Mercedes begin fightback with the sleek C220
OVER the years various executives would ask me: 'Mercedes or BMW?'
It was the perennial question that any free-loading young buck would ask before they picked their luxury ride out of the company catalogue.
For a long time the answer was Mercedes, but then that changed to BMW during the boom, when BMW capitalised on its competitor's catastrophic woes of the 'Noughties'.
When the market began to slow down rapidly at the beginning of this most oppressive of recessions, BMW came back at it with another whammy -- cut price 5 Series.
So you can see just why it has been difficult for Mercedes to keep up with the Joneses, or the BMWs or the newly emerging Audis.
And it is now Audi which has emerged as the new threat for Mercedes in Ireland.
Audi, who are now the top-selling luxury brand in the country, are the real deal through a mixture of quality, marketing presence, and PR, have established themselves at the top of the tree.
So now Mercedes not only has to try to win back some ground from BMW, it has to try to contend with the runaway success of Audi.
The problems for Mercedes are that they are so far behind their two competitors, according to the latest SIMI figures.
They show that Audi replaced BMW as the luxury car brand of Ireland with sales of 3,464 -- just 31 cars ahead, with Mercedes is lagging with 1,951 sales.
This represents a very serious situation but one that the once great German marque can deal with.
Lately I've had the pleasure of driving, at length, a number of very serious Mercedes cars and they are among the most exciting I've driven.
One week with the Mercedes C-Class Coupe is enough to convince you that the good days may not be a million miles away for the 'Three-Pointed-Star'.
Over the next few weeks I will drive another three models, and I'll tell you then if the road ahead is going to be a rocky one or not.
And in fairness, the Coupe is a pretty good place to lead from.
Even if it didn't do anything else, the Coupe looks like a Mercedes should look like.
It is the sleekest car of its kind with expressive sporty lines which sweep the shape into an "elongated silhouette" -- Mercedes' words, not mine.
But the best thing about the C-Class Coupe 220 CDI was the sizzling performance.
The 167bhp pumped out by the turbo diesel banger left a quite scintillating acceleration and eventual cruising performance, feeling even more significant than the number suggests.
That sort of power honks out a rate of 0-100kph in just 8.4 seconds.
This was a BlueEFFICIENCY Coupe, which resulted in a very decent consumption rate of 4.4/100km -- that means, in English, a very generous mileage rate per tank.
The Mercedes Benz C-Class Coupe starts at €36,000 for the C180 and €39,900 for the C220.