BMW meets Mercedes once again – this time in the battle of the posh two-door coupes
If a regular old compact executive saloon is too humdrum for you, a two-door coupe might be right up your street. They’re usually as sleek and sophisticated as their four-door saloon brethren, but that bit more lower-slung and special. Which to go for, though?
Naturally the German brands dominate here. The BMW 4 Series Coupe is a staple in this sector but, despite being late to the party with the old C-Class Coupe, Mercedes has wasted no time in launching the latest generation car. We brought them together to see which is best.
Engine and performance
Most two-door coupes in this sector are sold with diesel engines these days. So we chose a Mercedes C220 d in AMG Line trim, to take on the BMW 420d in M Sport trim. Pretty evenly-matched – save for the fact BMW couldn’t provide a regular rear-wheel drive model. The £1500 more expensive 420d xDrive all-wheel drive version it had to be.
Mercedes C-Class Coupe C 220 d AMG Line auto
Engine: 2.1-litre, diesel
List price: £37,090
Target Price £33,812
Torque: 295lb ft
Top speed: 145mph
Official fuel economy: 67.3mpg
True MPG: 51.0mpg
CO2 emissions: 109g/km
This Merc doesn’t have the firm’s latest diesel engine tech, meaning that although the motor is bigger than the BMW’s, it’s less powerful and slower against the clock – although in fairness, this is aided by the 4 Series’ better traction. Indeed, in mid-range acceleration, the C-Class was actually more responsive, and it had better low-rev pull.
You couldn’t call either engine super-refined though. They’re gruff under acceleration, and there’s no escaping the fact both are diesel-powered. Despite its age, the C-Class vibrates less than the newer BMW, and fades into the background better at speed courtesy of its long-striding nine-speed automatic (the BMW has eight gears).
Ride and handling
You can buy these cars without fancy suspension tech, but neither maker seemed willing to let us try them. So the BMW had £750 of adaptive dampers and the Merc ran on £895 air suspension. Needless to say, the C-Class rode better. Yes, the softer suspension means more roll through corners, but it’s ultra-compliant over harsh road surfaces to make up for this. If you prefer the sharper handling of the BMW, you have to put up with more firmness over bad roads.
There’s a ‘but’. Change the C-Class Coupe’s switchable suspension into sport mode and it’s transformed into a pogo stick. The BMW, on the other hand, remains composed and taut. So much so, it’s a pity the xDrive system spoils the handling: the front end is softer and it feels less agile – surprisingly, it was the Mercedes that seemed to have more bite. Its steering was preferable too.
BMW 420d xDrive M Sport Coupe auto
Engine: 2.0-litre, diesel
List price: £38,685
Target Price £34,747
Torque: 295lb ft
Top speed: 142mph
Fuel economy: 60.1mpg
True MPG: 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 125g/km
Inside, it’s the C-Class that has the wow factor. Its dashboard looks beautiful, with a lovely mix of black ash wood and brushed aluminium. The reality is spoiled somewhat when you touch it – parts of it are surprisingly flimsy and squeaky – but while the BMW is sturdier, it’s also more dour. We do, however, prefer its easier-to-use infotainment system to the C-Class’ frequently unfathomable setup.
There’s lots of space up front in both, and their low-set driving positions are comfortable despite both having pedals offset to the right. It’s more of a split in the back, though. Two adults will grumble less in the BMW than in the Merc, where a lack of headroom spoils long-distance comfort. The 4 Series has a bigger boot too, making it petty of BMW to charge extra for the split-fold seats that are standard in the Mercedes.
Equipment is executive-grade in both, but there are some surprises. You get standard leather in the BMW; it’s man-made in the Merc. You get LED headlights on the C-Class; they’re less-modern xenon units with the BMW. BMW doesn’t give you a reversing camera either.
The BMW will also cost more as a company car. Partly because of its pricier, less efficient xDrive hardware, company car drivers will spend £2500 more in tax over a three-year period, and it’s cheaper to buy for retail buyers as well – yet also worth more used. Things are more even on PCP costs though, and the Mercedes is pricier per month than the BMW if you’re leasing.
So which is our favourite? Well, both are good, but the C-Class noses ahead here. That’s largely because the BMW was delivered in xDrive guise, which spoils the handling, economy, performance and cost-effectiveness.
Despite this, the Mercedes still deserves to win. Comfortable, very well equipped, pleasing to drive and surprisingly cheap to own, it’s only hampered by its weak infotainment system. Fix that, Mercedes, and you may even earn yourself a five-star rating…