This is an era of redefinition: over the past 15 to 20 years, the benchmark of automotive excellence has moved off of feedback and feel and onto cutting-edge technology and convenience. The once-humble pickup truck has become a $30-40,000 investment in which heated leather seats are the norm, and fuel efficiency has become a key selling point throughout. Similarly, the "sports coupe" has evolved from a lighter, quicker version of the "grown-up" cars many aspire to, into versions of those sedans with two doors instead of four (and in some cases, even that rule can be violated). In this context, the undeniably good-looking, future-forward 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 is the sports coupe of the moment.
When we get far enough away from our time to look back at the "teens" of the 21st century, we'll look back at the 2017 C300 as an excellent example of contemporary design. This is a pretty car that elegantly combines major design cues of its era in a way that doesn't feel dated (not yet anyway); rather, it expresses a refinement of elements coming to their natural conclusion. Maybe the only elements slightly out of place are the rear bumper scoops—something you'll find in current Porsches as well—which smack of crappy fiberglass 1990s tuner pieces. Save for that, the 2017 C300 is a perfectly attractive design, if a bit inoffensive.
Inside, the 2017 C300 coupe is like its slightly larger sedan big brother—beautiful. The support from the seats is especially noteworthy. We'd love to see a version of the C300's dashboard without the iPad-esque 8.4-inch screen mounted atop the center section; it's the only pimple in the otherwise flowing design. That 8.4-inch screen comes with Mercedes' COMAND system (a 7-inch screen is standard), which is as confusing and frustrating as the interior is wonderful. The issues with COMAND defy both technology and common sense: There's still no tactile way to change track on the dash or the wheel without digging through the system, and the navigation even managed to stump a German expert while trying to find our next programmed route in the navigation. Don't be completely discouraged, however: A welcome update for COMAND is around the corner.
Mercedes-Benz has made the available technology in the 2017 C300 coupe a point of emphasis, and with good reason. New tech is the measurement of choice for the effectiveness of any automotive effort these days, and the C300 has it covered in spades. The optional Heads-up Display gives you a virtual readout with navigation info, a speedometer, and cruise control settings among others across an 8-inch display that appears to "float" out past the windshield. Attention Assist monitors the drivers' behavior and gives warnings if it senses drowsiness on the part of the driver. Pre-Safe is standard and can take action if it senses actions that suggest a collision or rollover is about to happen, including tightening the front seat belts, closing the windows and sunroof, and adjusting the front passenger seat. The battery of Mercedes assist and safety systems is available and can provide for a C300 that packs a lot of the same technological punch as the S-Class sedan. In typical MB fashion, it's class leading and will no doubt be par for the course when the revised BMW 4-Series and Audi A5 debut this summer (even by the time you read this).
Under the hood of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300, you'll find a 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine good for 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. For, say, 90 percent of buyers, it offers plenty of power—just like it does in the sedan. We're always reluctant to admit a preference for a downsized and turbocharged engine over a naturally aspirated predecessor, but here, we just like the new engine better. The torque is immediate, yet the car enthusiastically pulls to redline. It's a good match for the 7G-TRONIC paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic transmission; with peak torque available from only 1,300 rpm, acceleration feels better than one might expect. The inline-four isn't the best sounding ever, though—we stayed in "comfort" driving mode as "sport" pumped a bit too much of its industrial-quality sound into the cabin.
The 2017 C300 coupe drives really well, too. Electric steering may still suck by comparison in terms of feedback, but the steering ratio is perfectly judged, requiring little adjustment once you've picked your line. The somewhat stiff-around-the-city damping makes a lot of sense at speed, letting you get into the flow on high-speed sweepers. If you routinely hit rough roads, the available AIRMATIC suspension might be a worthwhile option, as the C300's ride can be a bit harsh at times; though we'd save the money and stick to the steel springs.
All in all, we enjoyed driving the 2017 C300. Whether it's right for you will likely come down to what impresses you in a car like this. The C300 coupe starts at $43,575, but start ticking those option boxes and you can quickly land in the mid-$50,000s all the way up to more than $60,000 if you're not careful. That seems like an awful lot for a C-Class with a four-cylinder, but for the consumer looking for that hit of luxury with state-of-the-art tech, it could be just the right mix. Rated at 30 mpg highway, we can imagine worse ways to spend a long commute or weekend road trip than behind the wheel of the 2017 C300; time will tell if Mercedes has cracked the code for the new standard of "sport coupe."