Driven: Mercedes C250 CDI Coupe

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)




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Comments (60) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ChrisBMW 09 Feb 2012

    Never thought I'd say it but I like the new C class coupe, a friend of mine has just bought one and I went out on the test drive with him and I have to say I was impressed and I didn't expect to be.

    And if they are still offering the same PCP deals this time next year that my friend got I will definetly be giving serious consideration to one myself.

  • yellowbentines 09 Feb 2012

    f1colin said:
    Driving one as an isolated incident is one thing, living with it for 2 years is a sentence. And it wasn't an isolated "mule" as the M-B garage kindly loaned me C220d's and C250d's while they were doing odds and ends on the car and they were equally turgid.

    Never again.... has put me off diesels for life
    Have you driven many other diesel engine cars, or were you expecting it to have petrol engine levels of refinement?

    My C220cdi certainly isn't befitting of your description (apart from perhaps the first 30 secs on a cold morning), neither was my previous E220cdi and both are infinitely quieter and smoother than the competition from VW, Skoda, Audi, Ford and Vauxhall diesels IMO.

    Sounds like you just don't get on with 4 cylinder diesel engines! ETA I'm only suggesting you're perhaps unfairly judging the engine as your car history in your profile suggests you've owned a lot of nice petrol engined metal, very few with as few as 4 cylinders.

    Edited by yellowbentines on Thursday 9th February 14:57

  • Deva Link 09 Feb 2012

    Oddball RS said:
    ... if you are running out of revs all the time and having to change up then it would suggest you are driving it as if it were a petrol engined car.
    That's an odd statement - you have to change up earlier in a diesel as you run out of revs earlier. In practice you're driving in something like a band of 1500-2000 revs (ie keeping it between 1500 to 3000/3500). You can block change depending on the car and how flowing the other traffic is.

    Edited by Deva Link on Thursday 9th February 15:43

  • Oddball RS 09 Feb 2012

    Deva Link said:
    Oddball RS said:
    TBH if you want a TDI anything and are trying to save money on tax / fuel, i don't understand why anyone would pick the auto.

    It costs more, so there is a tax effect, and it will return 10% less to the gallon no matter what the brochures say. I've had both and i know.
    That's true if the money is your only consideration but I find 6 speed gearboxes with the limited rev range of a diesel make everyday driving a palava. I had a 5spd diesel Accord for a while and that was OK but the engine was more flexible and it could be left in 3rd most of the time.

    Around town the manual should be a lot more economical but autos usually have higher overall gearing so can be more economical in cruising. The 7 speed auto box this car would have locks up in every gear too.
    Never found changing gear in a 6 speed manual diesel a problem???? its a lot easier life and fewer gear changes that a petrol equivalent, if you are running out of revs all the time and having to change up then it would suggest you are driving it as if it were a petrol engined car.

    As for motorway work, and the auto being more efficient, i can't say i agree. Gearing aside, whenever you put you foot down (Todays hurry up and slow down motorway driving) in a auto its off doing its own thing, changing down etc etc, its just not needed with a diesel you leave it in top and just let the car pick up speed.

  • Deva Link 09 Feb 2012

    jas16 said:
    Surely the auto box has the typical 'manual over-ride' option whereby you can move the lever backwards and forwards to change gear?
    Well, there's a tiptronic type function which worked OK on the 5 speed auto. These cars are now fitted with a 7 speed auto (which I think has flappy paddles as standard, certainly as an option) but it still tends to do its own thing. Especially as the revs rise, it'll still change up on its own.

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