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Car group tests

Mercedes C-Class Coupe

Two-door diesel trails on power, but offers plenty of class

The C-Class Coupe marks a return to form for Mercedes, after years in the compact coupe doldrums. The old hatchback-styled CLC simply didn’t have the looks, quality or driver appeal to cut it in this market.

Slotting into the range below the E-Class Coupe, the latest car is much more promising. Familiar Mercedes styling cues are clear to see, and from the front bumper to the base of the windscreen it’s identical to the Sport-spec saloon. As a result, the slightly bluff front end doesn’t look as sleek as the Audi’s.

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However, the screen is more steeply raked than the four-door’s and the rest of the body is unique to the Coupe. Its rising waistline and smart detailing give the car a stylish look in profile. The neat AMG bodykit and standard 18-inch wheels go some way to matching the kerb appeal of our A5 S line, too.

Inside, the Mercedes doesn’t feel as special as the Audi. A facelift to the C-Class range last year brought improved materials, new dials and a tweaked layout, and we can’t fault the quality. But while the A5 was built from the ground up as a coupe, the Mercedes gives away its saloon roots with its flat dashboard and high-set driving position.

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In terms of practicality, though, the two cars are closely matched, with adults in the back of the C-Class finding their knees brushing the front seats, just as they do in the A5. But the full-length panoramic roof (a £1,350 option) eats into rear headroom in the Mercedes; if you plan to carry adults in the back regularly, we’d steer clear of this option.

As with the A5, the C-Class’s rear seat splits and folds as standard, and this boosts the car’s 450-litre load capacity.

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Head to the test track and the 2.1-litre four-cylinder C250 CDI punches above its weight, and gives the 3.0-litre V6 Audi a run for its money. The twin-turbo engine pumps out an identical 500Nm of torque, and provides similar in-gear performance to the A5.

On the road, throttle response isn’t as sharp and the engine doesn’t have the upmarket refinement you’d expect. There’s some rattle at start-up and it isn’t as smooth as the TDI through the mid-range. But as the CDI has to be worked hard, it takes on a slightly sporty and raspy nature at higher revs.

It isn’t just the engine that’s a mixed bag. The C-Class has standard adaptive dampers, but its suspension has been lowered by 15mm. It feels softer than the Audi and on smooth roads it’s more compliant. However, on bumpy tarmac it fidgets.

Through corners there’s a fraction more roll and not as much grip as in the Audi, but the rear-wheel-drive chassis delivers reasonable feedback and handling composure.

The question is whether buyers will look beyond the Mercedes’ less appealing interior and be won over by its financial benefits – as it’s cheaper and more efficient than its rival here.

Details

Chart position: 2
WHY: The C-Class Coupe has a level of desirability lacking in its predecessor – the hatch-styled CLC – and slots into the line-up below the E-Class Coupe.

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