Road test: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C350 4Matic Coupe

Style, much like looks, will only get you so far. Unless one is completely facile, substance will have to count at some point. With rare exception, sport coupes have always projected greater style than their more practical four-door counterparts. If not the stuff of which dreams are made — cue some hyper-exotic sports car here — they still occupy a higher rung in the automotive pecking order. So, a stylish sport coupe with substance is something that should be coveted.

I believe the Mercedes’ C 350 4Matic Coupe is worthy of such desirability. First coming to market for the 2012 model year, the C-Class Coupe is a bolder take on the still-buff C sedan, a true coupe instead of the previous version’s hatchback body, with short front and rear overhangs, a wedge-like silhouette and long wheelbase that combine with the standard AMG styling package to give the coupe a sleek, assertive profile. The availability of Mercedes’ widely regarded 4Matic all-wheel-drive system — the C 350 is also offered with rear-wheel drive — lends further practicality to a car already brimming with personality. It also makes the C more competitive, a prudent decision on the part of the automaker considering the car’s primary two-door rivals are the even-better-looking Audi A5 Coupe and the new-for-2014 BMW 4 Series xDrive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe

Mercedes says the C 350 4Matic accelerates to 100 kilometres an hour in 6.2 seconds.
Handout, Mercedes-Benz

Having V6 dash to go with the flash is what has the C 350 Coupe on my radar. The 302-horsepower 3.5-litre engine is a rational compromise over the C 250’s fuel-efficient but gruff turbo four-cylinder and the ferocious nature of the 507-hp C 63 AMG. In other words, there’s more than enough urge to get where you have to go without being ridiculous about it. Having the 4Matic drivetrain adds 70 kilograms to the sports coupe, which weighs in at a still trim 1,685 kilograms. There’s little downside to the added traction from a performance standpoint; Mercedes says the C 350 4Matic accelerates to 100 kilometres an hour in 6.2 seconds, only 2/10ths slower than the rear-drive version.

Yet, Mercedes is not insensitive to the fuel economy side of things. The car comes with an Eco stop/start feature as well as a driving monitor in the cluster display that evaluates driving style — with Acceleration, Constant and Coasting bar graphs — in order to promote greater fuel efficiency. In mostly suburban use I averaged 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres with the C, not terrible considering the robust engine.

The V6 is bolted to a seven-speed manumatic transmission with paddle shifters. While the self-shift mode would normally provide an element of sport that’s wholly in keeping with the car’s intent, upshifts and downshifts are accomplished through a side-to-side motion of the lever instead of forward and backward. This is counter-intuitive at best and as good a reason as any to leave the console shifter in Drive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe comes with an Eco stop/start feature as well as a driving monitor in the cluster display that evaluates driving style.
Handout, Mercedes-Benz

One of the Mercedes’ best dynamic features is its ride and handling. The Coupe comes standard with Agility Control suspension, otherwise known as an amplitude-dependent damping system. When driving at regular speeds with low shock absorber impulses, damping is automatically reduced for improved comfort. When shock absorber impulses increase, such as high-speed cornering, damping is firmed up for greater stability. Working in conjunction with the MacPherson struts and rear independent suspension setup, the C 350 delivers a ride that strikes a nice balance between sport and luxury.

The Agility Control suspension is complemented by a rack-and-pinion steering system that is skewed toward the firm side, although not artificially so. Still, like the C 250 I drove last year, the C 350 4Matic is a bit more boulevardier (though not as pronounced) than out-and-out sport machine.

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Inside, the cabin has the necessary accouterments that come with a ride approaching $60K with options — everything from stitched leather and aluminum trim to the usual modern conveniences to techy bits such as the harman/kardon audio system. And, praise be, Mercedes has finally fixed a longstanding ergonomic quirk by swapping the position of the turn signal lever (now above) with the cruise control stalk (now below).

The Coupe’s status as a full four-seater is definitely open to interpretation. Yes, there’s plenty of head and leg room for those occupying the front seats, but if they’re long-legged and have the seats back in their tracks, then the rear-seat passengers had better be in the primary grades.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
Handout, Mercedes-Benz

Given the Coupe’s raked rear window and wedge shape, rear-view visibility is iffy. The $4,000 Premium package helps alleviate this problem by including Parktronic with parking guidance, an audio/visual warning that lets you know if you’re getting too close to something, whether backing up or going forward. The package also upgrades the audio system to the previously mentioned harman/kardon surround-sound system with satellite radio and adds a media interface, navigation system and DVD changer.

Also worthy of consideration is the $800 Driving Assistance Package, more for the Passive Blind Spot Assist than the semi-obtrusive (vibrating steering wheel) Passive Lane Keeping Assist.

The best phrase I can think of to describe the C 350 4Matic is “efficiently dynamic.” Read into that what you will, but I see that as a positive attribute, one that connotes a carefully measured blend of driving pleasure and sophistication. The C might not be hot, but it’s most definitely cool. (There are no changes of note to the C 350 4Matic Coupe for the 2014 model year.)

The Specs

Type of vehicle All-wheel-drive sport/luxury coupe
Engine 3.5L DOHC V6
Power 302 hp @ 6,500 rpm; 273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission Seven-speed manumatic
Brakes Four-wheel disc with ABS
Tires P225/40R18 front, P255/35R18 rear (optional)
Price: base/as tested $51,400/$58,130
Destination charge $2,075
Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km 10.5 city, 7.2 hwy.
Standard features AMG Styling Package, LED daytime running lamps, active bi-xenon headlamps, panoramic sunroof, 18-inch AMG seven-spoke wheels, power folding and auto-dimming mirrors, automatic climate control, power windows, power steering column with memory, partially powered passenger seat, 14-way power driver’s seat with three-position memory, heated front seats, split-folding rear seats, three-spoke Nappa leather flat-bottom multi-function steering wheel, leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, universal garage door opener
Options Premium Package ($4,000), Sport Package ($1,450), Driving Assistance Package ($800), rear-view camera ($480)

About Brian Harper