- Published: Wednesday, 01 June 2016 17:18
SINGAPORE - Who actually buys a coupe these days? 477 were sold here in the first quarter of the year, out of 27,100 cars in total. In that time, 10,312 sedans were sold, in comparison. That’s 0.017 to 38 percent.
But coupes have infiltrated every other segment too, even if it’s only in the mind – or eye. You can’t swing a stick in a dealership without hitting a brochure that uses the word ‘coupe-like’ in it, anything from a Kia Optima to the Jaguar F-Pace has that hunched back which sometimes makes rear passengers curse for the compromised sanctity of their hairdos.
Then there are ‘not a coupe but coupes’. BMW has the 4 Series GT (essentially a fastback wagon) and the X4 (it’s simply a more styled SUV). Mercedes of course, started the entire fiasco with the CLS ‘four door coupe’ (it’s a sedan), and also had the super-selling CLA (looks like a CLS, but is smaller and still a sedan) and also the GLE Coupe (like the BMW X6 and X6, it’s an SUV).
Amidst all this tom-coupery, why would you want to get an actual coupe? Because, as the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe shows, some still have that je ne sais quois that says ‘Buy me, I’ll make your life slightly more interesting. At the very least, you’ll have something nice to look back at each time you park.”
You certainly couldn’t say that about the previous C-Class coupe (which shared platform with the E-Class coupe) which was basically the sedan with two doors, full stop.
Mercedes has made some very beautiful two-door cars in its long history - think the Trossi SSK Roadster, the 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ and the more recent SLS AMG - and its recent design revamp seems to sit especially well and elegantly on its coupes, the first of which is the S-Class coupe that replaces the bland CL-Class, or even the wild AMG GT S.
And just like the new C 200 sedan looks like a shrunken S-Class, so too do their coupe counterparts, which is a good thing. The C coupe’s best angle is the rear: It has obviously more sculpted shoulders, almost like a 911s, with that contoured rear end that flows nicely towards the boot. Somehow it just works, and delivers the car an elegance and presence that’s totally disproportionate to its size.
As we reported in our news on the car’s launch, three models make up the range here for now, all based on the same turbocharged inline four-cylinder power that also powers the sedan models. The basic dimensions are the same, with the equal 2,840mm class-leading wheelbase from the sedan.
It’s a coupe, so the roof is still low, but Mercedes claims much more shoulder and elbow room for all occupants. Four adults will fit easily, and the rear passengers only if basketball players occupy the front. There is a price to pay for style, though: the boot is smaller than the sedan’s (80 milk cartons less, at 400-litres) and less capacious than rivals like the 4 Series (which packs a 445-litre boot).
The swooping, contoured dashboard is a familiar sight from the sedan, as is the choice of piano black trim for most of the hard surfaces near the central operating area - it’s nice, but very reflective and attracts fingerprints from miles away.
The ride is canted slightly towards sporty stiff than cruising calm, as expected of a coupe, but it’s not the kind that trades driver smiles for passenger bile. It settles mostly into a comfortable middle ground that’s occasionally disturbed by rogue thumps and bumps. Less entertaining for those behind the wheel is the fact that mid-corner bumps will upset the chassis enough to deviate from a chosen line, but this only happens when pushing, so we know what the C 180’s true strength is: Smooth cruising while looking good.
There are still things that coupes can’t do well, and the C-Class Coupe is no different. It has very thick pillars, a low roofline and small glasshouse, which means visibility isn’t very good. But you can level the same criticism at some SUVs too, ironically.
Yet the entire conversation about the C-Class is not actually be about other cars in general, since a coupe buyer is a relative minority these days, but other coupes.
It’s got modest power, modest handling, good refinement and looks great. That doesn’t sound perfect for a German luxury coupe, but here’s the thing. We suspect the main draw for the C 180, despite its shortcomings, is the fact that the BMW 4 Series’ cheapest model is the 420i, which packs a 184bhp engine, and is $40,000 more expensive.
Until we test a more powerful variant, such as the inevitable AMG models expected in the third quarter of 2016, the C 180’s reason for existence is clear. And on a larger stage,
in this soft-roader obsessed age, buying a true coupe is the real coup for individuality.
Mercedes-Benz C 180 Coupe
Engine 1,595cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 156bhp at 5300rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed automatic
Top Speed 223km/h
0-100kmh 8.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.7L/100km
Price $183,888 with COE
Also Consider: BMW 4 Series, Lexus RC