifts, but it still shifts crisply and when you want it to, even if resorting to the paddles is still the more rewarding way to go in faster stuff.
There’s a real bite to the front end; it feels incisive as you turn in and the steering delivers an organic build-up of resistance through the corner. It’s not as darty-feeling as the quicker rack in a BMW 4 Series, but the slower, more natural feel of the Merc is arguably the more rewarding set-up.
What's less successful is the standard suspension on the AMG Line. The C-Class Coupé gets adaptive dampers and steel springs as standard regardless of trim, but the AMG Line model gets stiffer damper and spring settings than the Comfort suspension that's standard on the cheaper Sport model (the latter of which we haven't tried).
Even in the more forgiving of the drive modes, the AMG Line suspension feels busy over motorway surfaces, and with cornering forces involved can be reactive enough to a mid-corner bump to cause the car to lose traction momentarily.
We have tried the optional air suspension in the C 220 d Coupé on our awkward roads, which delivers a rewarding balance of soothing comfort without dulling the handling edge, so for the reasonable (in this class) extra cost of £895 for the air springs, we'd say it's a no-brainer.
You’re unlikely to be disappointed with the interior, either. New sports seats are supportive and comfortable and include adjustable lumbar support as standard even in base Sport trim, while the dash looks smart with a tactile blend of materials and finishes.
Some might not like the way the 7.0in colour screen looks tacked on rather than integrated, and the system takes some getting used to with its overly complex menus and controls, but the graphics are crisp and you’ve got all the functionality you could want, including sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB and full connectivity for your phone or MP3 player.
It’s a bit of a squeeze to get in the back, but nothing unusual by the standards of this class, and once you’re in, there’s enough head- and legroom for an average-sized adult to be comfortable even on longer journeys - certainly usefully better than in an Audi A5, and about on a par with a BMW 4 Series.
There are only two seats in the back, though, and it’s rather dark back there, but it's likely to be more than practical enough for the occasional journey four up. The boot is similarly fit for purpose, stretching back a long way and offering plenty enough space for the obligatory set of golf clubs.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for a plush diesel coupé, this should be top of your shortlist. There’s clearly strong competition from the likes of the BMW 4 Series, but the Merc is competitively priced and generously equipped, and in many ways there's more charm and sense of involvement to the way it goes down the road than you get from the slightly more heavy-handed, albeit still thoroughly enjoyable 4 Series.
We also now know that the Merc works really well in the UK, provided you do go for the air suspension. It's a shame that the baby Merc coupé isn't currently available with four-wheel drive or an engine to compete with the brutally rapid BMW 430d (which is also substantially more expensive than the C 250 d Coupé), but there's still more than enough reason to opt for the well-rounded abilities of the Mercedes.
Mercedes-Benz C 250 d AMG Line Coupé
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £37,615; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, turbodiesel; Power 201bhp at 3800rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1600-1800rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1645kg; Top speed 153mph; 0 62mph 6.7sec; Economy 67.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 109g/km, 19%