Who but Mercedes could wrap a sporty coupe in such style? With exterior styling inspired by the big, luxurious S-class sedan, the C-class, to which this baby Benz belongs, ranks among the boldest of the small European designs, and among the slickest of Mercedes. World Wide Motors Inc. features the 2003 Mercedes C230 Kompressor Sports Coupe, a fairly recent addition to the luxury carmaker"s line that has received little press and even less attention.
Technically a hatchback - the first in Mercedes history - the C230 sport coupe shares its 106.0-inch wheelbase with the C-class sedans, but is 7 inches shorter overall, due in part to its tightly trimmed rear end. Mercedes continues to tweak the details, with safety and style always in mind. Turn signal repeaters built into the outside mirrors are a stylish safety feature. An extra pane of glass between the tail lights enhances rear vision and gives the C230 a distinctive appearance. Ten-spoke alloy wheels add a touch of sportiness. A radical, racy roofline swoops gracefully up from an aggressive front end with a star grille and double elliptical Xenon headlights. The shortened rear sits high, sporting a functional spoiler for added downforce on the rear tires for more straight-line speed. Not as aerodynamic as the C-class sedan, the C230 strikes a sassy pose that attracts admiring glances. Inside the view is equally impressive. It may share a platform with the C-class sedan and technology with the latest E-class, but the C230"s interior design is all its own. Aluminum trim replaces traditional wood. Deeply bolstered seats are firm, supportive and comfortable - and well worth the additional cost of covering them in leather. Splurge on the heated seat option for maximum winter comfort. Bells and whistles include tilt- and telescope-wheel; dual-zone climate control; power front seats with memory; and heated, rain-sensing wipers. The panoramic roof option translates into almost total glass up top, from windshield to rear spoiler. Front and back feature retractable sunscreens, but only the front permits the wind in your hair. The steering wheel-mounted controls go beyond simple cruise control and radio volume. Fifty information and programming functions are at the tips of your fingers - in the language of your choice, no less. If you order the CD changer, don"t expect to have a useable glove box. A center console has double storage spaces, with cup holders folded away deep inside, but there"s not much room for collecting a lot of trinkets in this little speedster: no junk drawer. The coupe"s long doors (and release system that automatically slides the whole seat forward when the seatback is pulled forward) ease the awkward climb into and out of the rear seat, but riding in the back of a two-seater is never comfortable for long. Because the rear roofline slopes down significantly, the back seat is unusually uncomfortable for tall folk. The 60/40 split rear seats fold down with ease, creating a superbly detailed and substantial cargo area. Powering this little German pocket rocket is a 1.8-liter, twin-overhead-cam, 16-valve, inline-four pumped up to 189 horsepower by a supercharger and intercooler. The acceleration makes much more of an impression than the numbers would indicate. Designed for better efficiency and lower emissions, the supercharged, intercooled, four-cylinder engine will take you from 0 to 60 in 7.2 seconds, with a respectable whine along the way, with smooth power, slick shifts, minimal road noise and secure handling. Its considerable weight and sturdy steering convey a sense of control rather than heaviness. If you like to drive it to the edge, the ESP stability control system keeps you balanced. Its solid feel and stable rear-drive road manners make the C230 a worthy rival to the Audi TT and Acura RSX. Precision German engineering: ClichÈ perhaps, but it applies. The Mercedes C230 offers a perfect balance between ride and handling, nice steering and excellent brakes. Smooth and sophisticated, this sporty little Benz is a combination of style, space and features, with nothing there that doesn"t need to be there.