First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
Sector: Compact executive Price: £28,055–£33,220 Fuel: 51.4–65.7mpg CO2: 108–128g/km
Mercedes-Benz thinks that the new C-Class Estate brings a touch more luxury to a sector that already boasts some fine cars.
Sometimes though those cars can seem more like a large hatchback as some can appear in this sector. Longer than its predecessor by nearly 10cm, wider by four (but with considerably more shoulder room internally to the point it seems a size above a 3 Series) but with only 10 litres more loadspace in the all-important boot, theVC-Class Estate is still a car everybody could find a job for.
The lines are sleek, sharp and with plenty of energy. And this car looks great, with wide shoulders right through to the rear hips and a long, slingy glasshouse. Such is the basic strength of the design that it looks suitably conservative in basic Middle England SE spec with tall tyres, artico leather (vinyl to you and me) and gunsight bonnet star, yet sleek and sexy for £1,495 more in AMG Line with 18-inch alloys, chrome splitter and bazooka exhausts.
In the cabin, it is of the highest quality – straight out of an S-Class with switches that cant heftily and smooth Scandinavian wood schemes butted tightly against slivers of brushed aluminium. It’s probably the best interior in the sector, which is as Mercedes wanted it, although its timing is good as the 3 Series and A4 are ageing now.
More practically, the rear seats tumble in three parts, allowing long things to be pushed through from the boot, while the bootlid itself is powered and can be open with a swipe from your foot when arms are full of stuff.
Three engine variants are available at launch – C 220 BlueTEC and C 250 BlueTEC diesel engines plus the C 200 petrol engine, while two further engines – the C 200 BlueTEC and the C 300 BlueTEC Hybrid – will join later in the year. Prices for the diesel models, no doubt taking almost all of the sales, start at £30,565, which is noticeably more expensive than an entry-level A4 Avant and slightly more than a 3 Series Touring.
We tried both the 250 BlueTEC diesel and the 300 BlueTEC Hybrid (which will go on sale later in the year) and the most striking thing is how the incessant rattly splurge of Merc diesels of old has finally been quashed. The 250 would appear to be a great mid-market choice, offering enough pace with 60mpg-plus and decent shove, but the diesel hybrid is the star. Mercedes is streaking ahead of the competition and 99g/km with 226bhp is hard to beat because it is almost as refined and seamless as when installed in the S-Class. The way the engine dies barely a second after you lift off and then starts up again when you apply power, with no vibration, is remarkable. It just sails merrily on.
In terms of handling though, the Estate is fairly pedestrian. The front independent suspension is decoupled from the spring strut to give a better ride, and the rear end comes with the £895 option of air for carrying especially heavy dogs and garden ornaments, but it’s just not a car that wants to be rushed. High speed, smoothly steered corners are its thing. Even the Sport setting on the Agility Select system doesn’t offer much more than a firmer edge to the already pliant ride.
Mercedes sold 33,000 examples of the previous model, with nearly half of them going to fleets. This car should easily do that again, and maybe perform better, because it is a very classy car.
With a larger boot and a cabin that is of the highest quality, as well as a range of refined but low emission diesels, the C-Class is a very practical, high quality car.