Tuesday 7th February 2012


A manual Merc, in this day and age? These things do still exist, as our man Garlick has been finding out

The occasional trip in the now-departed PH C63 AMG aside, it has been a while since I've spent time with a C-Class Mercedes, especially a non-AMG version, and it was way back in 1995 that I last sampled a manual Mercedes - a W124 250D no less.

One stick and a whole lot of pedals
One stick and a whole lot of pedals
All that changed when Editor Trent offered me the keys to a C250 CDI Sport Coupe for a few days, a (deep breath) C250 CDI BlueEfficiency AMG Sport Coupe to be precise, fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox and a footwell festooned with a total of four pedals. Memories of '95 came flooding back as I remembered the 'neutral, footbrake, back into gear' pedal dance required when faced with a hill start...

The C-Class has changed a lot over the years. The exterior has certainly grown up, but where in the line up does this car sit? It's not a CLK replacement, that hole being filled by the E-Class coupe, and it's far bigger and nicer than the stunted and frankly awful CLC. Which leaves it aiming squarely at the 3 Series coupe. A tough gig.

The C certainly looks like a proper Merc these days and the Coupe is undeniably handsome, even if there's a bit too much metal between the top of the rear arches and the windowline.

Dark grey car on a dark grey day ... dark
Dark grey car on a dark grey day ... dark
It's similarly accomplished inside, the interior an absolute treat compared with previous C-Classes and worthy of an S-Class of not that long ago, or so it seems. And that manual gearbox is far removed from the clunky changes I remember and actually half decent to use. Generally it feels like there's a welcome return to the solid Benz build we all recall so fondly.

Fancy footwork
Our test car was the AMG Sport version, as all UK C Coupes are, including a 15mm ride height drop and stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars over the default settings. A £575 Dynamic Handling Package with adjustable dampers is a further possible upgrade, but even as standard is enough to have you seeking out the more interesting route home. While perhaps not quite as sharp as its obvious Bavarian rival, it's way better than any C-Class has been for a long, long time. The 204hp 2.2-litre diesel suits the car, too, and the obligatory mid-range shove is more than enough to sway even the most hardened diesel sceptic.

Better than you'd think but auto still best
Better than you'd think but auto still best
Minor gripes like dirt collecting over the reversing camera after just a mile of winter driving and unexpectedly cramped rear seats aside, the main issue to address is that novelty manual gearbox. The C-Class Coupe might be more inspiring to drive than Mercs have traditionally been, but old habits die hard and, as a cruiser first and foremost, you'd swallow the £1,485 premium for the seven-speed auto.

That would push our test car's already sturdy £40,630 asking price further into 335d territory though, at which point the Merc's charms are going to have to work that bit harder to convince.

2,143cc 4-cyl twin-turbo
Power (hp): 204@4,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 368@1,600rpm
0-62mph: 7.0 sec (auto 7.1 sec)
Top speed: 149mph
Weight: 1,655kg
MPG: 52.3mpg (auto 53.3mpg, both NEDC combined)
CO2: 143g/km (auto 139g/km)
Price: £33,635 (£40,630 as tested)




Author: Garlick