The latest Mercedes-Benz C-class is the first to be available with the air suspension system from the upmarket E and S-class models. We test it in estate form.
Base price: $89,900.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, 155kW/350Nm, 7-speed automatic, rear-drive, Combined economy 6.2 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 6.8 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4686mm long, 1442mm high, 2840mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 490-1510 litres, fuel tank 66 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Gorgeous styling, quality, versatile Airmatic suspension option.
We don’t like: Powertrain lacks character, cabin could be too blingy for some.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? It seems that the latest Mercedes-Benz C-class can do no wrong. From the outset, the latest model has been acclaimed for its S-class-alike styling inside and out, its build quality and driving dynamics.
The C 250 estate seems to be especially right. The sedan is svelte but the five-door takes the styling ethos into truly sexy territory. In this specification it also comes fully loaded (excuse the pun) with equipment.
Our test vehicle also showcases a standout feature for the C-class: the $2490 Airmatic Agility Suspension option, which is a first for the model and a unique selling proposition in its segment.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The C 250 is the top four-cylinder petrol model, although it’s trumped on torque by the BlueTec diesel’s 500Nm.
The petrol is brisk nonetheless, with a healthy 0-100km/h time and seven ratios in its dual-clutch gearbox. What the powertrain doesn’t have is a lot of character, but it is efficient: aside from strong performance, it returns 6.2 litres per 100km in the European Combined cycle.
The chassis is superb, Airmatic or not. The C-class has always been a sleeper when it comes to steering and handling, but this new model’s talents are a lot more overt. It’s hugely competent and seems to become more composed the harder you drive.
If the C-class chassis has a weak point, it’s the ride in C 250 form. This model wears large 19-inch wheels and the opportunity cost for looks and a solid cornering attitude is a fussy ride on some urban surfaces.
This is where Airmatic comes into its own. Previously only available on larger models like the E-class and S-class, its adaptive air springs can be configured to the driver’s (or passengers’) liking. Naturally, there’s a broad range of settings: at its most comfortable the Airmatic C 250 is noticeably softer than the conventionally sprung model, while the sportiest setting is a good deal firmer. And other points in between.
Apart from extracting another $2.5k from your pocket, is there any real downside to Airmatic? Perhaps ultimate fluency in high-speed handling, but otherwise it’s a pretty neat trick and well worth having, especially in an estate that might carry a variety of cargo.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The C 250 has a generous list of standard equipment, including the Driver Assistance Plus package which brings adaptive cruise control with steering assistance and stop/go function, Pre-Safe braking with pedestrian recognition, cross-traffic assist… the list goes on.
It’s the same technology that’s fitted to a number of Mercedes-Benz models, it all works brilliantly and it’s the closest thing to autonomous driving currently on the market in New Zealand.
The C 250 estate also gets keyless entry/start, power tailgate and leather upholstery. The interior is deeply impressive – if you don’t mind a bit of bling. As with the outside, the impression is of a baby S-class, with similar cabin architecture and detailing to the company’s luxury limousine.
Mercedes-Benz has a long tradition of boxy, super-practical station wagons. This isn’t one of them. The C 250 estate is as much about style as space and in fact the luggage area below the windowline is only about the same size as the sedan version.
What you do get with the estate is that extra space above the windowline and the ability to load longer items thanks to the 40/20/40 split rear seat.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The C 250 estate is both achingly desirable and excellent value, which is a combination that’s hard to beat.
But the competition is tough, with both Audi and BMW also making superbly sporting estate cars in this segment. The Audi A4 is strong on style, while BMW is known for its driver appeal. Both offer a four-wheel drive option, something that the C 250 lacks.
But it’s hard to top the Mercedes-Benz for premium image and feel. Airmatic is also a unique option in this segment.
In short, potential buyers of compact-executive estates have a lot of comparison shopping to do. But the C 250 estate commands attention.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes with steering assistance
- Cruise control: Adaptive with stop and go function
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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