Renn Tech C-Class Coupe Breathing Heavy DownmarketIn North America, the entry-level segment is the fastest growing portion of the luxury market with roughly 900,000 collective units sold in 2001. It's also one of the most competitive segments, in both price and number of models.
One such entry-level car is the C230 Sport Coupe. At an attractive price point, selling for under $30,000, the car has broadened the automaker's buyer range, expanding deep into an entirely new, younger clientele.
Smaller and more nimble on its feet than anything else currently in Mercedes' North American lineup, the three-door Coupe, which really isn't so much a coupe as it is a hatch, has certainly broken the traditional Mercedes mould here in the U.S. and in more ways than one.
Owned by European car aficionado Ron Avery of Winnetka, Calif., this 2002 model was purchased with M-B's optional C7 Package, featuring upgrades to various interior and exterior trim, including a sportier steering wheel and shift knob, short-throw shift linkage, aluminum sport foot pedals with studded rubber traction, color-coordinated exterior door handles, sport package door sills, a stainless-steel exhaust and sporty 18-in. multi-spoke alloy wheels-a generous assortment of items. Perhaps the best part of the factory package is that it retailed for less than $1,000 when purchased with the car.
For those who wish to delve even further into the style/performance arena, as did Avery, Florida-based tuner RENNTech offers an attractive package. To wake up the supercharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, Avery installed a RENNTech crankshaft pulley kit and cat-back exhaust system. The pulley, which is close in design to the OEM unit but is noticeably larger, enables the supercharger to supply roughly 21 psi of boost. The exhaust carries attractive dual oval stainless-steel tips and emits a throaty, much deeper exhaust note.
In stock form the car produces a respectable 192 bhp compared to the 168 bhp in the normally aspirated C240. Toss in the RENNTech mods, and the output increases to 224 bhp at 5300 rpm. Torque output is noticeably improved to 250 lb-ft between 2500 to 4800 rpm, a solid gain over the 200 lb-ft of factory-rated twist.
Performance gains are also made in the suspension department via RENNTech shocks and springs, which lower vehicle ride height by roughly an inch. Additional handling characteristics are altered through the use of RENNTech front and rear sway bars
Two-piece, cast-aluminum O.Z. Wheels, measuring 8.5x18 in front and 9.5x18 in the rear, carry Pirelli P Zero ultra-high-performance rubber, size 235/40ZR18 front and 255/40ZR18 rear.
The Coupe's exterior styling was enhanced with a RENNTech rear wing, designed for factory-like appearance. The bridged (over the window) wing better accentuates the Coupe's styling and helps alleviate the hatch-like slope of the rear end. RENNTech also offers a front spoiler lip and various interior cosmetics, including a steering wheel and shift knob with brushed aluminum accents.
In testing, the Coupe's newfound performance is admirable. While far from possessing the silky smooth, spirited performance of the CLK's V6, the modified four is a considerable improvement over stock. In comparison to the standard Coupe package, the six-speed manual and its factory C7 option shifter/linkage was another welcome improvement.
Acceleration is plentiful and continues to build throughout the rpm range. RENNTech claims the modifications are good enough to propel the 3,300-lb Coupe to 60 mph in roughly 6.7 sec. I think that's a pretty fair number.
Braking was responsive, but an upgrade may be considered in light of the additional horsepower. RENNTech offers a couple different brake packages, from a moderate stock upgrade to rotors as large as 14-in. front and 12-in. rear, augmented with four-piston front/rear calipers.
The addition of the RENNTech suspension and sway bar components pays huge dividends when the car is pushed hard in the corners, providing better stability and less body roll, while still retaining an uncompromised M-B ride quality.
Many of the aforementioned RENNTech items (excluding a new widebody package) may be obtained for less than seven grand, still well within the reach of the ever-growing C-Class customer.