To Autocar’s dismay, we had the former – the negative feeling stemming from this having “performance than in no way lives up to the expectations implied by the car's looks”, due to the car “weighing in at 27cwt, a big mass to be propelled with only 110bhp”.
Thus, we recommended to anyone considering the Coupé to pay the considerable extra for the more powerful model.
On the road, we weren’t particularly impressed: “Although offering less interior space than the former 230 saloon of the previous generation, the 230C is fully 1cwt heavier in running trim, and with the extra power loss of automatic transmission, it proved a good deal slower,” we grumbled. “Acceleration from rest takes nearly as long to reach 90mph as the previous car took to reach 100mph.
“In ordinary driving, we found ourselves having to bully the 230C along and the car gives the impression that this is the right way to drive it.” Indeed, we struggled to reach 100mph on windy autobahnen.
So, perhaps the 230C worked best as a sedate cruiser for the equanimous driver? “The engine is never particularly quiet, but the noise level does not get appreciably worse in hard driving,” we commented. Ah, maybe not, then.
However, the four-speed automatic transmission was, in our opinion, “considered from all aspects, the best currently available,” on account of it being “extremely responsive to the driver’s mood, hanging on to higher gears if throttle openings are small, and changing smoothly down to third gear and holding onto peak revs if the driver wants to get a move on”. Its selector, too, was positive and definite in its action.
Fuel consumption proved to be a sticking point, though. “Cruising at 100mph, it was alarming to note the rate at which the fuel gauge would fall, and even driving on until the warning light had lit up, we were barely able to cover 200 miles between fuel halts, as consumption was down to 16mpg.” At a more leisurely pace, 19mpg proved a more representative figure in Britain.
Returning to driving matters, Autocar had a pleased but nonplussed view of the 230C’s ride, handling and steering.
“Almost whichever Mercedes one drives,” we said, “they all have the same basic handling characteristics of noticeable but not excessive understeer on corners, coupled with well-controlled roll. When pushed really hard into a corner there is a measure of sway and a tendency for the tail to dip and swing out slightly, helping the car to go round. It is certainly a very manageable car of the kind in which one feels very safe and confident that the handling will not perform any unexpected tricks.”