November 01, 2014 @ 02:12 PM

Feature: Mercedes-Benz C-Class the One class act

Growing up can be awkward... and then you have the newest C-Class which begs to differ. By Donald Cheah


Growing up can be awkward... and then you have the newest C-Class which begs to differ. By Donald Cheah
 
Ask almost anyone, and they will tell you that growing up is tough. And you and I know that it never gets easier even after you have grown up. But try asking someone who has a brilliant older sibling, and they may be able to put a little perspective on how tough it really is to grow up in the long shadows of the older one, who apparently have really large feet to boot.
 
The new C-Class must have felt that way, or at least the team who created it would have. It’s not easy consistently besting an already successful product, but there you have it. Faceless men and women you will never hear of or meet, work tirelessly behind closed doors, years in advance, to bring to life a simple idea of building a better car than the one which gone before.
 
Fret not, there is an easier route to this end. Harness the successful DNA of an even more successful relative, and sprinkle or plonk the entire batch onto the poor unsuspecting baby. Voila! I give you the new C-Class!
It was not too long ago that I was in Canada, a place that if memory serves demands that you jump through fiery hoops in the lengthy immigration process that includes vague instructions that they call paperwork, to test the new S-Class.
 
This C-Class gig felt a little dejavu-ish, mainly due to the similar technology and demo of said technology displayed on this new pup. No one should complain of course, and certainly not potential buyers. 
 
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s step back and take a gander (which really means “look” and not “experience” as insisted by one of my less informed superiors of yesteryear in another time and company, I do hope she is not reading this) at the new baby, shall we?

The outgoing C-Class is not a shabby looking thing, and that’s just being truthful. But the new one is really sleeker and taking it a class up. The new design language of the C-Class mimics the other not-too-shabby-looking A-Class. Naturally, this is a good thing, because the current A-Class simply rocks.

The two prominent lines that stretch across the sides gives it a purposeful forward motion, giving emphasis to the face, and rightly so, because it’s a handsome looking fellow. The shoulder line slopes gently at the front, blending into the bonnet, but at the rear, it is more determined haunch, terminating on an S-Class-esque look on the rear lights. This, as any good designer will tell you, should be either complemented by the headlights, which is exactly the case here. 

The sloping headlights and rear lights utilise LED technology and looks significantly classier than the outgoing model, while the rear light module plays a supporting role with a more subtle and fluid shape. This allows the headlights to take centre stage with a decidedly sharper look and acute lines in the cut-offs at the top. Cleverly creating a tension to frame the wide grille that, depending on which model you plan to buy, have an additional function of an open or closed the vents, delivering better aerodynamics at higher speeds, without overheating the engine.

The grille is displayed in a prominent fashion, as an extension of the bonnet. All in, delivering a very handsome and determined look. Just beneath the bumper line, the three elements of design which makes it look even more sporty, is once again matched at the rear, but in a stylised and compressed variant. 

The interior delivers a sporty look with five round vents and clean details on the wood grains. It looks almost minimalist, and incorporates a new control device that you can rest your busy palms on. A new feature here is a touchpad (like the screen of any smart phone) that you could use in a number of ways like controlling of the heads up display, internet-linked GPS, entertainment system, etc. The new C-Class, is a thing proportioned for beauty, and let’s not forget the subtle interior lighting when the lights go down. Top marks as far as design goes.

And quite honestly, the long list of improvements need to be listed somewhere. This is the largest C-Class to date, with as much as 100kgs shaved off when compared to the outgoing model, making it arguably one of the lightest in its category. Features such as a new 4-link suspension, air-suspension with continuous adapting capabilities, fully integrated safety features from big siblings from the E- and S-Class range, incredibly quiet ride due to superior NVH values, and matched to supremely capable sound system by Burmeister, and a surprisingly lengthy active and passive safety highlights such as ATTENTION ASSIST, COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST, DISTRONIC PLUS, BAS PLUS Brake Assist, PRE-SAFE Brake Assist, Enhanced Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Parking Assist, a plethora of new airbags configurations… etc, etc, and etc.

But enough talk, let’s go for a drive. I match myself with the C250 BlueTEC. Brilliant. Oh, it is very quiet, moving off almost in complete silence. I head to the allotted route, sussing out the new car. To be honest, it feels like an E-Class and looks like a smaller S-Class. I can stop the story right here.

Flooring it, the car swoooshes forward with amazing calmness and urgency. This is obviously not just a machine primping itself, but one that has put in the hours in the sweat box. It stretches its muscles as it eats up the road with great delight. Okay, it can move, and pretty fast at that. Check that box.
The 2,143cc engine delivers 204hp and 500Nm from 1,600 rpm. These are numbers designed to be both practical and fun. It hits the century in 6.6 seconds and is classified as an A+ performer in the efficiency class.

Steering feel is not bad too, thanks to the electromechanical Direct-Steer system. One thing I have against Mercedes-Benz in general is that they tend to favour comfort over road feel and feedback. This one has improved noticeably in this department. It’s always good to feel where you are going.

The roads in and around Marseille are very similar to the ones found in the region. It is a combination of faster highways and slower B-roads. The combination is ideal for testing most cars. Highways are no brainers. You get to test acceleration, top speed, NVH values, quick lane changes, all these and more. The new C-Class passed all these with flying colours.

The B-roads can be deceptively harsh to point out any issues in the handling department, or both active and passive safety department, if you catch my drift, while undulating roads are perfect to nit-pick at small flaws and magnify them.

Again, the lightness of the chassis and responsiveness of both the engine and transmission shone through here. The C250 BlueTEC did deliver a ride that is both comfortable and borderline exciting, is that a drop of sweat dripping from my forehead?

The tautness of the drive manages to inspire more egging, and I had to continually find new challenges to throw at the new C-Class. This was getting fun. And if you truly got bored, you can luxuriate in the sublime sound system that came with this car, another stroke of genius. But think about that for a second, how many C-Class models do you know of, without the AMG moniker, that requires pushing to get all out of it?

This is probably the most nimble run-of-the-mill C-Class I have been in. The confidence and poise is new and entirely enjoyable. Unfortunately, with due care to the locals on the road and sheer allergy to time behind bars with potentially unsavoury characters named Pierre and the like, I did not manage to find its breaking point.

Basically, this is a testament to the acumen of the machine, apart from being a poser, the C250 BlueTEC is more than ever, something to be driven hard… potentially. Tracking of the terrain is accurate, and the corners are taken to a high degree of speed. The suspension manages to soak in all the irregularities while delivering comfort and feedback.

This C-Class took me by surprise, in a very good way. It is definitely the way to go, if the brand is seeking to attract a new breed of enthusiasts and retain current customer base.

Growing up as a C-Class is probably not the easiest thing to do. But the newest itineration is doing it right. Taking the game up to another level, with winning design cues from more prominent members in the brotherhood, plus a lot of practical technology thrown in for good measure, this one looks like a winner.

It would be interesting to see how much of these new technology will make an appearance in the cars sold here, as price point will play a big role in that. Regardless, the chassis and natural handling capabilities alone will make a noticeable difference as it is. 

Simply put, this C-Class out-matches the outgoing model in every department. Current C-Class owners only have to change to the new model for a veritable upgrade experience if my test drive here is anything to go by.

For more photographs click here.

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