Monday 5 December 2016

The C is for comfort

Published 27/08/2011 | 05:00

MERCEDES
C-CLASSCOUPE220CDI
RATING 87/100
MERCEDES C-CLASSCOUPE220CDI RATING 87/100

With some cars you just 'know' whether they work or not after an amazingly short time. I have no problem telling you that I came to fairly brutal conclusions about a couple of this new coupe's precursors.

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Look, a Mercedes sports car or coupe is supposed to be an event in itself.

Whether or not we have been browbeaten by our current predicament, there are still a few things that represent flares in a dark sky. When they don't light up, as the predecessors of this coupe did not, then the disappointment becomes all the more marked.

I'm glad to say this C-Class Coupe lit up a gloomy August sky for me. At long, long last they've got it right -- well nearly.

This is what the snob in you expects a compact Merc coupe to look like.

This is why you pay your money even in the dusk of economic nightmare.

This is what motoring should do -- give you a lift. So many do not.

This looks right.

It felt right when I sat in and drove off.

I would say within 30 seconds the resonance of engineering that underpins the good looks was sufficient for me to relax and enjoy. Of course there were a few things that annoyed me, but in the main this is a car to celebrate. And that is saying something these days.

No matter what angle I viewed this from it just had the right touches.

Too soon to label it with the awful burden of a potential modern classic, but my enthusiasm did surge there for a few minutes.

And they've done a wonderful job with the cabin, so often the bane of Merc lives. Not only that, but you could get a couple of good-sized young lads into the back there without damaging their shins or permanently stunting their growth.

And to prove it I put one of my fast-growing nephews in there for a spin to Woodfield. He was quite happy. So, shock alert, this coupe can be called a four-seater with some justification -- just don't expect too much.

On the road this machine sits low. I expected, and was delighted to get, that touch of go-kart immediacy and feedback. It was really well set up with an ability to take the bumps without being deflected, while there was real composure over bad, old roads.

The diesel engine was as quiet as a cloud.

Downsides? Yes, there were a couple. Because I sat so low in the cabin I could never get the steering wheel down as far as I'd like to, so I was never as comfortable as I imagined I could have been.

Secondly the engine, for all its purring and proficiency in sipping little from the tank, was a little short on bite and zip.

Granted most people would regard that as a small price to pay for its frugality and €156-a-year road tax, but what the hell, I have to whine about something.

Part of the pleasure of driving this coupe, just sitting in it, was the comfort of the seats. Now, normally sport seats (with integrated head restraints) are either too hard, too narrow (well, for me, anyway) or just a mess. This had seats I could travel in, ease into, enjoy. And you know what? When you take away all my oul' talk about suspension, handling, engines, acceleration and all that, really and truly they come to little or nothing if you can't sit comfortably.

I'll confess there have been times -- a good while ago admittedly -- when I nearly developed welts on my bum in a sports car, but overlooked that because the sheer vivacity of the vehicle took precedence. That was ridiculous and there remains a perception among some of the petrol heads that you have to endure certain privations to really 'dig' a car. This coupe proves you don't.

It is now an accomplished rival for the likes of the former supreme icon of the genre, the BMW 3-series Coupe or the less irresistible Audi A5. Indeed, I would say it has become the one to beat because it just has that bit of magic.

About time, of course, but now it has arrived, somehow the wait almost seems worth it. Strange how after all these years, it took me just a few seconds to recognise the arrival of excellence.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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