Vehicle Style:Premium mid-size sedan
Price: $70,400 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 150kW/500Nm 4cylturbo-diesel | 7spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.5 l/100km | tested: 6.7 l/100km
It didn’t have the lovely build of the Audi A4, or the amazing driving involvement of the 3 Series. And it certainly wasn’t priced like a Lexus IS. It simply relied on the three-pointed star up front.
That, my friends, has all changed.
Gone is the drab, button-ridden interior. Gone is the blocky styling. And gone are the dull dynamics.
The new C-Class is a revelation, and despite the fact it has a heap of awards bagged already, we’re predicting there’ll be more to come.
The base model is a stunner, but this week we’ve rounded up the 2.1-litre diesel version and have put it through its paces. Did we mention it has 500Nm?
Quality: Not only is the new mini-S-Class interior design a winner, but the materials choices are also top-notch.
The dashtop is fashioned from soft-touch materials, and it is all class in the way it all sits together.
Piano black can often look cheaply done, however the gloss black surfaces in the centre console are absolute premium feel, and the minimalist layout is very easy on the eye.
The doors shut with a solid thunk and the brushed aluminium trim is very classy. Some may not warm to the iPad-like infotainment screen set so high-up, but it keeps the eyes close to the windscreen, as they should be.
Overall, it’s a very high-quality cabin.
Comfort: The real beauty of the C-Class that it has grown in every direction, but hasn’t taken on a bloated look. The emphasis has been on creating a more comfortable cabin.
The seats may not be anything special to look at - if anything, the leather looks quite coarse - but the proof is in the pudding. Sit down and you’re treated to soft seats with very good padding.
With adjustment controls placed exactly where you can see them - on the door cards - getting into a good driving position is a cinch. Having the seat controls there should be a default; it just makes perfect sense.
Legroom and headroom for rear passengers is quite good, though having three abreast would be best left for short trips, owing to the driveline tunnel impinging on the middle seat’s leg space.
Four up and it’s a very comfortable drive. And yes, there are air-vents for the rear passengers to keep them cool, too.
Equipment: Like most of the German manufacturers, you can happily option-up the C-Class for plenty of driving comfort packages. But as standard, the C 250 BlueTec has plenty to recommend it.
Apart from cosmetic items like the gorgeous 19-inch wheels (more on those later) and the blacked-out rear windows, there’s the usual array of expected luxury-car items, like keyless entry, start and electric boot.
Inside you get customisable ambient interior lighting, automatically dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing wipers, sat-nav, digital radio, iPod/iPhone connectivity, USB, Bluetooth phone and audio, reversing camera and parking sensors.
It accepts handwritten actions to narrow down a name or number in your phone book, or you can write, letter by letter, the navigation entry you’re after.
And you can simply push to confirm or click a back-button to erase. You can also swipe left or right to change audio tracks or radio stations.
Sounds a bit convoluted, but once you’re used to how it works, it’s quite intuitive.
Our car was also optioned with the brilliant Burmeister sound system - 13 speakers and 590W makes for some very good music.
Storage: There are two cup-holders hidden under a large pop-up lid in the centre stack, and under the armrest (which opens from the middle) there’s a large space to stow wallet, keys or cards.
There’s also an elasticised strap for stopping your phone sliding around, along with a charging port.
In the back seat is a drop-down centre armrest which houses two cup-holders. And at 480 litres, the boot is big enough to cope with the family cargo.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Most diesel engines on the market are turbocharged, but the C 250 BlueTec’s mill has two turbochargers, enough to help the 2.1-litre four punch out 150kW.
Not bad for a relatively small diesel? That’s not even the half of it.
The extra boost has also bumped up the torque - 500Nm is the headline figure. That’s enough to help this C-Class get to 100kmh in 6.6 seconds.
The official consumption figure is a scarcely believable 4.5 l/100km. In our week of driving in mixed conditions, we settled on 6.7 l/100km.
Not bad, but to get it much lower, you’d need a large percentage of country cruising.
