The 2017 Mercedes C300 Coupe is a visual knockout. It places fuel economy and practicality on the back burner, focusing instead on stewing a fine batch of pure, distilled beauty. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
When we got our first glimpse of the new W205 generation Mercedes C-Class sedan, we said it looked a lot like the handsome CLA, only without the “melty ass,” even going so far as to call it “hands down the best looking C ever made.” I just drove the new coupe version of that car, and I think it looks even better.
So it’s easy on the eyes. Can the driving experience back up the way it looks?
[Full disclosure: Mercedes flew me to Maine, put me up in a fine hotel, and served me fine foods and drinks on a private island. I tried my best to pretend that I belonged by talking about summer homes and stock portfolios. I think I fooled them.]
Mercedes didn’t seem to put a ton of styling effort into the design of the outgoing W204 generation Mercedes C-Class Coupe, which had been around since 2012—it’s as if Mercedes had just said “okay, we need a coupe for well-off folks without kids, so lop a few doors off the sedan and call it a day.”
It didn’t help that the car was based off the significantly less sexy W204 sedan. The result was a car that just didn’t quite look right. The prominent door frame, the short stubby hood, that big crease where the hood met the front fender, the huge greenhouse, the horrid curve over the rear wheel arch—it just looked wrong for anything pretending to be “sporty.”
The new 2017 C300 Coupe, though, looks like it was designed as a coupe from day one. Everything from the extra 2.4-inches between the firewall and front wheels, to the additional 3.6-inches in overall length and 1.6-inches in width adds up to a car that drips with swagger.
Compared to the already-sexy sedan, the Coupe sits 0.6-inches lower, and replaces the two-bar grille with an aggressive single-bar design. That, plus the standard LED headlights, big intakes in the lower fascia, and that elegant line that runs from the headlight to just above the rear wheel-arch, means the coupe is somehow even hotter than its already attractive sedan sister.
The cars I drove, and the cars you see in these pictures, came with the $1,675 Sport Package, which includes the chrome diamond grille, AMG lower bodywork and intakes, 18-inch AMG wheels, sport-tuned springs and shocks, perforated brake rotors with painted calipers, an MB-Tex fake leather vinyl covered upper dash, brushed-aluminum pedals and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
Even if the package didn’t come with the brake and suspension tweaks, the grille and lower bodywork alone would make me tick that box.
Yes, I’ll hand in my Jalop-card now, because I’d actually spend some serious coin on something purely aesthetic. Something about those recessed little chrome diamonds seemingly floating just beyond the three-pointed star makes me weak at the knees.
Mercedes says the C-Class Coupe has got a “great ass,” but that’s the only angle I’m not quite so sure about. The lights and overall rear styling look great, but the butt just looks too high off the ground—a bit too Accord Crosstour-ish. Why does a luxury coupe need to have the departure angle of a Jeep Wrangler?
It’s a small quibble about an otherwise nearly flawless design execution. Every time I exited the subtle-but-beautiful interior, I craned my neck to get a final glimpse of that stunning fascia and profile. That’s how a Benz should be.
The interior’s a nice thing to look at too. The seats—which come standard with MB-Tex covers—are fabulously comfortable, coming in a variety of colors including white, red, brown, black and gray.
The metal mesh speakers in the doors looks elegant, and there was nothing cheap about any of the switches, handles or vents. I found very few faults with the C-Class’s interior—I really had to look for them.
Okay, one flaw was obvious, though it’s an easy target, and one that auto journalists whine about often. My nearly $55,000 tester had a blank button on the door for the optional vented seats. I know, it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the blank was just far too glaring to ignore.
Also, the electric seat adjuster switch didn’t have enough space between the buttons, so adjusting certain parts of the seat—for example, moving the headrest upwards— involved trying to cram your finger between the backrest and headrest adjuster buttons. Again, a very minuscule complaint.
The optional 8.4-inch infotainment screen (a seven-incher is standard) looked like a tablet just pasted onto the dash, and while a lot of critics hate this and would prefer a well-integrated screen, I didn’t mind it here.
What I did mind was the top part of the plastic molding supporting that screen to the dashboard, which was visible from the driver’s seat, and didn’t look particularly elegant. Most people would probably never notice it.
The actual controls for the “intuitive multimedia infotainment system” really weren’t all that, well, intuitive. My copilot—a veteran of the car-reviewing circuit—and I struggled with the touchpad-mouse thingy.
It’s definitely a user interface that will require a dealer to sit down with the buyer and walk them through the various functions, the even then, the user will still have a while to go before fully figuring it out.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. You can’t expect the infotainment system to be as simple as an old Pac-Man game, and I think Mercedes customers expect a bit of a learning curve for the fancy gadgets in their luxury cars. Perhaps I’d get used to the interface over time, but for now, I think that spaceship-like controller is a bit much.
The back seats are useless for real-sized human beings. I’m only five-foot-eight on a warm day with thermal expansion working in my favor, and I had to break my neck in two places to clear that swooping roof. And I’m still picking bits of headliner out of my hair.
Even the front seats didn’t seem to offer all that much headroom, so if you’re a tall skyscraper of a human being, the C-Class Coupe might be a tad tight.
