The art of the blind date seems to be long lost.
Remember the time when you could meet someone for dinner, without knowing anything about the person? Not what she looks like, not where he's from, not even what his or her favorite Judd Apatow movie is? There was something exciting, scary, and authentic about that way of meeting someone. Now it's almost impossible not to know too much about a person before you ever meet face to face.
But allow me to suggest that if you drive the all-new Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Coupe, you do it blind-date style. Don't look up how big the engine is on this $44,650 AWD two-door, don't look at the zero-to-60 stats, and don't pay attention to the listed horsepower. Just steer it out of the lot, open it up on a freeway, and fall in love.
If you must know, what we’re dealing with here is a 4-cylinder inline turbocharged engine that, yes, it’s true, doesn't even achieve 250 hp. (At 240 hp, it has less power than the Audi A4 (252 hp) or BMW 340i (320 hp). It bests the 180 hp BMW 320i, though.)
But if you didn't know that, you might instead focus on the car's efficiency (23 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway) and erudite performance. The tiny 2.0-liter engine pushes through its seven gears like quicksilver; this is arguably the smoothest accelerator you’ll feel in the segment, with 273 pound-feet of torque that slide you forward quite eagerly, especially under the lower gears. Zero to 60 mph is 5.9 seconds, which is a feat, especially since, at 3,770 pounds, the new C300 weighs notably more than the 3,483-pound A4 and 3,510-pound 320i.
As I drove the C300 to the office and back each day, the thick, flat-bottomed sport steering wheel (paddle shifting dutifully engaged) displayed about as much give as we generally expect from Mercedes, whose cars aren’t as tuned ramrod tight as other German brands but are certainly worthy of applause. The offerings from Porsche and BMW feel more nimble to drive; but I know that for some drivers, leeway in steering is a matter of preference at this point rather than a value judgment. To each his own.
The adaptive brakes (with brake assist and brake priming) proved unnoticeable in the way all good waitstaff are—they appear when you need them but not otherwise. They’re not so rude as to jolt you from the smooth reverie that the entire car, especially with the $1,190 air suspension, works to create. (You can choose a sport suspension option for $1,675.) It's like driving in a cloud, but you don't feel detached from the road.
Get the Interior Extras
You will find a slight obstruction to view behind each shoulder (5 o’clock and 7 o’clock, respectively) but that is mitigated by the attentive blind-spot warning system (included in the $4,800 Premium Package) and by the sunlight allowed in through the massive panoramic sunroof that spans virtually the entire length of the ceiling. (The sunroof also helps the head room in the rear seem less pinched; while legroom back there is generous, the slope of the roof could be an issue for taller adults sitting behind you.)
The seats (seat heaters cost $580 extra) are exceptionally comfortable, with three-position power memory and lumbar support, and covered in a supple saddle brown leather ($1,620). Memory cushioning “with thigh support” for the passenger side cost $430 extra. Are you catching a pattern here? The pricing on the C300 starts remarkably low, but crucial options inflate that price considerably.
You will want, for additional instance, the $4,800 Premium package, which includes blind-spot assist, keyless go, Burmester Surround Sound, navigation, five years of traffic/weather service, and ambient lighting. The rearview camera ($460) and the heads-up display ($990) also cost extra, but do buy. It just wouldn’t be a Mercedes without them.
The same goes for the Sport package ($1,675) which includes, among other things, a brilliant diamond grill with chrome finish, AMG body styling, that flat bottom sport steering wheel, perforated brake rotors with Mercedes-Benz calipers, aluminum pedals with rubber studs, and AMG floor mats. Add all the extras in the car I drove, plus taxes and fees, and you’d pay $58,000, more than $12,000 more than the initial price. Rain-sensing wipers and eco start/stop, at least, come standard.
At any rate, the interior is blessedly silent—inside you’ll hear no real engine revs at all and certainly no vibration from exterior elements. If you want to hear your car growl when you punch down its metal alloy gas pedal, get something else.
It Looks Expensive
As for the C300, its diamond grill and the posh mild bulge of the roofline do plenty of talking. To my eye, and for the garage attendants who see every car I drive at least twice daily, Mercedes has done some sort of magic to make the C300 just look expensive. That grille and swank roof certainly help; so do the LED headlamps shaped like ancient obelisks, LED tail lamps, deep lunar blue metallic paint ($720), and $500, 19-inch alloy wheels (18-inch rims come standard).
Again, words that come to mind when you see this car include but are not limited to: refined, glossy, plush. The C300 is a coupe, but it has the look and feel of a full sedan. Don’t kid yourself: Owning this new C300 counts as owning bling in your life. I don’t care how reserved your paint job and rims are; this is a car that wants to announce its presence. So, as with any good blind date, get to know it a little before you judge whether it's the one for you.