First Drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe

Benz’s latest C Coupe makes itself at home with the hipsters in Maine

The hipsters are dead. Long live the hipsters … or the yuccies. Or whatever you want to call them. Portland, Maine, is a city that's grown more in the past 10 years than it has in the last 50. Though the city's still peppered with lobstermen spewing salty language who ply their trade in Casco Bay, residents now also rub elbows with yoga-panted, microbrew-swilling transplants and the old money set. It's also a perfect place to show off the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe.

Framed against this flannel and gluten-free, potato-flour-donut backdrop, the C300 Coupe fits right in. It's a car aimed at hip up-and-comers-sans-kids, with available all-wheel drive for when the snow starts dumping. It's a looker, too. Four inches longer and 2 inches wider than its predecessor, the C300 sports a lean and agile appearance from the side, thanks in part to a single shoulder line that stretches from stem to stern. And all that time at the yoga studio has transformed the previous model's angular, droopy-drawered rear end, giving the new car what Mercedes-Benz product planner Heiko Schmidt calls "a great ass."

At the front, the 2017 C300 Coupe gets a 2.5-inch stretch from firewall to front axle, with Benz's single-louver, diamond radiator grille as the highlight attraction. Though the doors aren't frameless (due in part to what Mercedes calls "launch constraints"), a bit of a letdown for a car of this nature, they don't materially detract from the long, lean silhouette. Taken together, it's a lower, meaner, and more attractive exterior, with standard 18-inch rolling stock (19-inchers are optional) rounding out the package.

Inside, the C300 Coupe gets the full-on baby S-Class treatment. A new cabin layout reminiscent of its well-received C-Class sedan sibling moves the gear selector to the steering column and replaces it in the center console with Benz's new-generation COMAND controller and touchpad. Step up to the $4,800 Premium 2 package, and you get the new 8.4-inch navi/infotainment screen that graces the center of the dash. Word to the wise, though: Once underway you're locked out of certain functions—even if your passenger is doing the toggling.

Its sport-oriented seats are designed specifically for the car and hug both passenger and driver comfortably. A new, standard automatic seat-belt butler glides forward after you climb in and close the door. With the added length and width outside comes more space inside—at least for front passengers. Shoulder room, head room, and hip room are all improved and fully adjustable, no matter if your driving partner is 6-foot-plus or 5-foot-minus. The C300's standard sliding panoramic sunroof offers up an airy feeling when open and adjusts itself based on vehicle speed in an effort to keep the noise in the cabin to a minimum. It also automatically adapts to rainy conditions when necessary. There are two rear seats, though they're all but unusable by a normal-size adult. Think of them as really nice package shelves with seat belts, if you will.

With the launch of the new C300 Coupe also comes a suite of new appearance options, including a selection of gorgeous open-pore woods. There's also the more garish and pricey Mercedes Designo red leather package, if you're into that, and a new brilliant blue exterior color.

So it looks good, and it's much improved inside. What's under the hood? A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger with 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, mated to Benz's ubiquitous seven-speed automatic transmission (the new nine-speed is on the way soon). It feels more than capable and delivers more torque at lower revs than the outgoing car's naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, thanks in large part to the boost from the turbo. If that's not enough power for you, fear not, fair buyer, Mercedes will offer up two AMG variants of the C Coupe shortly—the C43 and the C63—both with higher output. Although the base, rear-wheel-drive 2017 C300 Coupe isn't exactly svelte at 3,638 pounds, Mercedes says it will do 0-to-60 in 5.9 seconds and onto an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.

If we have one quibble with the turbo-four, it's the sound, or lack thereof. It doesn't have that same growl as the six-cylinder, regardless of the exhaust note setting. Speaking of sound, at times during our drive we noticed that the car would send more road noise into the cabin than engine noise. The all-weather tires our test cars wore were probably partly to blame though.

Over the undulations, bumps, and gyrations of the winding back roads of Maine and New Hampshire, the suspension in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe communicates to its cabin occupants in a surprisingly stout way. A new four-link front axle decoupled from the spring struts gives the C300 Coupe good lateral grip and stability, while a five-link independent rear keeps the car planted in a straight line.

In models equipped with the optional Airmatic suspension, with its electronically controlled, fully adjustable damping, the driver can select just how much communication they want from the road. Toggle the Dynamic Select switch next to the COMAND controller from Eco to Comfort and the ride stiffens barely a hair and feels somewhat sedate, if not mushy, in corners. Put it into Sport or Sport+ mode and you'll certainly feel the ancient ice heaves, but it won't be enough to dislodge your soy, half-caff latte from its cupholder. The standard steel suspension feels like the sweet spot for the C300 Coupe, however. It does the job without the weird, disconnected, electronic sense you get from the cushier, more expensive air-spring setup.

Like the weather in Maine, the car's character is mutable in both variations with the flip of the Dynamic Select switch. The driver can adjust the C300 Coupe a variety of ways. In each mode, the steering feel, (Airmatic) suspension, gearing, engine sound, auto start-stop—even climate control, defroster, and seat heaters—are adjusted to set levels. In Eco, the C300 Coupe is almost Prius-like, stopping and starting, cutting the throttle to conserve gas, and offering up a sedate engine sound and ride quality. Sport+ offers a much more raucous experience best suited for smooth roads, without cops. Individual mode is the magic elixir. Here you can set the car up exactly as you like it. Set suspension to Comfort and everything else to Sport+ and the C300 Coupe feels direct and responsive while remaining compliant and comfortable for passengers—even on the far-from-perfect roads around Maine's White Mountain.

Mercedes offers the C300 Coupe in standard rear-wheel drive and optional 4Matic all-wheel drive, with Benz expecting a take rate of around 40 percent for the 4Matic model—primarily in snowbelt states. We weren't treated to a freak late-spring snowstorm on the test drive, so we didn't get much of a chance to experience the true differences between the 4Matic-equipped and the rear-drive cars on dry New England roads.

Mercedes also wants its target customers to feel as safe as they are comfortable from behind the wheel, so it's included its Attention Assist system with adjustable sensitivity as standard equipment. The new C300 Coupe also comes standard with collision prevention and adaptive braking systems to help avoid crashes. The system can brake autonomously at speeds up to 124 mph or at speeds up to 31 mph when it comes upon stopped vehicles. Optionally, buyers can choose to add the fantastic Distronic Plus system of nearly autonomous driving aids, which is getting almost as good as having Jeeves drive you around.

The rear-drive C300 starts at $43,575 and the 4Matic at $45,575, but it's quite easy to get the price up without breaking a sweat. Most of the cars we tested were close to fully loaded and hovered right around the mid-$50,000 mark or higher.

Surrounded by stone walls, lobster shacks, and rocky ocean vistas, the C300 Coupe seems right at home. It would be equally untroubled in the Bush clan's driveway on the tony shores of Kennebunkport as it is in still-a-bit-gritty Portland, parked next to an artisanal coffee shop. Being a yuccie or a muppie or a hipster really isn't that bad—as long as you're in a sleek new coupe.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe Specifications

On Sale: Now
Price: $43,575/$45,575 (RWD/AWD) (base)
Engine: 2.0L turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/ 241 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 273 lb-ft @ 1,300-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Layout: 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine RWD/AWD coupe
EPA Mileage: 23/29-30 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H: 184.5 x 71.3 x 55.3 in
Wheelbase: 111.8 in
Weight: 3,638/3,770 lb (RWD/AWD)
0-60 MPH: 5.9 sec (est)
Top Speed: 130 mph

 

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