Here at The Garage, we not only talk about the cars we review, but try to offer our readers some insight on what goes on behind the scenes in the business of automotive journalism. To close my son’s Spring vacation from school I had scheduled a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan from our friends at Mercedes-Benz North America. Later, I was notified from the press fleet manager that car was earmarked for duty at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, just before my loan. From experience, I’ve been burned from cars getting damaged in New York in the past, so we agreed to find another car from Mercedes. When I got the e-mail that it was a C-Class, I felt I was demoted from first class. Once I got the C-Class, those feelings vanished immediately.
Our test car is the new C350 Coupe. While the current generation C-Class has been around since 2008, for 2012 the car received a thorough update, and the C-Class Coupe is a new addition to the family. Finished in Lunar Blue, the C350 was a class act, and garnered many compliments for its handsome, sophisticated looks. The shape and styling of the car is timeless, and like many Mercedes coupes from the past, I suspect the C350 Coupe will look just as spectacular decades from now as it does today. There just is not a single bad line on the car. The optional AMG 18″ wheels added a sporty look that complimented the car well.
The improvements to the 2012 C-Class included upgrades to interior materials, and an improved integration of Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system. That said, I will say the C350 Coupe’s interior is at the top of its class. The quality of materials, feel of the surfaces you sit on and touch are exactly on par with what one would expect from Mercedes-Benz. Our C350 was laden with the latest technological features but the controls were fairly intuitive. I often found myself at odds with the advice the GPS was giving me, however.
Our C350 Coupe was to be our mode of transport from our home on the coast southern Connecticut to Baltimore Maryland’s gorgeous Inner Harbor. I knew I was getting a C-Class, but I got nervous when I saw Mercedes drop off a coupe, and not the four door. My concerns were without merit. For a weekend getaway the C350 offered just the right amount of trunk space, and in spite of being a coupe, my six year old son had plenty of room to stretch out. The standard panoramic sunroof and airy cabin made the C350 a great road trip car.
The C-Class coupes are available with two engines. The C250 offers a 1.8L turbocharged four cylinder rated at 201hp, while the C350 is equipped with a 3.5L V-6 rated at 302hp. C-Class coupes are rear wheel drive (Proper) and have 7-speed automatic transmissions. Acceleration was strong and linear, the shifts nearly seamless. Bombing down I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike, the C350 proved to be a fantastic tourer, not even breaking a sweat as I checked my speedo to find traffic moving at 90mph.
Although we drove to Baltimore in perfect conditions, coming home to Connecticut was a different story. A massive rain storm was coming up the east coast, and would be a menace to us the entire ride home. The C350, with over 300hp powering its rear wheels, was a model of composure. Whether in gridlock traffic or horrible visibility at highway speeds, the C350 was always composed. Over the course of our journey, I cannot over-emphasize how the blind spot monitoring system saved our skin multiple times. It was white knuckle driving in poor conditions, but the C350 was ideal, and got us home safely. The C350 also boasts impressive fuel economy, with 19/28 MPG city/highway. I was shocked the car got us from Connecticut to Baltimore and then to the top of the Chesapeake Bay on a single tank of gas.
The Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe has a starting price of $42,370. Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, dual zone auto climate control, Harmon Kardon surround sound with HD and Satellite radio. Options on our test car included the Lunar Blue paint, rear view camera, Advanced Agility Package (sportier steering/handling, shift paddles and the AMG wheels), S32 COMAND (7″ color screen, Navigation, voice control, XM Traffic and weather and Zagat restaurant guides), Leather seating package (10-way power passenger seat with memory, leather), Lighting Package (bi-xenon headlights with active curve illumination, headlamp washers) and Lane Tracking Package (blind spot assist, lane keeping assist). The tally for our C350 Coupe came to $51,555USD, including delivery.
As a car journalist, I have the opportunity to drive a lot of cars over the year, but I think the Mercedes-Benz C350 Coupe may be the best I have driven this year. Sure, it is a stylish, luxurious and quick grand tourer, and it excelled at that role in perfect weather conditions. But taking the same car, and being able to take my family home safely in a relentless downpour in awful conditions proves that Mercedes-Benz is on-point and at the top of their game. While initially feeling bummed I had been demoted from an S-Class to a C-Class, in the end the C350 Coupe was the ultimate road trip car, rain or shine.