Mercedes’ C350 Coupe plays big, drives small
By AL VINIKOUR For Sun-Times Media May 25, 2012 1:57PM
2012 MERCEDES-BENZ C350
ENGINE: 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6
TRANSMISSION: seven-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: all-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 19 city/28 highway
BASE PRICE: $42,370
AS TESTED: not available
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In the movie “Patton,” George C. Scott and his staff are attacked by enemy aircraft during a meeting with their British counterparts. After a few minutes Patton says, “That’s about enough!” and he walks outside, takes out his pistol and shoots at the aircraft above.
This scenario must have occurred to Mercedes-Benz management as it sat back watching potential sales for luxury C-Class coupes going to those nasty people in Munich (hint: their initials are BMW). Truth was, Mercedes didn’t have one. It does now and while late getting to the table, it sure has made up for lost time.
At first glance the C350 Coupe looks more like its bigger E-Class sibling due to the lower, squattier stance. The C350 takes on AMG styling with its grille-mounted star, deeper front and rear aprons, and under-door rocker panels.
The all-new coupe comes with a standard panorama sunroof and, although I’m one of those people who prefer either no sunroof or at least a solid panel that covers it, the sheer netting of the one in the C-Class is not a bad compromise.
The C350 is all about sportiness, and what’s sportiness without a powertrain to match its looks? Along comes a new 3.5-liter V-6 that features direct fuel injection, multispark ignition and a whopping 12.0-to-1 compression ratio. It pumps out 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque while getting better fuel economy and producing more pulling power. It’s mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission with a more advanced torque converter lock-up clutch that further improves fuel mileage.
To say the interior of a Mercedes-Benz is comfortable is like saying Yao Ming is tall. The front seats are contoured to accommodate a variety of physical sizes. Side bolsters hold individuals in when corning during aggressive driving, which seems to be the C350’s reason for existence. Power seat controls have been relocated to the inner door panel.
All new 2012 C-Class models are equipped with a new 5.8-inch color display located at the top of the console, which features a Bluetooth interface for wireless audio streaming, hands-free phone operation and phone book downloading. An optional multimedia package includes a larger 7-inch color display, GPS navigation, rear-view camera, an SD card slot, voice control and an in-dash CD/DVD player.
A new instrument cluster features three metallic tubular rings that hold gauges for rpms, road speed, fuel and temperature. The lower console contains an electronic controller that works like a computer mouse. It is used to get into a variety of submenus like audio, navigation, etc. There’s a definite learning curve, especially if one doesn’t want to read the manual.
The built-in safety of the 2012 C-Class vehicles would make a Volvo feel inadequate. Not that I’m conspiratorial but it’s almost as if Mercedes-Benz engineered all this safety equipment so people could survive a normally horrific crash and live to buy another Mercedes vehicle. And that’s not a bad thing. An innovative attention assist system couples a steering movement sensor with intelligent software that can identify the erratic steering corrections drivers make when they get drowsy. It triggers an audible and a “time for a rest” message with a coffee cup icon that appears on the instrument cluster. The software receives signals from the steering sensor and monitors 70 different parameters that have proven to be strong contributors to fatigue and drowsiness.
Considering its sportiness and speed (5.9 seconds in 0-60 mph), the new coupe is relatively fuel efficient. City economy is rated at 19 mpg; highway is 28 mpg for a combined average of 22 mpg. Also in the ballpark is the base price of $43,245 (including a destination charge of $875).
Mercedes-Benz has designed a clever ad that shows a four-door sedan braking loose from heavy-duty chains and in the process losing its two rear doors and emerging free as a coupe. The 2012 C350 Coupe is a real head-turner, and unfortunately for the gang in Munich it’s going to be a considerable headache.
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