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#4358 of 7297 Driving Impressions
Aug 23, 2001 (10:07 am)
Those of you who are old-timers on this board know that I am a [ahem...] Mercedes veteran. I had ordered a C240 in July of 2000, but later cancelled the order in favor of saving about $10k [which we needed for more important endeavors] and bought a Honda Accord  EX V6. Last weekend, a friend and I visited our MB dealer to test both the C sedan and C coupe [his current ride is a 2001 Passat turbo 4cyl]. Keeping in mind I've owned most recently both a W202 [C220] and a W210 [E320}, here are my impressions:
General: We were duly impressed with the relative room of the coupe vs the sedan, given the former's shorter length and lower roofline. Fore-aft room in both front and back were comparable, but headroom in the coupe is seriously compromised in back. My friend, who stands about 5'9", but is long in the torso, was bumping his head on the roof of the coupe. Ok if you don't normally carry any adults back there for any length of time...not Ok otherwise. With the seat folded, the promise of the hatch is certainly on display for anyone to see - a truly large cargo area. I find it appealing and interesting...some will be put off by the design, and the need for the back doors. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised.
Driving position: We drove an automatic coupe with the standard seats, and a manual C240 with the standard seats. Both were just fine. The coupe's manual height adjustment [via a VW-style rachet handle] got me up where I like to be just as well as the power in the sedan. The lower roofline is noticeable, but not a big deal. Our coupe had the pano roof, which is fine for what it is, but I would never pay extra for this or any other sunroof. Because the roof opens on the outside, it doesn't seem to matter much in headroom in the coupe whether or not the sunroof is present.
Our coupe had a noticeable squeek coming from the hatch area on low-speed, around-town road conditions. Went away as noise built up at speed. Sitting in the back, my friend was not sure if it came from the hatch opening, or the interior plastic trim on the hatch itself. No other noticeable defects.
Aug 23, 2001 (10:22 am)
Ride: The coupe has the suspension pieces from the Sedan Sport Package, but the tires from the standard sedan [205/55x16 Michelins, in this case]. I could barely detect any ride quality differences between the base suspension sedan and the coupe, so this seems to work well. The coupe lets in a bit more exhaust noise, and a noticeable amount of road noise, but not to an objectionable degree. I would say the coupe is still a tad quieter at speed on a concrete surface than our Accord, which is not famous for filtering out this kind or racket. Edge here definitely to the sedan for quiet, but the coupe is really good enough for 99% of its audience, including me. Suffice to say that ride is quite good in both cars.
Handling: Slight edge to the coupe, because of the firmer suspension and slightly less weight. No big differences here, and I didn't expect any.
Performance: Advantage, coupe...by a real and noticeable amount. Our coupe with the automatic easily walked away from our 6-spd sedan, and would have done so right up to their respective top speeds. And the torque advantage of the supercharger is apparent from idle right up to any engine speed you can name. A pleasant surprise was that the fixes promised on the supercharged 4 [new drive pulleys, many detail changes] to quell the racket for which this engine was infamous, seemed to work quite well. It's still a bit growly at idle, but nowhere near as industrial-sounding as the older version of the same engine. Now you can just put your foot in it and hang on, and without the earplugs.
Aug 23, 2001 (10:50 am)
Pricing: If you restrain yourself on the options, which would be no trouble for me, the coupe has a $5000 price advantage on the sedan for a car the way I would want it: just automatic and metallic paint, and nothing else. I must say I am surprising myself as I write this, but for that difference, I would take the coupe and save the money. It is not as refined as the sedan, both because of the inevitable road noise that the hatch lets in, and because the 4 can never be as smooth and quiet as the V6s. I also realize that I am one of the few on the planet for whom the other differences between the cars [extra doors, better room in the back seat, higher style of the sedan, more standard equipment, more "prestige", all favoring the sedan] are of no real importance. Most other people are likely to be polarized by the coupe's different styling and its much different packaging. MB is OK with that, since they are actually targeting a demographic that is 20-30 years younger than I am...that I like it is something of a marketing bonus, I suppose.
Summation: OK, I know this is going to get me into some real controversy, but besides comparing the two W203 siblings to each other, I have to compare them also to the BMW 3er and the Japanese competition, including the car I am currently driving. In that context, I must say that I think the current E46 BMW 3er probably has a slight edge over either MB-C, at least in the things that would matter most to me. The ride-handling compromise, always the big selling point for German cars, still very slightly favors the 3er. It is seriously space-challenged in the back seat and trunk, however, so for a lot of people, this comparison would go the other way. A moderately equipped 2002 325 automatic, with minimal options [just metallic paint for me] would neatly bisect the difference in price between the C-coupe and sedan, and for 2002 will finally get an in-dash CD player as standard equipment, as well as cruise control [an option up to now, if you can believe it]. I think that serious shoppers in this segment owe it to themselves to try all three cars, the 325 sedan, C-Coupe, and C240. Dealer availablity and competence of course play a big part in this - I have had bad experiences at BMW dealers in the past, though our locals in my new venue have decent reputations.
