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Excitement at entry level

Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe performs well with less

For 2017, Mercedes-Benz offers the C-Class in a range of models from sedan, coupe and convertible to high-performance Mercedes-AMG models and a C350e plug-in hybrid that’s coming.

The entry-level Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe that I tested appears much larger and more luxurious than expected (like a junior S-Class). From the three-quarter rear view it looks like a Honda Accord coupe, especially in blue. The C-Class coupe has a blunt, upright grille with a big M-B logo and flanked by narrow LED headlights. The big air intakes are flared and sculpted to give a performance vibe but look like they could suck up a pedestrian. Large front fenders and creases provide a nice design contrast. The rear has a familiar appearance that resembles Accord’s — I even parked next to a blue coupe to compare — but overall, the C300 looks like an S-Class coupe.

Mercedes offers the regular C300 coupe (my test vehicle) with a turbocharged 2.0-liter turbo four that makes 273 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a seven-speed automatic with manual shift mode directing power to all wheels. Unfortunately, a manual transmission is not offered. The engine has a stop/start feature, but emits some sour notes through a sport exhaust.

The interior borrows from the S-Class’ playbook. Big circular vents populate the dash, with two narrow rows of buttons for standard functions all atop a ribbon-like, metal-trimmed center console. Mercedes includes its standard overload of tech gizmos that, while not as extensive as on more expensive models, still requires plenty of programing time if you’re not up to speed with technology.

The C300 comes with expected power items and rear camera, keyless ignition and COMAND interface with capacitive touch pad on a 7.0-inch display. Upgrades on the test car included leather, navigation, power passenger seat, LED headlamps, a huge panoramic sunroof, plenty of lighting with LED headlamps and Active Curve Illumination, a head-up display and helpful hands-free trunk close. While the C300 looks big from the outside, the interior was the very cramped; the rear seating area is tight.

Mercedes-Benz provided the C300 with more driving dynamics than most competitors except for the Audi A4. During some aggressive cornering, the C300 was very sharp and well-behaved due in part to the enhanced grip provided by the optional 19-inch wheels with high-performance summer tires. A firmer suspension setup than in other models and quicker steering both take advantage of the bigger tires. However, the suspension makes the around-town ride a little harsh. Acceleration with the 2.0 is not as strong as I would expect, but there is virtually no turbo lag.

While it’s not the fastest, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe performs better than virtually all entry-level luxury coupes. Its interior and proven exterior looks help overcome the impracticality of a coupe body style.