What is it?
While it’s best to swerve clichés, sometimes you just have to play the platitudes to avoid having an elephant in the room. So, let’s get the trite bit out of the way from the off: doesn't this new Mercedes C-Class Coupé look rather like a mini S-Class Coupé? And from where I'm standing, that’s rather a good thing.
Whereas the old car was all angles and lines, this bigger 2016 version – it’s 40mm wider, 95mm longer, with an extra 80mm between its wheels – hides its extra metal in gracious swoops and elegant curves, albeit with a bit of glitz (or chintz, depending on your viewpoint) from the diamond-effect grille with chrome pins.
It shares little bodywork with the C-Class Saloon, other than its front wings and bonnet, while underneath there's a new four-link front suspension set-up and an adapted version of the saloon’s multi-link arrangement at the rear. It’s been lowered by 15mm all round, too.
Mechanical springs, non-selectable adaptive dampers and a variable steering rack are the default spec on the entry Sport model, but if you go for this AMG Line trim, everything is tauter with the aim of greater agility. The big deal is the option of fully adjustable air suspension – a first in this coupé class. It’s a not wholly unreasonable £895, and judging by our experience of it here, is well worth the extra.
What's it like?
It’s noticeably better than the old car. For starters the front end feels more connected and willing to turn in, and in Comfort mode the steering has good assistance, building weight more intuitively than that of a BMW 4 Series Coupé. It doesn’t have buckets of old-school feel, and in Sport mode it becomes a bit too heavy, but you can mix and match the settings to compensate.
In Sport it pumps a bit more air into those springs and feels all the more planted as a result. It holds itself together admirably across ragged roads, and if you barrel into a bend there is a hint of roll, but once it settles, the C-Class Coupé earns your trust.
Even when the stakes are high in long, fast, sweepers, you feel you can rely on its inherent stability and balance. It’s still more of a blunt instrument than a 4 Series, which has a little more finesse, but there’s no doubting its effectiveness.
The Mercedes will outdo the BMW in terms of comfort, however, even in this sportier AMG Line guise. Toggle the Dynamic Select switch back to Comfort and it relaxes the springs, and even on 18in wheels it patters over the worst bumps and ridges. At speed there’s a bit of wind noise from around the door mirrors, plus the tyres kick up a bit of din over coarse surfaces, but the same criticisms apply to the BMW.
While the new, optional nine-speed automatic gearbox is snappy enough when you manually pull the paddles, in auto mode it slurs away through its many ratios without you ever really noticing. And when it’s at a steady 70mph in top gear the engine’s pulling just 1350rpm, so you barely notice that, either.