And the final observation: I would take any of these over the IS300 or A4, though the new A4 has promise that the current car does not for me. The IS is too compromised in ride to achieve its sharp handling, but the rest of what it has going for it is substantial, including the top-notch dealer group. But here's the final kicker: after all this running around in rear-drive German cars that I feel so at home with, jumping back into our '01 Accord EX V6 reminded me what a roaring value it is: ride comparable to either MB [but not the BMW], comfort and room probably better than all of them, features included [like the in-dash 6 CD changer/cassette, leather, roof, folding seats, etc, etc] at no optional cost, straight-line performance to burn, and ownership costs that are trivial. No prestige, of course, and you see yourself coming and going at least 50 times a day, but I must say the day's testing made me feel a lot better about our decision. Doesn't mean I won't be back in the market for my rear-drive German car soon, but it's a real tribute to where the whole industry sits right now in history - a fabulous time to be a car nut. It's hard to go wrong...
#4361 of 7297 Re to jrct9454
Aug 23, 2001 (2:52 pm)
It is unbelievable how similar opinions we have. I have tested a MB C and currently own a 99 BMW 323i. I consider the MB C Coupe only because of money, if the recession will continue its ugly progress. However, if it does not, than I will still be in a Bimmer-land. Yet, when I test-drove the C Coupe, I was pleasantly surprised with its firmness and handling.
The only thing that we do not agree is the comparison with Japanese competitors - I find them so inferior, that to me they do not fall into same class (i.e., I should be in a serious trouble to go for an Accord, actually, I would probably select a Jetta/Golf instead). I believe that German-made cars are have much better driving and handling characteristics, that they have no competition...
#4362 of 7297 Mercedes Website
Aug 23, 2001 (3:33 pm)
Has anyone noticed that in the updated MB website there no longer is the C6 sports package option indicated. I've got to believe that this is an oversight....
Aug 23, 2001 (4:22 pm)
It was good to finally get a chance to read your impressions of the new C's. I was particularly interested in comparison with your '01 Accord. Thanks for the post. You didn't say what your objection to the A4 was however. Form my experience the new C is a nicer more refined car but in some sense the A4 feels more like the older Mercedes like when you close the doors etc.
#4364 of 7297 C230K engine - jrct9454
Aug 23, 2001 (8:24 pm)
I enjoyed your posts re/ the new C-coupe, etc. However, I feel obligated to put in my 2 cents re/ the engine in the C230K sedan. The supercharged 4 has great power, is very responsive and delivers great gas mileage. As far as 'noise', yes, there is some sound from the engine when cold, but to cite the need for earplugs does a disservice to this engine. I like the sound. After the car warms up (no more than 5 minutes) the sound level quiets down considerably.
Again, thanks for your posts. I just don't want folks to be put off from what I consider a fine piece of work. I bought my 2000 C230K new, and this great engine was a major selling point.
Aug 23, 2001 (8:27 pm)
what's the difference between the 2002 versus the 2001 model?
are the 2002 in the show room yet?
#4366 of 7297 in the market for a new C240
Aug 23, 2001 (8:38 pm)
how much is a typical C240 go for?
#4367 of 7297 A few responses...
Aug 24, 2001 (4:11 am)
2.3k engine, old vs new: well, I was being literary, not literal. No earplugs required in either case, of course, but I make no bones about not being a fan of the previous iteration of this engine. I came very close to buying a '99 C230k new, but the coarseness of the engine, especially at idle and low speeds, was very off-putting. Only my opinion, of course, but I also know that MB agreed the engine needed work - which is why they worked on it...I like the results.
Current A4: The car is seriously cramped inside, especially the back seat; I don't need Quattro, and if I want fwd, I'll go Japanese; there is just nothing special there for me. With the NEW A4, the "special" is the new V6 and most importantly, the new CVT, which promises to be a real revelation. I plan an early test as soon as the car is available. The CVT gives them something the rest of the Japanese fwd competition doesn't have, though no Audi [yes, I have lots of experience with them, too] will have the reliability of Honda/Acura or Toyota/Lexus or Nissan/Infiniti....
And finally, I forgot to mention the latter: a really, really promising car is the upcoming Infiniti G35, a luxed-up version of the latest Skyline sedan [which has always been rwd / awd]. Should be here next Spring.
As I said, great time to be a car enthusiast...