Mercedes-Benz touts the 2017 C300 Coupe as a style car.
Admittedly, the German carmaker is right. With a bedazzled grille, sharp sidelines and a butt that would make a Kardashian envious, it’s great to look at.
What Mercedes is really admitting by calling it stylish, though, is that the C300 Coupe exists solely because of its design. Moreover, people will choose it not for what it does but for what it represents. It’s a car that tells the world you’ve got an eye for design.
At first blush, for me, simply making a style statement wasn’t at all worth the $43,000 base price. An unrelated weekend shopping trip changed my mind, though. I finally get the compact two-door Benz.
What it’s not
Just minutes into my first time behind the wheel of the C300 Coupe, I slammed the throttle into the carpet and played audience to the tone of the car’s 241-horsepower four-cylinder engine.
If you’d asked me to intuit what the C300’s engine might sound like before actually having heard it, based upon its classy exterior, I would have wagered a note somewhere between Miles Davis and a panther. You know, urbane but also animalistic.
Although the athletic apian engine can propel the car to 60 mph from a standstill in 5.9 seconds, the note immediately informed me this was not a car aimed at driving enthusiasts. Granted, the steering is quick and heavy and the suspension soft but taut. However, those seemed to reinforce the car’s highly evolved nature, rather than push it into the realm of sport. You’ll want the newly created C43 for that.
Striking driving-enthusiast mobile off the list, I turned to the tech.
At the top of the wood-encrusted center console is Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment system, displayed from a tablet-like screen attached to the dash. It’s a polarizing design, for sure. Whether you like the looks or not, you have to give the designers kudos for trying something different.
What you can’t nod in approval over is the COMAND system itself. Users interface with it through either a touchpad or a scroll wheel mounted just beneath it. It’s a quick system with lots of functionality, but none of it is intuitive or easy. It’s the antithesis of user friendly.
What’s more, the C300 Coupe doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (it might get those in 18 months or so, Mercedes informed me) nor does it have Wi-Fi. Both features are common not only in the segment but in inexpensive economy cars these days.
Granted, the C300 does offer tons of semi-autonomous safety tech called DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist. I first tested this system on the C300’s bigger, faster brother, the C63 Sedan, last year. It’s great as an adaptive cruise control system. However, it lacks the robust steering assist of Tesla’s Autopilot.
Those things said, I decided the C300 Coupe wasn’t a car pushing the boundaries of automotive technology either. So tech car, too, was removed from the record.
Adding further confusion to my uncertainty of what exactly the C300 Coupe was trying to be, most of the cars we drove at the drive event in Maine were loaded up with all the bells and whistles. In fact, most were priced around the $60,000 mark. This, as you might understand, is a lot of money for a compact coupe that won’t drive itself or tear holes in your clothes with its straight-line speed.
Even days after attending the Maine event, I was still at a loss at how to encapsulate the C300 Coupe.
“What’s the point of this car?” I murmured to myself, as I hemmed and hawed through countless drafts of the my first drive with it.
Then, this weekend, it all fell into place. I finally got it.
Window shopping in Beverly Hills with a buddy of mine this weekend, we popped into a chic men’s clothing boutique. Aimlessly thumbing through the racks, I stumbled across a dark ox-blood red cafe-racer leather jacket. It had asymmetrical lines and quilted shoulders — classic but modern. It looked like something Steve McQueen would wear, if he were still alive today.
As a guy who grew up in the decidedly un-flashy and animal rights-friendly Pacific Northwest, I am not one for leather jackets. So, it’s not something I’d normally be drawn to. Despite that, it grabbed me. I pulled it off the rack and popped it on.
To my surprise, it fit me like a glove. I looked at the price tag and I nearly fainted. In face of the price, I felt virtually hypnotized by the thing, how it looked, how it made me feel. In it, I felt like I could pass as a member of Ryan Reynolds’ entourage.
Feeling an undeniable draw to buy it, I texted pictures to a slew of my friends, all of whom had different tastes and opinions. To my chagrin, all responded in the affirmative, encouraging me to get it. So I did.
It was then, walking out of that boutique with a very expensive leather jacket under my arm that I understood the draw of the C300 Coupe.
Like the jacket, the C300 Coupe isn’t the sportiest or most cutting-edge. However, both turned heads. And there’s something to be said for that. Normally, a $40,000-something car doesn’t attract crowds but the C300 Coupe did. In the coupe, again like in the jacket, I felt not like a superstar, but rather superstar adjacent.
Moreover, the C300 Coupe represents a certain point in your life. It’s the kind of car when you reach a level in your career or age where you can say, “Yeah, I need this not just because I need a car to get to work, but because I want something that makes me feel good and turns some heads from time to time.”
So, really, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe is essentially the “treat yo’self” car.