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C ME NOW

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Thu, Jun 19, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

C ME NOW

By JOHN GRAFMAN

Is this the same car? I know we reviewed the Mercedes Benz sports coupe just a couple of years ago. Now equipped with the recently installed 320 V6 engine, this has reverted form the despised Mr. Hyde to the smooth Dr. Jekyll. Actually, the Sports Coupe has always suffered from a few maladies that have kept it out of the limelight, but it always had the potential. The funny thing about that is, potential and a buck twenty-five can buy you a cup of coffee… if you’re lucky.

So when Mercedes announced the V6 was to be planted into the Sports Coupe we were cautiously optimistic. On paper the difference is apparent but not huge. Horsepower is up from 192 in the outgoing C230 to a robust 215. Torque increases by 21 pounds. We have been in several other Mercedes products with the 320 powerplant and have found it to be a very versatile engine. In the Sports Coupe it really sings from the exhaust note to throttle response and everything in between. Every aspect the engine influences has been improved - and noticeably so. Now the Sports Coupe moves off the line with purpose. The 230-kompressor motor wasn’t a slug and the new engine isn’t an AMG powered rocket either. However, this car justifiably earns its name Sports Coupe. The alternatively powered version somewhat missed the mark. No matter where the accelerator pedal is placed, there is power on tap. No waiting for a supercharger to jump in. Even with the smallest of changes in pedal position, the 320 responds in proper proportion.

Our concern of the additional weight from the larger motor is unwarranted as the handling is similar to the other models. For those enthusiasts on a budget (we realize this is the entry level Benz) we suggest forgoing the $665 Metallic paint for the bad ass black paint instead, and opt for the Sport Package with the saved money. For about a C note more, the Sport Package offers what an enthusiast wants. Bigger and better tires and wheels as well as uprated springs are the main attractions with this option. The 320 motor makes this car. Not only is it fun, it also captures the ever-elusive quality of being exciting. Some of the minor irritations of this car still remain, however. Lacking a standard CD player and power seats come to mind immediately in a vehicle ranging from upper twenties to mid thirties. One of the least - recognized but most reassuring features that Mercedes provides is Roadside Assistance. I was in a position to use it when the front driver side tire had a sudden loss of pressure (p.c. for a blowout). The car maintained stability perfectly throughout the incident, which happened at roughly forty miles per hour. For a standard feature that is seldom used, the Mercedes Roadside Assistance did everything you could hope for. The work was done quickly, courteously, and professionally for no additional charge. Ken was the roadside tech who replaced the tire, never lost his cool even when the spare tire wouldn’t fit the front. He merely swapped out the wasted front tire with the rear, and then put the spare onto the rear. He never once complained, although I’m sure he was wondering what the engineers were thinking. Couldn’t they have taken into account the size of the front brake calipers and alleviated half of the work involved and still make it fit in the spare wheel well?

It is gratifying to know that the manufacturer’s commitment doesn’t end at the end of the dealership’s driveway. After driving for several days throughout the streets and highways L.A. and O.C., the performance of the C320 was a welcomed surprise. I’m confident this will register as a growing concern for its competitors.

More of Mercedes-Benz at www.mercedes-benz.com

Engine type: Twin spark 18 valve aluminum V-6 Displacement: 3,199 cc Horsepower: 215 hp @ 5,700 rpm Torque: 221 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,600 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual standard 5-speed automatic with driver-adaptive shift logic and Touch Shift (optional) Front suspension: Twin lower links, struts, increased spring rate, firmer shock absorbers, thicker stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Five-link, increased spring rate, firmer shock absorbers, and thicker stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 7.0 x 16-inch alloy (Opt. 7.5 x 17-inch) 205/55R16 (Opt.: 225/45ZR17) Brakes: Front: 11.8 in. / 300 mm Rear: 11.4 in. / 290 mm Hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel vented discs with 4-channel ABS anti-lock, Brake Assist and electronic brake proportioning Overall length: 171.0 Overall width: 68.0 Overall height: 54.3 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,385 3,415 automatic EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 17 / 25 mpg 19 / 25 mpg automatic

0-60 mph: 6.8 6.9 automatic 0-100 mph: N/A 60-0 mph: N/A

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