BMW's 3 Series Coupe is probably better known than the C 350 Coupe built by Mercedes-Benz, but that doesn't mean one is better than the other. This pair of two-door Germans shares much in common while remaining suitably distinct, allowing respective owners to claim superiority in hotly contested coupe debates.
Arguing whose sleek four-seater is best is much like arguing politics: there's no incorrect answer, only incorrect assumptions.
New for 2012
The C-Class Coupe is a new ride for Mercedes. Delivered as a 2012 model, it is powered by a range of engines. This week's tester falls mid-way in the assortment with a naturally aspirated V6 powerplant beneath its hood.
Engine choices are book-ended with a 201-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder in the C 250 Coupe and a wicked 451-hp V8 monster in the C 63 AMG. The C 350 Coupe splits the deck with its 3.5L mill capable of generating 302 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500 rpm.
The only transmission available is a 7-speed automatic affair, referred to by Mercedes as 7G-TRONIC PLUS. Fortunately, this unit directs power to the C 350's rear wheels, unless of course, the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive option is selected.
My tester was rear-wheel-drive configured. While I'm a fan of AWD, it certainly wasn't necessary during this week of clear, dry weather. Traction was never a problem as all the engine's power found its way to the pavement.
Seven cogs and 302 hp, along with plenty of torque, imparts stronger acceleration than I expected in a vehicle the size and weight of the C 350 Coupe, which weighs in at 1,615 kg (3,553 lb). While not a serious lightweight, it's reasonably svelte for a luxury performance car.
Mercedes clearly placed a heavy emphasis on performance, both in a straight line and through the curves.
The powerful coupe generally pulls away from a stop in second gear while delivering favourable acceleration. Nail the throttle in search of full force, and the C 350 Coupe engages its low-ratio first gear to ensure a catapult-like departure.
The ferocity is maintained as the cogs are rapidly swapped for size. Mercedes literature claims a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 6.0 seconds, and I have no reason to doubt the figure.
The C 350 Coupe manages to blend luxury with performance remarkably well thanks to its Agility Control suspension and the on-board Sport Mode, which instantly firms up the underpinnings to elevate the coupe’s handling dynamics.
When the Sport Mode isn’t in use, the vehicle’s self-damping suspension constantly adjusts between soft and firm to ensure the best of both worlds, handling and comfort, is achieved.
I chose to forgo the Sport Mode in favour of the absorbent ride quality of the C 350 Coupe. It’s a comfortable car to cruise in, and it’s always up for some fun when the road permits. With or without the Sport Mode activated, the C 350 Coupe is notably quick, planted and balanced in the corners.
And while underway, noise is kept to a minimum provided the engine is at peace with itself rather than being squeezed for juice.
Behind the wheel
Passengers entering the C 350 Coupe are likely to remark that it's a long way down. The seating position in this car is quite low, relatively speaking. The vehicle's high waistline tends to emphasize the effect; it's somewhat like sitting in a high-sided bathtub.
Nonetheless, the Coupe's cabin is comfortable, well finished and attractive. Time behind the wheel is needed to really appreciate its design and the support of its beautifully stitched leather seats. Time in the rear seat isn't likely to produce the same happy results.
The two rear seating positions are awkward to access, and once in place, headroom becomes an issue for tall passengers; legroom too if the front seats are not positioned forward. The rear seat is best suited to kids.
On the plus side, my tester was equipped with an opening panoramic glass roof that kept the cabin bright and airy.
The C 350 Coupe wrap
Presumably the best known German coupe is the BMW 3-Series Coupe. It's been the coupe benchmark for many years. Mercedes isn't about to topple that dynasty but they do offer a realistic alternative.
The 2012 C 350 Coupe embodies many of the same attributes of the Bimmer while making a slightly different, if not more upscale, statement. It's definitely worth swinging by the Mercedes shop prior to an instinctive migration to the BMW store.
Other Reviews Available For The 2012 Mercedes C-Class Coupe
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2012 Mercedes C-Class Coupe Specifications
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