In the competitive compact sports-luxury coupe class, it is the details that separate good from great.
What is it?
Luxury and premium brands all want to put their best foot forward in the compact coupe market. This is the starting point vehicle for many young, affluent professionals. Earning the business of those customers can mean a long and profitable relationship for automakers. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe is an entry-level luxury sports coupe with an eye towards luxury appointments.
Pricing and trims
The C-Class coupe is Mercedes-Benz’ small rear-drive platform, one step up from the front-wheel-drive CLA class. Prices start at a lofty $43K and rise to about $80K for the powerful AMG versions of this car.
Our 2017 C300 4MATIC Coupe may be considered a well-optioned base car with AWD added. At $60,905 it is at the top of the price range for a car with this level of content and power, but there is a valid reason for that. It is fair to say that in almost every area, the C300 4MATIC excels.
It was refreshing to test a vehicle with the full complement of active safety measures. In addition to the forward braking assist we think every vehicle should have, The C300 4MATIC Coupe came with Attention Assist and Active Lane Keeping.
To its credit, Mercedes-Benz included the most important safety systems standard, but the Active Lane Keeping is part of the Premium package, costing a whopping $7,400.
IIHS gave the C-Class high marks on everything except the headlights. In our testing, we found that the headlights’ active swiveling was great, but we didn’t find any auto high beams. Neither did IIHS, which marked the C-Class down for this. The lack of Acceptable-rated headlights kicked the C-Class down one notch to Top Safety Pick (missing the “Plus”).
The C300 4MATIC Coupe we tested has the lowest level of performance that Mercedes-Benz offers in the C-Class. Yet, we found it to be plenty. Like many automakers, Mercedes-Benz has improved upon the ubiquitous 2.0-liter gasoline turbocharged engine to the point where it is very satisfying in everyday driving, and even spirited driving.
The engine in our test car was punchy and we didn’t feel turbo lag of any significance. In fact, throttle response was perfect in Normal and Comfort modes.
Mercedes-Benz’ 7G-TRONIC 7-Speed automatic transmission was just right and worked well with the engine. We never felt that the transmission was hunting for gears, and downshifts were quick when we wanted more power. Paddle shifters behind the wheel are there for those that want more involvement. The location of the gear selector is a bit unusual (see arrow) and took some getting used to.
Ride and handling
Sports coupes need to hug the road and have superior steering and braking. The C300 4MATIC exemplifies these traits. This is a real road carver. On back roads, one feels almost supernaturally in control. On the highway, the C300 4MATIC can approach autopilot with its full suite of active safety gear engaged. However, in my time with the car, I relished driving it myself without lane keeping. The adaptive cruise control is excellent, but the controls are hidden behind the steering wheel out of sight. As a result, I ended up more engaged in highway driving. The super low-profile tires Mercedes fits to this C300 4MATIC seem out of touch with reality for anyplace that needs AWD. Our broken up New England roads resulted in some jarring impacts over potholes and frost heaves. A reasonable trade for many we suppose in order to obtain the amazing handling. On the other hand, will the fancy AMG wheels hold up with such a short stiff sidewall to protect them?
The front seats of the C300 4MATIC are perforated leather with heat, but no cooling (that we could find). Adjustment for the thigh support was a welcome plus, and one of the many touches we felt made this car a standout. Like the wipers, gear selector, and adaptive cruise control, Mercedes found a novel place for the seat controls. They are on the side of the door. There is nothing wrong with that, except the lumbar adjustment resides all by its lonesome down on the side of the seat where almost every other automaker puts the full range of seat controls. The seat heat is up on the door too, with a blank for an option our $60K car didn’t have. Perhaps that would be where the heated steering wheel switch would be if this luxury car had that option.
The perception of quality is strong in this C300 4MATIC. Every part of it seems lovingly crafted.
The rear seats of the C300 4MATIC are very tight. We squeezed an average-sized 14-year old in back on a couple of trips and found that he had to cock his head to one side to fit. The front seat also needed to come forward a lot to let his legs fit. If this is a problem for you, simply opt for the C300 Sedan, which we recently reviewed. One interior feature we loved was the aromatherapy-type air freshener system. A small bottle of perfume is in the glove box and it was really pleasant.
The cargo area of our C300 4MATIC was adequate in size for any normal shopping spree, or for a weekend getaway. Unfortunately, there is no spare tire under the floor. Instead, Mercedes-Benz uses run-flat tires. We throw a hissy-fit when automakers do this in most cases, but this is a sports car, and we won’t argue the choice.
Infotainment and controls
The infotainment system in the Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC is the most difficult to use of any vehicle this tester has ever experienced. The large screen is right at one’s fingertips but does not accept touch inputs. Instead, the remote touchpad and rotary knob are required. Having tested so many cars, our staff can all jump in and make these systems work intuitively, but not in this case. I had to do a Google search and watch a video on Youtube just to figure out how to access the Satelite Radio. By contrast, synching the phone was simple. Budget some time with the Mercedes dealership trainer and possibly another session with the owner’s manual and the beverage of your choice if you decide to buy a car with this system.
The look and feel of the infotainment and HVAC controls were superb. That storage area above the remote interface for the infotainment system opens, but a phone won’t fit there. There was no place for it except inside the center armrest console. There was no Apple Car Play or Android Auto in our test vehicle. We found the USB port inside the center console was easy to connect to.
Details matter in this class. The BMW 4 Series, Infiniti Q60, and Lexus RC Series are all outstanding vehicles. The Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC is at the top of the price range here and touches like the fragrance generator and interior quality set it apart from the pack. However, we were a little bit disappointed in the C300 4MATIC’s lack of a heated steering wheel and cooled seats. Yes, Mercedes-Benz can no doubt provide those, but at $60K shouldn’t they already be included?
The C300 4MATIC will appeal to anyone who wants a true drivers coupe with classy looks and superior build quality.
Overall, the C300 4MATIC is a vehicle we loved to drive and it is a real looker. Those searching for the very best compact luxury performance coupe in America would be wise to start here.
Looking for a new or used coupe? Start your search at BestRide.
2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Coupe
Base price: $43,000
Price as tested, $60,905 including $ 925 destination charge:
PO3 Premium 3 Package: $7,400
Navigation, Burmester Surround Sound Audio and Sat Rad Audio
Adaptive LED Headlights
Balancelance Distronic Plus, Lane Keep Assist, Key-Less Go, Power Folding Mirrors, Power Trunk Closure
321 Sport Package: $1,675
AMG Bodystyle and Diamond Grill
Flat Steering Wheel, Upgraded Brakes
AMG Floor Mats
521 Night Package: $300
Includes High Gloss Elements On Exterior Trim
996 Parking Assist Package: $1,290
Parktronic and Surround View Camera
Memory Seats and Thigh Support: $430
Head Up Display: $990
Heated Front Seats: $580
18″ AMG-Styled Wheels: $N/C
- Fantastic Handling
- Strong Engine With Perfect Responsiveness.
- Gorgeous Looks
- Infotainment System Is Counterintuitive
- Oddly Located Controls For Seats, Gear Selector, and Other Functions
- Concerns About Wheel and Tire Selection In Snowy Areas.