Music and motion are magic in the right car. This was the right car, the 2002 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor coupe.
It was magma red, a cool version of red hot.
It was cute, too. Not pretty, not beautiful. There is a difference.
Cute possesses a lightness of being. Pretty is self-possessed. Beauty is deep.
I wanted cute, accompanied by doo-wop. The day was hot. The air was heavy. My spirit was soaring. It needed the road and that post-World War II finger-popping music sung a cappella on street corners by boys in the 'hood.
I opened the C230's glove compartment and loaded the six-disc CD player located there. I had a doo-wop road show, including tunes from the Flamingos, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers and the original Ink Spots.
If you're too young to know those groups, it doesn't matter. The music is from another generation, but the C230 -- assuming that you have a $75,000 annual household income -- is for you.
The car is the newest of Mercedes-Benz's C-Class models, all of which are designed to scoop up the young and the affluent and hold on to them as lifelong members of the Mercedes-Benz camp.
This is serious business. Entry-level luxury automobiles, those priced from $28,000 to $40,000, make up 75 percent of all luxury vehicles sold in the United States. But Mercedes-Benz holds a tiny 3.6 percent share of that sector of the market, substantially less than German rival BMW AG and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus division.
Mercedes-Benz's strength is in the high end ($55,000 and over), where it has a 42 percent share of U.S. luxury auto sales. It also does a good job in the mid-luxury segment ($40,000 to $55,000), where it holds a 20 percent share.
But life in the high end often is accompanied by funeral dirges as its mostly male occupants, 60 years old and up, leave for another world.
To replace those people and ensure its future, Mercedes-Benz must do better at the bottom of the luxury market. It will do that with the C230.
The little coupe with the hatchback rear comes with the right amount of soul and funk. It was enough to make this fool fall in love.
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