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A world of choice in one car

Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers it all


October 22, 2012
by Tony Whitney

From the Jan-Feb 2012 print edition.

When it comes to prestigious nameplates for any consumer product, few manufacturers can rival Mercedes- Benz with its instantly recognizable star-in-circle logo, first used in 1937 (the “uncircled” star goes way back to a 1909 Benz).

Anyone who opts for a Mercedes- Benz should do so because of its superlative engineering, outstanding build quality and tasteful styling, but of course, it’s prestige that many buyers have on their minds. Whether it’s corporate or personal image-boosting motivating Mercedes-Benz customers, they undoubtedly get excellent value for money.

The brand is globally respected and the quality imagery it generates must benefit any firm using these automobiles in an executive fleet role. One of the reasons for the success of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter commercial van range probably has a lot to do with the prestige surrounding the nameplate.

SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe
ENGINE: Choice of 4-cylinder, V-6 or V-8 according to model
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 kmh in approx 8-secs (C 250)
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.1-litres/100 km combined (C 250)
PRICE: $36,700 base

Many companies, of course, have “buy domestic” policies influenced by their customer base, but for those that don’t, a Mercedes-Benz can be a sound executive fleet choice and the C-Class model in particular offers “three-pointed star panache” at reasonable sticker prices. At a base price of $36,700, the C-Class four-door is only a little more expensive than a well equipped sedan with a far more mundane nameplate.

The C-Class is Mercedes-Benz’s best-selling automobile worldwide. Even so, competition in this particular class is intensive, so updates and enhancements must be made at fairly regular intervals. For 2012, Mercedes has launched a “refreshed” C-Class, marketed as part of the “C-Class family,” which now consists of several models. The product isn’t due for a major rework for several years yet, but after being unveiled in 2007, it was felt that this third-generation C-Class was due for a change or two.

Interestingly, the C-Class has been built over the years—or at least assembled—in many countries, including India, Mexico, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia, but Canadian models are built in Germany where all the serious engineering for this product is tackled. This is very much an “international car” and perhaps that’s why Mercedes has sold so many of them. Right now there are two body styles in Canada—a four-door sedan and a stylish and attractive coupe. In other markets, a station wagon is offered and perhaps this will appear here sometime.

Wide range of models

With the launch of the coupe, there’s now an impressive range of C-Class models for Canadian buyers to choose from. Among the sedans there’s the basic C 250 (two variants), a C 250 with 4MATIC all-wheel drive, a C 300 4MATIC, a C 350 (two variants) with two-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and a potent and performance-oriented C 63 AMG. These are all sedans.

The coupe comes in C 250, C 350 and C 63 AMG guise, but there are no 4MATICS in this range. It’s unlikely that the coupe would hold much appeal for the executive fleet market.

Engine choices include the C 250 direct injection turbo with its 201-horsepower 1.8-litre 4-cylinder, which should be a real fuel-miser for a luxury car; the C 250 4MATIC all-wheel drive with a 2.5-litre V-6 and 201hp; the C 300 4MATIC with 228hp, 3.0-litre V-6; the 3.5-litre C 350 V-6 (AWD and 2WD) with 302hp on tap and the impressive 6.2-litre, 451-hp V-8 that sits under the elegant hood of the line-topping C 63 AMG. All the cars use seven-speed automatic transmissions.

There is no diesel version available in Canada (Mercedes-Benz has diesel power in other products here) though the C-Class is widely sold with a diesel engine in Europe and other markets. The “C” range may seem confusing at first glance, but the aim has been to provide something for every possible need in this class.

Numerous updates for 2012

Changes to the C-Class for 2012 are too numerous to mention in detail, but highlights include an all-new front end with powerful Active Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED turn signal indicators. There’s also a new hood and fascia, so you’ll easily be able to spot a 2012 when compared to a 2011. A new range of wheels also adds some new model year distinctiveness and there’s also a redesigned rear bumper.

Inside the car, you’ll find the usual fastidious attention given to all Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Even the base model doesn’t seem any less luxurious than the bigger E-Class and S-Class sedans. It’s just a joy to look at the way the trim, seating, controls and instruments have been handled. Compared to the last model, the cockpit is pretty well all-new and is even better laid out than the old C-Class.

Although people who’ve owned Mercedes models before will feel quite at home with this car, newcomers won’t get confused, as most controls are intuitive. Unfortunately, Mercedes insists on placing the cruise control stalk exactly where you’d expect to find the turn signal, so it’s easy to fumble this at times. The steering wheel spokes are the best place for cruise control actuation.

There’s a new steering wheel and on some models, it’s flat at the bottom like a race car’s. In addition to looking sporty, this adds a bit more thigh room for the driver. Most models include generous wood and leather trim components and this looks very upscale. There are two wood varieties available for the asking and buyers can also opt for aluminum trim panels.

A new generation of telematics features larger screens and improved graphics and the old pop-up navigation system is gone, replaced by one that sits permanently in place at the top centre of the console control array. I used this nav system a lot during my test drives and found it worked better than ever and it was very straightforward to program destinations.

As one might expect, there’s a long list of safety features, some of which are unique to Mercedes- Benz, although these are being widely imitated. Very few automobiles are as safe as these Mercedes products.

Apart from a full suite of air bags included as standard equipment, buyers can opt for such safety features as blind spot warning and a rear backup camera.

The four-door sedan is very spacious with plenty of rear seat room (for three), shoulder room and headroom. Our tests included daunting climbs, poor road surfaces, winding backroads and freeways and the C-Class versions we tried all came though splendidly. The chassis has both comfort and poise and is possibly the best platform any smaller car can boast right now.

Obviously, the AMG is the top choice, but don’t overlook the entry-level turbo four-cylinder if fuel economy is an issue. It has the same looks, prestige and basic engineering as the more expensive models in this range and is still, after all, a Mercedes-Benz and built with similar care and pride.                         b2b