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IT looks good, but is the new C-Class sports coup worthy of a Mercedes badge?

Well, after road-testing the pounds 25,000 model I have to say I don't think it is.

The two-door compact coup is certainly an adventurous attempt by the Stuttgart-based company to attract younger buyers.

But it does not quite hit the heights associated with the famous three-pointed star adorning familiar names such as SLK, CLK, SL and CL.

Mercedes has put a lot of effort into distinguishing the sports coup from the saloon version. But the model I drove, the C 220 CDI, didn't quite cut it for me as a Merc or as a sports car.

The sports coup has a completely new body compared with the C-Class. Main features include a very short tail, a sloping, stretched-out bonnet and a high rear spoiler.

The car looks compact and powerful - the body of the two-door is 183mm shorter and 20mm lower than the saloon - but it didn't quite have the wow factor you would expect from the executive car maker.

More importantly, even though the famous twin headlamp design, louvred radiator grille and three-pointed star remain, it just didn't feel as if I was driving a Mercedes.

When a vehicle is classed as a sports car I expect it to be capable of producing a fast, dynamic drive. But under the bonnet of the C220 CDI is a four-cylinder, 16V, 143bhp, diesel engine which takes the car from 0-62mph in a less than staggering 10.5 seconds.

While the five-speed automatic can't be labelled a slouch, neither does it produce a lightning-quick drive capable of putting a smile on your face. What you get is something between the two.

When you put your foot down, the engine is very noisy while the driving dynamics weren't aided by the heavy feel to the steering.

Enough of the negatives - there are some good features, not least the sliding sunroof which stretches from the front windscreen to the rear spoiler.

Thanks to the huge expanse of glass, the cabin is light and airy and at the touch of a button the roof slides back and you can enjoy open-air motoring.

If it's a hot, sunny day you can actually air the car before you get in - just hold down the button on the remote control and the sunroof and side windows open automatically.

An unusual touch is the dark-tinted plastic panel incorporated below the rear spoiler which serves as an extra window strip.

This strip gives the driver an improved view when parking, although because of the convex-concave shape of the panel it takes some getting used to.

With the sports coup you get luggage capacity worthy of a small estate. Rear seating can be split asymmetrically, allowing a load volume of between 310 and 1,100 litres.

Despite these positives, though, the C220 CDI didn't do enough for me.

FASTfactsWHAT IS IT? Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Sports Coup HOW MUCH? pounds 24,085 HOW QUICK? 0-62mph in 10.5 secs. Top speed of 134mph HOW THIRSTY? 42.2mpg combined CO 2 ? 177g/km FOR: Dramatic styling AGAINST: Not sporty enough THE VERDICT HHH
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2003
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