Downsizing in spark-ignited engines becomes one of the most effective concepts to achieve fuel economy and emissions requirements and drives operating conditions of major moving engine components into more mixed and boundary lubrication regimes. Piston ring design faces considerable challenge to reduce friction losses, oil consumption, blow-by, and wear. Surface coatings have received great attention in applications of automotive engine components due to their unique friction properties. In this study, an elastic–plastic contact model of rough surfaces with hard coatings is used to provide proper design of the ring coating thickness concerning the plasticity-yielding resistance of stiff coating. A diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating with surface hardness higher than current production ring coatings has been evaluated in additive-free base oil and fully formulated engine oil under boundary and mixed lubrication conditions. The friction behavior of the coated material relative to uncoated materials is compared in boundary and mixed lubrication regimes. A traction-merging rolling speed in the mixed lubrication regime is observed, at which friction coefficient is independent of applied loads. By using a mixed lubrication model previously published, calculations indicate that the lower the traction-merging rolling speed, the earlier the contact approaches elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL), therefore reducing the risk of asperity-interacting fatigue in boundary and mixed lubrication regimes. Effects of tribofilm on friction behavior for DLC coating and uncoated steel in fully formulated oil are investigated by using measured Stribeck curves in conjunction with the model. The results from this study analytically support one of the possible mechanisms of tribofilm-dependent friction enhancement in mixed lubrication conditions proposed in the earlier publication.