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Used test: BMW 4 Series Coupé vs Mercedes C-Class Coupé

These classy coupés go for eye-catching prices, but which dazzles and impresses enough to be crowned the best used car buy – the 4 Series Coupé or the C-Class Coupé?...

BMW 4 Series coupe vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe

The Contenders

BMW 4 Series Coupé 420d xDrive M Sport auto

List price when new £38,545

Price today £20,000*

Available from 2013-present

With fine handling and a superb infotainment system, the 4 Series Coupé expertly blends style and substance.

Mercedes C-Class Coupé C220d AMG Line auto

List price when new £36,460

Price today £22,000*

Available from 2016-present

The C-Class Coupé is sleek, suave and well equipped, making it an instantly desirable product.

*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and a full service history, correct at time of writing

The idea of owning a luxury coupé is a compelling one, isn't it. It's the cool class – full of cars that exude luxury, sportiness and movie-star glamour. A good set of shades should come as standard with all models.

Unfortunately, they don't, but we can report that many premium coupés on the used market have very reasonable prices, especially if bought at five years old. Here are two of our favourites, and they're both cut-price bargains, despite the recent hike in the price of nearly all used cars due to the shortages in the supply of new cars. 

First up, we have the Mercedes C-Class Coupé featuring AMG Line trim, a 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel engine and rear-wheel drive. It looks a million bucks inside and out, plus it's smooth and composed to drive. Taking it on is the BMW 4 Series Coupé in M Sport trim, with a 181bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine and four-wheel drive. It's sharp and engaging to drive, while its interior is of a particularly high quality. 

BMW 4 Series coupe

Only one can be named the victor, so which of these trendy two-doors is best? Read on to find out.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

As the raw numbers show, the Mercedes trails the BMW for outright power despite having a bigger engine. However, while the four-wheel-drive 4 Series 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 on to gears for longer.

Each 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, but feels firmer overall, resulting in more shimmy over patchy roads.

When you switch to the sportier settings, the C220d becomes bouncy while the 420d delivers excellent body control and keeps its composure along undulating roads.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe

Putting its power through all four wheels robs the BMW of some of its finesse, and some of the agility that makes the rear-wheel-drive 420d our preferred 4 Series model is lost. In addition, the C-Class has noticeably more front-end grip than its rival through tight twists and turns.

We prefer the C220d's steering, too, especially in Comfort mode. It's not perfect, but it is 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 C220d transmits less vibration through its controls and its extra (ninth) gear helps keep 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.