Mercedes' new C-class is a saloon that sets high standards in its segment
See the class, sense the comfort The new Mercedes-Benz C-class is bigger and comes with a more classy cabin than the previous model. -- PHOTO: DAIMLER

The new C-class looks like a shrunken S-class limousine, especially when viewed from the rear. It boasts a number of features worthy of Mercedes' flagship too.

Compared to the old C-class, the new one is larger but up to 100kg lighter. For instance, the wheelbase and body have been lengthened by 80mm and 95mm respectively. With the growth in dimensions, the C is now bigger than the CLA, which is how it should be (the previous C is slightly shorter from bumper to bumper and narrower than its A-class-based sibling).

The C-Class also cuts through the air more cleanly than before, with an impressively low drag coefficient of 0.24 made possible by a variety of aero-measures, including an Airpanel. This extra-cost equipment for the Exclusive grille (with the tristar emblem perched on the bonnet) uses moveable shutters to manage the frontal air flow according to the amount of cooling the engine requires.

The C250 (tested here) and C200 are powered by a turbocharged 2-litre four-cylinder in two states of tune - 211bhp/350Nm and 184bhp/300Nm respectively. There is also an entry-level C180, which employs a 1.6-litre 156bhp turbo four-cylinder that should be familiar to junior executives in Singapore, where the car has been a consistent top-seller in recent years.

Transmission duties are handled by Mercedes' proven seven-speed automatic, whose selector lever has been repositioned from the centre console to the steering column in the new model, bringing it in line with the E-class at last.

The C250 drivetrain is effective - it responds promptly in busy town traffic and performs strongly on quiet countryside roads, accompanied by suitably slurred gear changes. It is economical too, with the manufacturer claiming 5.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle (I averaged about 2 litres more than that, which is still respectable).

Helping the C-class to save fuel is the Eco mode, which is more ecological than the previous model's function of the same name, which is basically just auto start/stop. The new Eco mode has that and more - reduced power usage for the air-conditioner and rear demister, an in-dash green graphic display to track and encourage economical driving and the ability to "sail" (freewheel on the road using the car's kinetic energy and with the powertrain in "neutral").

The weakest aspect of the C250 drive is its boring engine note. This Mercedes is as torquey as the VW Golf GTI and accelerates almost as vigorously, but it sounds like a hardworking vacuum cleaner, albeit a solid German-made one.

The car's ride-and-handling compromise is good. It is less sharp than the racy BMW 328i when negotiating corners but it is an even smoother cruiser, with minimal road-and-wind noises.

Mercedes' radar-based Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control makes it even easier for the car to travel at speed on the expressway for 20 to 30km at a time.

The C-class even offers air suspension as an option - a first in this category. So equipped, this saloon has a broad bandwidth on the move - plush and calm in Comfort mode, firm and fun in Sport+.

In Sport+, the steering becomes unnecessarily heavy, but there is a customisable Individual setting which allows you to keep the steering comfortable while the suspension and drivetrain are made sporty.

Seated behind the wheel and seeing the whole ensemble, "classy" is the first word that comes to mind. Owners of the old model will think they have been upgraded from Premium Economy to full-blown Business Class. Even E-class owners might feel shortchanged.

The controls on the dashboard, doors and steering wheel/column follow the classic Mercedes template, but they are shinier and tighter than those in the superseded C-class. The parking brake is now an electric system rather than the predecessor's clumsy foot-engaged, hand-released manual affair.

There is an elegant touchpad that supplements the usual rotary control for infotainment functions, which are presented stylishly on a 7-inch central monitor (8.4-inch if the most comprehensive Comand system is specified). Both the touchpad and knob operate "in duplicate", so the user can choose his preferred interface, but this might confuse the less tech-savvy and the indecisive.

There is no confusion at all with the optional head-up display, which is the clearest I have ever seen. It is also unobtrusive, so there is no problem leaving it "up" all the time. The pictogram of the car depicted by the 360-degree camera system is extremely clear too.

The cabin has been made roomier and more practical, with thoughtful storage points (including a proper sunglasses- holder) and a well-shaped 480-litre boot. The leather upholstery is lovely, regardless of colour, and all the wood trim choices are as attractive as the complementary aluminium accents.

Passive safety features, primarily multiple airbags, protect occupants in an accident, while advanced active safety aids such as Pre-Safe Brake, Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Active Lane Keeping Assist try to avoid an accident.

Seasoned towkays and new-age technopreneurs alike would feel relaxed inside this compact, classy saloon, which is set to arrive in Singapore by the third quarter of this year.

Specs

MERCEDES-BENZ C250

Price: To be announced

Engine: 1,991cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual select

Power: 211bhp at 5,500rpm

Torque: 350Nm at 1,200-4,000rpm

0-100kmh: 6.6 seconds

Top speed: 250kmh

Fuel consumption: 5.3 litres/100km

Agent: Cycle & Carriage

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