9

10

Model

C-Class 2014

Price

$68,900

The Numbers

(C250) 2.0-litre, four cyl turbo petrol, 155kW, 350Nm, 7sp automatic, 0-100km/h n/a secs, 6.0L/100km

The Topgear Verdict

A brilliant new package that gives the compact luxury pack something to chase.

New Merc C-Class

So, what is it?
The fourth-generation (W205) version of Mercedes-Benz’s top-selling model has sizeable shoes to fill, given the car it replaces has been a mega success, with 45,000 sedans, coupes and wagons sold here over seven years in market. In fact, the C-Class has jumped up into the top-10 sellers (across the entire local market), once already this year.

Competition, in the shape of the usual Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series suspects are sharper than ever, the Lexus GS is a big improver, and and Jaguar’s all-new XE is just around the corner. So the pressure’s on to keep a good thing going.

Launch line-up consists of the C200, a 135kW/300Nm 2.0litre petrol turbo four, with the C200 BlueTEC, a 100kW/300Nm 1.6-litre turbodiesel four, arriving in the first quarter of next year.

Next rung up is the C250, powered by a revised 155kW/350Nm version of the 2.0litre turbo four, and the C250 BlueTEC, packing a meaty 150kW/500Nm 2.2-litre twin-turbodiesel.

The range-topping C300 BlueTEC Hybrid, combining the twin snail diesel 2.2, with a 20kW electric motor arrives in December.

Why should I care?
The focus this time around is interior design and weight reduction, with the MRA (Mercedes Rear Architecture) platform that underpins it being 48 per cent alloy, for a 40kg trim down, and 10 per cent fuel economy improvement.

What's new about it?
Although it bears a more than passing resemblance to the outgoing model, there’s fundamental change across the board.

The New C is 95mm longer, with 80mm added to the wheelbase. It’s five mm lower overall, 40mm wider, and there’s a bunch of new spec and tech on offer… much of it standard.

For example, ambient interior lighting, a seven inch TFT colour infotainment screen with touchpad control, DAB+ digital radio, 18-inch alloy rims (up from 17s), and LED headlights. There’s also ‘Agility Select’, a driver-switchable system, through Comfort, ECO, Sport, Sport+ and Individual settings, adjusting transmission and steering on entry models, plus suspension where the ‘Airmatic’ system is fitted.

All on the standard features list, which Merc calculates as $10k extra value added to the base car.

That's all fine. What's it like to drive fast?
On a launch program in and around the Yarra Valley, north-east of Melbourne, we drove the C200, C250, and C250 BlueTEC, and it’s clear the compact luxury segment has a new dynamic benchmark.

The alloy-rich chassis, delivers a superb combination of balance, response and flowing feedback. The steering connects you directly with the front treads, but isn’t overly upset by high-frequency bumps, even in the maximum attack Sport+ setting. The C200 is willing and nimble, the C250 is a proper sports sedan, and the C250 BlueTEC shovels in the torque like coal under a steam train’s boiler.

The brakes are satisfyingly progressive, road noise is subdued and the seven speed auto morphs from silky smooth to alert and snappy on demand. In short, a great drive.

And driving from home to the office in the city?
Flick the console mounted ‘Agility’ control through to comfort and it feels like this car’s C has been changed to an S; especially with the excellent Airmatic suspension underneath it. The change from Sport to Comfort is subtle but swift, and the C250 wafts along without losing any of its excellent body control.

The seats are firm in typical Benz fashion, but proved comfy over several hours behind the wheel, and the longer wheelbase and greater width offers up plenty of rear room. The quality of finish inside and out is just about flawless.

The interior design is dominated by a broad console, housing three air vents, with the high-tech controller at its base; again reinforcing the big car feel. And even the base C200’s five speaker stereo (with every kind of connectivity known to mankind) pushes out excellent sound. There’s even an optional ‘Air-Balance’ system, nicked from the S-Class that ratchets up the air filtering, and adds oxygen ionisation as well as  your choice of fragrance at the same time.

Is there anything bad about it?
Hard to nit-pick here, but we’d have to say the Sport and Sport+ settings make the steering heavier, without any major improvement to feel or response. And we have to wait until mid-2015 for an C63 AMG version.

How much would I have to pay for one? And is it worth the coin?
The C200 kicks things off at $60,900, with the BlueTEC diesel version coming in at $62,400; both packing in loads of standard fruit like the ambient lighting, colour screen and touch pad, navigation, digital; radio, electric front seats, keyless start, dual-zone climate control air, 18-inch alloys, active park assist, LED headlights, and plenty more.

The C250 at $68,900, it’s diesel twin at $70,400, and the top shelf C300 hybrid at $74,900, add 19-inch rims, leather upholstery, tinted privacy glass, keyless go, and a ‘Driver Assistance’ package including a range of extra safety and security features.

A range of optional packs include goodies like a Head Up Display (HUD), digital TV tuner and go fast AMG Line bits and pieces.

When you combine all that with the car’s on-road character and abilities it adds up to solid value.

Would you take the C200 or the BMW 320i?
Age old rivals, both beautifully built, hugely capable, and similar money, but the new Merc has put its nose in front.

Reviewed by: James Cleary, TopGear Australia road test editor

Driven: August 22, 2014