After a lay-low year, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupes return with vigor in 2016. Well aware of its competitive ABCs -- Audi, BMW, Cadillac -- Mercedes is looking to keep the Audi A5/RS5, BMW 4 Series/M4, and Cadillac ATS/ATS-V Coupes on their toes. The rear-drive 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe and all-wheel-drive C300 4Matic Coupe arrive first -- coming this spring. Following in the summer, the lethal 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and C63 S Coupe models (both rear-wheel drive) keep 4-star elegance and sub-4-second 0-60 mph times in the C-Class family.

Body and Soul

The look of the new C-Class Coupes follows a number of the sedan's lines and shapes both inside and out, though the two are far from identical. The upper character crease on the Coupes, for example, folds straight through the door handles rather than below them as on the Sedans. Front and rear-end treatments are distinctive as well, particularly the deep sweep of the 2-doors C-Class' rear pillar into the trunklid. The net visual effect is a car whose personality morphs depending on the angle you're looking at. Eighteen-inch wheels deliciously fill out the flared wheel wells.

Inside the 4-seat coupes, the design and firm comfort of the C-Class sedan cockpit rings of familiarity for the driver and front-seat passenger, though the two rear seats are barely an afterthought -- no surprise in a sports coupe. Standard equipment to remind you of the promise of luxury includes power front seats, Keyless Start, a 7-inch color display, a Panorama Sunroof, and an arm that automatically reaches out to hand your seatbelt to you. 

Additional equipment on the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe includes heated seats, a Burmester Premium sound system, SiriusXM satellite radio, Keyless-Go, and Blind Spot Assist. Beyond that, a dazzling array of options and option packages to make you feel safer and more connected are available.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Driving the C300 Coupe

At the C300 end of the C-Class Coupes, the engine offered is the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder found in the C300 Sedan. While not the kind of engine to take your breath away, the C300 turbo-4's 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque are served well by the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission. Though the C300's competition mostly uses 8-speed automatics, the 7-speed Mercedes transmission has no issue working as one with the 2.0-liter engine. That's because that C300 powerplant makes peak torque -- the essential spice for acceleration -- starting just a nudge off idle at 1,300 rpm and maintains that 273-lb-ft of Sriracha all the way to 4,000 rpm, making for easy acceleration and passing. If, however, you feel that you must have more gears, a 9-speed G-Tronic automatic is expected to arrive in 2017.

A notable highlight for the C300 Coupe is the evolution of the Dynamic Select system, which lets the driver toggle through five vehicle setups: ECO and Comfort for prudence, and Sport and Sport+ for action, and "Individual" if you want to customize the throttle response, shift points, handling, and steering effort. Laudably, the differences between the modes are significant. ECO mode allows you to freewheel with no engine-braking resistance slowing you down. While the shifts in Comfort mode are seamless, Mercedes engineers are a little too proud of the notable "kerchunk!" that accompanies downshifts in Sport and Sport+, but it is a constant reminder that your job in the Coupe is to have fun. The personality of the C300 Coupe's optional Airmatic suspension (the only one available to us at the introduction) rides fairly firm in all modes, though it's not as fluid in hard cornering as some of its competitors.  And while the new C300 Coupe's brakes don't have that absolute, suck-you-into-the-ground responsiveness, they have no problem reeling in the C300 from high speeds.

Driving the C63 Coupe

At the other end of the price and performance spectrum roars the Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S Coupes. Baked in attitude and clad with blistered fenders, raised "power" creases in the hood, quad exhaust tips, low-profile tires and a delicate rear decklid spoiler, the C63 Coupes back up their "angry young car" edginess with the authority and magnificent roar of a hand-built biturbo V8 engine.

As with the Mercedes-AMG C-Class sedans, two versions of the 4.0-liter AMG V8 are available. The C63 Coupe (469 horsepower / 479 lb-ft of torque / 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds) and the C63 S (503 horsepower / 516 lb-ft of torque / 0-60 in 3.8 seconds) both send thunder to the rear wheels via an AMG Speedshift MCT 7-speed automatic transmission. Both models add the benefits of a limited-slip rear differential, mechanical on the C63 Coupe, and electronic on the C63 S.

On the track, the C63 S we drove surprised us by how little of that racecar-like on/off behavior it exhibited. Any drift into a corner was docile to control, any throttle-on that broke the rear tires loose was a cinch to ease out of or stay on until the tires hooked up, and every lap was accompanied by that "come on, come on" encouragement that all good sports cars have. This benign, confident behavior stayed true even when we put the Coupe's Dynamic Select into "Race" mode, an AMG exclusive that nth-degrees everything including putting the car's Electronic Stability Program into "Sport Handling Mode."

It was on public roads, however, that we really started to appreciate the C63 S Coupe's gifts. Steering that seemed less than razor sharp at the track now felt completely natural, and the dedicated AMG suspension flowed through corners with absolute confidence. On both the road and at the track, that confidence in the C63 S gets multiplied thanks to the ultra-Coupe's dynamic engine mounts that automatically stiffen under hard cornering. This gives the car a greater feeling of oneness and stability in fast turns rather than forcing the engine to catch up with the rest of the car as it dives into a curve. Finally, the best piece of software that AMG ever wrote -- the AMG 7-speed's ultra-quick shift programming for the manual-mode paddle shifters -- just shined, and the engine was single-minded about its intent to dispense with slower traffic.

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

The price of a good time

While 2017 C-Class Coupe prices for the U.S. have not been finalized, you can expect the Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe to start in the low-to-mid $40,000 range, and add about $2,000 for the all-wheel-drive C300 4Matic Coupe. Reaching up to the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe will find you standing in the low $70,000s, with the C63 S Coupe starting all by itself in the low $80,000 club, so you'd better really mean it if you plan to go that far. Should you split the difference between the elegant, sporty C300 Coupe and the elegant, awesome C63 Coupes, stay tuned for the V6-powered C450 Coupe, coming in late 2016.

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