First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Sector: Compact executive Price: £26,855–£35,510 Fuel: 53.3–70.6mpg CO2: 103–128g/km
The C-Class is the biggest seller in the Mercedes-Benz range with most of its sales going to the company car market. So it’s keen to keep its fleet buyers on board with the C-Class latest model, and it reckons on doing so by offering an even more luxurious package than before.
Cars in this market have been getting progressively higher quality for some years now but this C-Class feels like a leap ahead in terms of prestige and style: it is the most elegant car in its class. For years Mercedes-Benz cars have been very conservative in terms of their styling. With this model that period is officially over.
Inside is where this C-Class really shines. Mercedes has responded to criticism of the interior quality of the outgoing model and as a result it is way ahead of its competitors. For those racking up many motorway miles each year, there simply isn't a more comfortable, more classy place to sit in this segment, and it is more spacious too.
The daunting array of buttons that defined Mercedes products for so long, is gone and has been replaced by a 7-inch infotainment screen that owes so much to the design of Apple’s iPad it ought to be credited at the back of the glovebox manual. Operation is via a familiar rotary dial controller augmented by a touchpad which offers numerical and lexical input, although we’re not entirely sure it’s needed and can be ignored almost entirely. The touchpad can also get in the way when changing gear in manual models.
Five powertrain options will be offered in the UK: a C200 diesel-electric and petrol, each with a manual gearbox, and a C220 and C250 diesel and a C300 diesel electric hybrid, each with automatic transmission.
Mercedes claims an average fuel consumption reduction of 20% across the range. In the business car market the automatic version of the C220 Bluetec diesel will be the biggest seller and in terms of running costs the figures are impressive. It emits just 103g/km of CO2 and as much as 70.6mpg on the combined cycle. Considering this is a car that’s capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds and has 168bhp to summon, it clearly offers a good combination of attributes.
Mercedes-Benz may be claiming it’s the sportiest C-Class yet, but it’s still no match for the BMW 3 Series in terms of engagement, but in terms of the ride it is, perhaps, more reminiscent of a higher end Mercedes and is the first car in this segment to get air suspension.
What we can say is that the suspension offers a comfortable and civilised ride and stiffens nicely particularly in the Sport+ setting, which could be important if you’re moving from a BMW 3 Series.
As far as we can tell the downsides of C220 ownership will be few. Where the car does disappoint is in the noisiness of its engine. It is gruff and constant, unless you crank up the optional Burmeister audio system to drown it out, it may be something which could remain disconcertingly present. But it is really the only dampener on an otherwise quite excellent car. By elevating the user experience so highly by creating that class-leading interior it somehow makes that ill-mannered engine much more difficult to accept.
The C220 Bluetec model is aimed at the fleet market and promises low running costs and unprecedented levels of luxury. Despite significant improvements it’s still clearly a car set up for comfort rather than excitement and the C220 is not as refined as it could be due to a discordant-sounding engine.