What's in a name? For their medium-sized executive coupes, both Audi and BMW have chosen to position their more sporting offerings as stand-alone to the saloon versions, with the respective A5 and 4-Series. That means a different name and different styling.
Mercedes? Well, despite a sometimes bewildering array of CL- and SL- models which have all just been renamed, the coupe version of the C-Class doesn't become the CLC, it's still just a C-Class coupe. Shortly, you'll be able to get a cabriolet too.
But this is our first drive of the C-Class coupe on UK soil. Plus we got our hands on what's likely to be the biggest-selling version: the C220d in sporting AMG Line trim. Priced from £30,995, the range includes C200, C300 and C63 AMG petrols as well as this C220d and the higher-powered C250d diesels.
The C220d is just the sort of car that higher-end company car drivers will like. It produces 170bhp, but more importantly 400Nm of torque, which makes it feel a lot faster than it sounds. Both 6-speed manual and 9-speed automatic gearboxes are available, and there's no CO2 penalty for choosing either — both kick out an impressively low 106 g/km of CO2 which makes them benefit-in-kind tax friendly. That potentially makes the C-Class far more attractive than a BMW 420d (124g/km CO2) or an Audi A5 2.0 TDI ultra, which although close at 109g/km is less powerful.
Our test car featured the automatic gearbox, which always feels a lot more suited to the Mercedes approach to life than a 6-speed manual. It gives a suitably easy, waft-like drive. If that makes the C-Class coupe sound like it's a bit of soft barge to drive, that's not exactly true. This car's ace card is its ability to cosset and smooth road imperfections, while at the same time being quite "up for fun" when you pick up the speed on a country road. And laying some weight to the idea that if feels punchier than its on-paper figures, you always seem to be travelling 10-15 miles per hour faster than you expect to be.
A look at the spec sheet of our car gives a key clue to the way this car drives — it includes the steering, transmission and suspension package (an £895 option). It includes airmatic suspension which self-levels the car, and variable dampers which can firm or soften things up. It works very well, but it made us curious as to what a regularly sprung and damped C-Class would be like.
Inside the C220d AMG it's no surprises if you've already seen the new C-Class saloon or GLC interior. Which means to say that it feels much fresher than an Audi A5 and much more special than a BMW 4-Series. You still need to spend extra to get the larger, 8.4-inch Comand online system, but we're big fans and think it's worth it.
Here the Comand system was bundled as part of Mercedes' Premium Plus package, which for a fiver short of £3k also brings a Burmester stereo, keyless go, memory seats and a panoramic glass roof. If you don't feel like you need all of those bits, Comand is available as a standalone option for less money. Combined with the grey leather upholstery option (£795) and leather upper dash and door beltline (£400) on our car, it makes for an extremely pleasant place to while away the time.
And even if you don't want to go shelling out on options, the C-Class coupe is a well-equipped car. LED headlamps, sports seats, DAB radio, 19-inch alloys and Artico leather seats are all things you might expect to spend extra for on a Merc. But not here. If you wanted this specific model, you could maybe add the Airmatic handling pack and Comand, then for a shade under £40k this would be a car that wants for very little in terms of performance or equipment.
It looks impressive too. Well, with the exception of the odd, contrast chrome strip running along the underside of the front bumper, which clashes with our car's blue metallic paint. The C-Class coupe is an elegant shape; longer than the car it replaces, with a longer wheelbase for a better ride and more rear legroom.
Although it's called a C-Class, the differences compared to the saloon are similar to those of a BMW 4-Series relative to a 3-Series. The C-Class Coupe is noticeably lower and wider-looking than the saloon — and in terms of the body panels, it shares only its front wing and bonnet.
With many buyers of this type of car looking for a premium badge, elegant looks, a refined drive and high levels of efficiency with decent performance, the C-Class coupe is a car that has all the bases covered. More than that, it appeals to both heart and head, too.