Road test: Mercedes-Benz C220 is different class

The C220 diesel coupe is slicker than its predecessor, the CLC
The C220 diesel coupe is slicker than its predecessor, the CLC
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SO, farewell then, Mercedes-Benz CLC. For ten years, you offered many a grateful Merc driver a cut-price path to C-Class ownership, but now your masters have pulled the plug on your production. So let us pause for a moment, to shed a tear at the passing of your blend of coupe styling and three-door hatchback practicality.

Actually, let’s not. To be honest, I always thought the CLC was a bit of a misshapen minger, sharp at the front but cut off in its prime at the back, a bit like the wonky-looking 3-Series Compact which BMW carved up – sorry, served up – almost 20 years ago. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go.

Thankfully, “minger” is not an accusation I can level at the CLC’s graceful replacement, the C-Class Coupe. As you can see from the pictures, it has a beginning, a middle AND an end, just like a proper coupe should. It also has 18-inch AMG five-spoke alloy wheels and an AMG body kit, fitted as standard to all UK-bound models, which help it cut an even sharper dash.

If you think it looks a lot like the BMW 3 Series Coupe – and it certainly fooled a few friends during our week together – then you’ve already worked out the identity of its chief rival. And if you think I’m obsessing over its looks at the risk of ignoring everything else, it’s only because a fair number of cars in this sector will be bought on looks alone.

Look beyond the looks, however, and you’ll find that the rest of the C-Class Coupe adds up.

A choice of six engines is offered – two four-cylinder diesels, two four-cylinder petrols, a 3.5-litre V6 and the bonkers 6.3-litre AMG V8. Our C220 CDI test car’s 170 horsepower diesel engine comes second from bottom in the power chart, but we’re willing to wager it’s the pick of the bunch for most buyers, offering a good mix of performance and economy. It doesn’t even sound very diesely, answering every dab of the throttle with a pleasing thrum.

Coupled to the £1,500 optional seven-speed auto box, it pings the coupe to 60mph in 8.1 seconds, with lots of mid-range punch for stress-free overtaking, and you’ll have no trouble seeing 45mpg-plus on your trip computer. Stop-start is standard issue.

Bits-and-size-wise, the coupe shares just about everything with its four-door C-Class saloon stablemate. Only its side-on profile is different, by dint of the swooping rear roofline and suspension that’s been lowered by 15mm. Space in the back for grown-ups is reasonable, although very tall occupants might wish you’d bought the saloon instead.

That apart, the interior is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Material choice (lots of leather, stainless steel and soft-touch plastics) is first class, and the way it’s all put together suggests that Mercedes-Benz has listened to recent grumblings about build quality.

A Saturday afternoon jaunt across the Border to Lindisfarne underlined the coupe’s talents as a cross-country cruiser. It was whisper-quiet on the A1, and never unsettled by pock-marked and mud-splattered side roads off it, thanks to something called Agility Control suspension, which adjusts damper settings to suit the road surface.

Another thing the trip underlined was our inability to read tide tables correctly, so Lindisfarne remained an ocean apart by the time we arrived at Northumberland’s coast. The Merc is good, but it can’t quite walk on water. Still, we can vouch for the effectiveness of its anti-lock braking system on the still-slippery approaches to the causeway, and the low-speed lightness of the speed-sensitive steering allowed for a quick three-point turn and swift retreat as the North Sea edged closer.

So, sensible saloon or rakish coupe? We’ll take the two-door, thanks, which adds an extra dash of panache to the already stylish C-Class without taking anything away.


CAR: Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI BlueEfficiency AMG Sport Coupe

PRICE: £32,580 (£41,505 as tested)

PERFORMANCE: Max speed 144mph; 0-60mph 8.1s

MPG: 43.5 combined

EMISSIONS: 139g/km