Remember when you could take people at their word? Yeah, me either. But you get my point. The reason I bring this up is because when someone tells you something about a car you hope you can take their word at it, but ultimately it is your responsibility to do your due diligence. Enter this 2003 Mercedes-Benz C320 SportCoupé.
As you might have noticed, this W203 is far from a stock car with quite a bit of modifications done to it. It has a wing, some 19 inch BBS wheels, a DTM-inspired splitter, a carbon fiber hood and of course some special paint. Inside, the seats have been redone with Mercedes logos stitched in them and if my eyes are correct, an original Xbox gaming system in the passenger foot well. At first glance, I thought it was just a modified car from a private owner. Then I read the eBay description and saw a story with the words ”McLaren” in it. Needless to say, my eyes lit up and I became very excited. Could this car really be associated with the F1 great? Then a few moments later I had to ask myself ”Why did McLaren want an Xbox in a C320 SportCoupé?”
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate was a very short lived offering here in the US market, lasting only four years, with supply cut off two years before the next generation C-class would arrive. In the beginning, two engine choices were offered, a 2.6 liter V6 or 3.2 liter V6, with or without 4Matic all-wheel drive. Later on, the C240 would soldier on as the sole C-class estate, available with or without 4Matic. This 2002 C320 Estate for sale in New Jersey has well under 50,000 miles and wears the five-spoke alloys from the Sport package of the period.
For some reason, certain cars just don’t catch on in the US. Every since trading my 2007 Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport (sans fold down rear seats) for an MINI Cooper S, I’m happy that once again I have a hatchback and a car with some useful cargo capacity. It baffles me then, why those in the US don’t take kindly to hatchbacks. Plenty of folks drive around SUVs with a rear hatch, so why not transfer this versatility onto something a smaller, more efficient and in most cases, more fun to drive? Also, a rear trunk doesn’t look that good on certain small cars. Yes, Mercedes-Benz CLA, I’m looking at you.
Mercedes tried its hand at the hatchback formula shortly after BMW exited with it’s E36 based 318ti Compact. The new C class Sportcoupe, as it was known, debuted for 2002 and was experimenting in uncharted territory for the brand. This was positioned as the most affordable vehicle in the lineup, available from the outset with a supercharged four cylinder engine mated to either a 5-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. Later, a 3.2 liter V6, also available with automatic or manual gearboxes, arrived. This C320 is of the six cylinder variety and has covered just over 11,000 miles, originally ordered by an executive of the company.
This interesting car falls into a strange place in the Mercedes line up.
It started life as a run of the mill 225 horsepower C320, albeit one with a not that common cobalt blue metallic paint. The cobalt blue color is a really nice subdued blue that looks elegant, but not as boring as black.The car was sent to Renntech where the 3.2 was boredout to 3.8 and some additional enhancements, such as exhaust, intake, and rims were added. All completed the car is running a significant bump in horsepower all lag free and normally aspirated. Specs aren’t given, but I beleive the 3.8 is rated at 291 bhp and 305 lb-ft of torque and the cost of that increase from Renntech was $19,000. That is a lot of cash for the same amount of horsepower to be had from a 50 shot of NOS. Total upgrades on the car according to the seller total $25,000.
What makes this a bit of an odd duck, is unlike other monster horsepower Renntech vehicles the horsepower isn’t huge, and the gains put it right into competition with the AMG C32 that also came out in 2001. The C32 pumps out 50 more horsepower from its supercharger making this Renntech model a bit superfluous.
The car is listed on eBay at $13,900. With 92,000 miles on it you can find a C32 with that kind of mileage for the same price. I noted that the same car is listed elsewhere on the net for $11,900. Not particularly flashy or powerful, but a unique ride that cost way too much to convert when new.
Like the BMW 3 series Compact that preceded it in the 1990s, the W203 C class hatchback was one of those experiments by an upmarket German marque to test the waters and see whether the American public would accept a smaller, cheaper offering. Not many folks took notice of the C class Sportcoupe, but much like GM does with its product lineup, Mercedes got it right at the end, offering the 3.2 V6 with a 6 speed manual. Here’s a clean example for sale in Pennsylvania.
For not much scratch, this last year Sportcoupe is an interesting and quite rare alternative to a MINI Cooper S or Volkswagen GTI. A good friend of mine just picked up a clean 30k mile example of this same car with the 6 speed manual, and while it doesn’t drive too dissimilar from my ’07 C230 sedan, it certainly can give the usual hot hatches a run for their money.