Used test: BMW 4 Series Coupé vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé
Looking good has never been cheaper, but which of these two used coupés with a premium label represents the best bargain?...
BMW 4 Series Coupé 420d xDrive M Sport auto
List price when new: £38,545
Price today: £22,500*
Available from: 2013-present
Based on the popular 3 Series, so inherits fine handling and a superb infotainment system.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupé C220d AMG Line auto
List price when new: £36,460
Price today: £23,000*
Available from: 2016-present
C-Class Coupé has sleek looks similar to the S-Class luxury car, combined with a stylish interior.
*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and a full service history, correct at time of writing*
Discount fashion is a mainstay of the internet, providing smart shoppers with a great way of searching for stylish garments at rock-bottom prices. Clearly, spending less while still looking good is enormously satisfying, so why not do the same with your next used car purchase? Take these two trendy coupés, for example. Both are still on sale and therefore don’t look old, yet with a few thousand miles under their belts, they can be found for many thousands less than they were when new.
Both come with frugal four-cylinder diesel engines and are in high-spec trim levels with plenty of equipment as standard. They also have upgraded suspension and automatic gearboxes. However, our BMW 420d test car is fitted with xDrive (BMW speak for four-wheel drive) and the Mercedes-Benz C220d is in standard rear-wheel drive form. Could the BMW come unstuck due to the fuel economy and handling penalties that some four-wheel drive systems bring, or will its lower price be enough to offset the difference? Maybe the Mercedes will take overall victory with its snazzier looking interior? Read on to find out.
What are they like to drive?
Despite having the bigger engine, the Mercedes trails the BMW for outright power. However, while the four-wheel-drive 4 Series unsurprisingly leaps away from the mark with more vigour, the C-Class actually completed the 30-70mph sprint in less time during our tests. Its engine also starts to pull from lower revs, which means swift progress can generally be achieved in a more relaxed fashion.
Both cars shift smoothly through their gears in automatic mode, although if you're changing gear manually – using the paddles behind the steering wheel – the BMW responds more swiftly to commands and lets you hold onto gears for longer.
Both of our test cars came with upgraded suspension. Our 4 Series had adaptive dampers, while our C-Class came with air suspension. Each system allows you to switch between Normal, Comfort and Sport modes to tailor the ride comfort.
If comfort is your thing, you’ll find the Mercedes more appealing. Its softest mode allows a touch more body lean through bends than the BMW’s equivalent setting, but the trade-off is a wonderfully supple ride over all but the most vicious of potholes. The 4 Series doesn’t ride badly, either, but feels that bit firmer overall, resulting in more shimmy over patchy roads.
Switch to the sportier settings and the C220d becomes unnecessarily bouncy; the 420d, on the other hand, delivers excellent body control and keeps its composure along undulating roads.
However, putting its power through all four wheels robs the BMW of some of its finesse; some of the agility that makes the rear-wheel-drive 420d our preferred 4 Series model is lost. In addition, the Mercedes has noticeably more front-end grip than its rival through tight twists and turns.
We prefer the Mercedes’ steering, too – especially in Comfort mode. It isn’t perfect, but it's undoubtedly more precise than the BMW’s and more feelsome than the steering in some other versions of the C-Class.
Neither car can claim to be particularly refined. Both engines sound gruff, emitting plenty of diesel clatter under hard acceleration, although the Mercedes’ transmits less vibration through its controls and its extra (ninth) gear helps keeps its engine quieter on motorways. Both cars generate a fair amount of wind noise at speed, although the C-Class suffers from less road noise.