The trunk, opened via an optional foot sensor (which could be fussy here at times), is smaller than the sedan’s (2.1 cubic feet smaller, to be exact), and seemed shallow, but between it and the rear seats, there’s plenty of storage space.
The C300 Coupe gets moving thanks to a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four churning out 241 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 1,300 rpm. (Did you expect the “300" to mean anything? Of course not.)
It’s a rhinoceros of low-end torque, especially from a little two-liter—even more so than the 3.5-liter V6 it replaces, and more so than the 2.0-liter engines in the BMW 428i and Audi A5.
The engine bay looked nice from a layman’s view, with what looks like an air-to-liquid charge air cooler on the right side, an air-box just to the left of the engine fed by a big long snorkel, and reservoirs painted black.
A closer look reveals just how crowded that engine bay is (not unusual for modern turbocharged engines). I tried getting a glimpse of the cooling system routing (I was intrigued by the large charge air cooler), but there was just so much crap in the way, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Managing that engine’s operating points is a seven-speed conventional automatic transmission which routes power to either the rear wheels or all four.
Turning the front wheels about a different axis is an electronic power steering rack, which felt sharp, direct, and any other adjective that describes a solidly good steering system.
Despite its aluminum fenders, hood and trunk, the C300 Coupe still bends the scale at 3,638 pounds in two-wheel drive guise and an even chunkier 3,770 pounds with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
The four-link independent front suspension and five-link rear handle that mass with grace, though. The car didn’t feel heavy in turns, body roll was always under control, and ride quality—in any drive mode and with or without the optional AIRMATIC air suspension with dynamic damping—was very good.
Like seemingly every luxury car these days, you can pick from Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual (customizable) modes, which adjust parameters like throttle response, transmission shift schedule, suspension firmness (on AIRMATIC models), steering sensitivity, air conditioning duty cycle, and start/stop function.
I found that changing between ECO and Sport+ didn’t exactly release a beast, but sharper throttle response and more time in lower gears definitely made the car more fun to drive.
Mercedes reports a zero to 60 mph figure for both the rear and all-wheel drive models as 5.9 seconds, and based on my few days behind the wheel, that sounds about right.
The little engine didn’t feel underpowered, but even in Sport+ mode, it sure as hell didn’t feel like a monster either. It was just enough grunt for this car, even if the seven-speed was slow to shift at times.
The little 2.0-liter mill sounds nice at high RPMs when you really dig your foot deep into the throttle. At idle, though the little four-pot can sound a bit like someone’s shaking a penny inside a coffee can.
Whether your average customer gives a crap, I’m not sure. But as someone who notices these kinds of things, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to my junky 1995 Honda Accord. And that’s probably not what you want a Mercedes customer doing–drawing parallels to their old shitboxes.
But turbocharged four-cylinder engines are here to stay, and with time, I think customers will stop associating the sounds of four-pots with “cheapness.” Still, one of the benefits of a four-banger is fuel economy, and on that front, it doesn’t seem like Mercedes is capitalizing.
With its nice ride and comfortable interior, the C-Class coupe would make for a great road-tripper for a single person or a couple without kids. But if there’s anything disappointing about the C300 Coupe, it’s the fuel economy, particularly in rear-wheel drive guise.
That model manages city/highway/combined figures of only 23/30/25. “So what, that’s similar to the ATS 2.0-liter coupe’s numbers at 22/31/26 MPG,” you might say, before quickly remembering that the ATS makes 31 more horsepower and 22 more lb-ft of torque.
How does the Benz compare to the Bavarians? Not so well. The 240-horsepower BMW 428i manages 23/35/27. That’s five MPG better on the highway, and 2 MPG better combined. Throw the lard-ass Lexus RC into the mix, with its 22/32/26 ratings, and you have to wonder what’s holding the Merc back.
To be fair, the gap between the C300 coupe’s fuel economy and its competition’s narrows considerably when we look at the all-wheel drive models. The C300 4MATIC scores 23/29/25, while the all-wheel drive 2.0-liter ATS Coupe gets 22/30/25, the 428xi scores 22/34/26, and the A5 quattro manages 21/30/25—so a spread of only one MPG combined.
It’s worth noting that next year, the C300 will move to a nine-speed gearbox, so highway fuel economy numbers may improve. Considering the current seven-speed already has three overdrive gears, though, I can’t imagine it would change by much.
The Mercedes C-Class Coupe comes in two trim levels for now: C300 Coupe and C300 Coupe 4MATIC, which start at $42,650 and $44,650, respectively. If you need more power, twin-turbo V8 C63 AMG models are due later this year. But until then, you’re stuck with the C300.
The good news, though, is that even that base trim offers tons of standard and available gadgetry.
The Mercedes C300 Coupe is a miniature S-Class Coupe. It’s sexy as a slim-cut dark suit without a tie, and comfortable as Sunday Night Football in your boxers.
The car feels quick enough, especially at low speeds around town, and handles the turns with composure. And even if fuel economy isn’t as good as the competition, the Merc was a genuine joy to drive around the coastal streets of Maine, and I can think of few other coupes I’d rather drive for long distances.
Did I mention it’s good looking too? Because it is.