Off the line there is some lag, as you’d expect with such large outputs. Couple that with the stop-start system and pulling away from a giveway or stop sign can take longer than you’d ideally want to.
When on the roll, however, the C 250 BlueTec is very punchy.
Overtaking on a highway is a pleasure, and even in the cut and thrust of city traffic, it simply luxuriates in its swell of torque.
The growl begins to build around 1800rpm; by the time you're seeing 2200rpm, it’s hustling along very quickly indeed.
Thankfully the seven-speed auto is good enough to make proper use of the engine’s outputs and it shifts gears with the smoothness you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz.
Refinement: Given the C 250 BlueTec is a diesel, allowances have to be made. It’s never going to be the smoothest at idle and even during its stop-start sequence there can be a bit of shuddering.
At speed, however, the diesel smooths out and it feels just like the petrol version. And at speed, the cabin is very quiet, save a bit of tyre noise on rough surfaces.
Ride and Handling: Australians love large wheels, and yes, they definitely look good. But the downside is they tend to ruin the ride, unless the springs and dampers have been specificially tuned for them.
The 19-inchers fitted to the C 250 do hurt the supple ride that’s evident in the body control.
The initial compliance is harder-edged when the sidewalls are taking the hit, leaving all the rest of the work to the springs.
The Merc handles very compentently though (thanks in part to the lower profile tyres).
That said, it is bettered by BMW's 3 Series for fluidity on a curvy stretch of road, and it also falls short of the Bimmer’s steering feel.
However the weighting of the C 250’s steering is about right - not too heavy at low speeds around town, and not too light on the highway.
Few cars, in fact, will leave you as refreshed as the C-Class after a long stint at the wheel.
Braking: Ventilated discs front and rear are supported by 'brake wiping', which dries the discs if they’ve been wet, as well as priming the brakes once the driver takes their foot off the accelerator.
The pedal feel is good, without the overassistance of some brands.
The progression from gentle braking to foot-stomping stops is easy to judge and feels natural.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.46 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The standard suite of traction and stability control and ABS is all there, along with nine airbags and brake assistance and drying function for wet weather.
The C 250 also has sensors for pedestrian recognition, cross-traffic assist, active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist, which gently steers you back into line if you drift out of your lane.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Fixed-price service costs can be locked into a plan for a designated period, and there are silver and platinum packages available. Each state has its own pricing, however, so best to enquire with your local dealer.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 320d ($62,800) - BMW’s driving involvement is its real drawcard, however its power and torque outputs are bettered by the C-Class 250 BlueTec. Its interior, arguably, doesn’t have the same polish as the Merc. (see 3 Series reviews)
Audi A4 2.0 TDI S-Line ($67,800) - Audi’s beautiful build edges out the C-Class slightly but like the BMW, its engine, although refined, offers nowhere near the punch of the C 250 BlueTec. Its road manners, though capable, are also a little more bland. (see A4 reviews)
Volvo S60 D4 Luxury ($61,890) - In petrol form, the S60 has a lot to recommend it. But its diesel isn’t the last word on refinement or power outputs.
The cracking sound system and nicely finished interior are the highlights though, as is the low-ish starting price. (see S60 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Mercedes-Benz has a game changer with the new C-Class. It has the quality, the space, the styling and the cachet to complete the package.
And now with a 150kW/500Nm diesel under the bonnet, it has the oomph as well.
With handling poise, rear-wheel-drive surety and a seriously comprehensive set of safety systems, the C 250 BlueTec has just about everything that a luxury car buyer would want.
Its clean interior design makes it look and feel so much more expensive than it actually is; it just does everything right.
If you’re in the market for a diesel luxury mid-sized car, we’d heartily recommend putting this right at the top of your shopping list.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
C 200 $60,900
C 200 Bluetec $62,400
C 250 $68,900
C 250 Bluetec $70,400
C 300 Bluetec Hybrid $74,900
C 200 - $63,400
C 200 Bluetec - $64,900
C 250 - $71,400
C 250 Bluetec - $72,900