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The 3 and the C have been battling it out hard for a long time. We pit them against each other to see which one turns out as winner in their latest form

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The world is getting a bit complicated these days. BMW is trying to be Mercedes and Mercedes is trying to be BMW. And when we say that, we mean BMW is going a bit softer and more inclined towards comfort, while Mercedes is focusing on giving you more pleasure while you’re behind the wheel.

A classic example of that is the latest 3 series. It’s shifted its focus from being the best-driving executive sedan to a more comfort-oriented one. The C-Class on the other hand, in the previous generation, was nice and comfortable, but it was apparent that spotlight was on comfort more than driving pleasure.

There’s an all-new C-Class now. And it’s going to rewrite some rules.

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Couple of years back, BMW got the new 3 to India. It sported a brand new shape – more in sync with BMW’s new design language. The headlamps merge smoothly into the kidney grille and the hood is now longer. Overall, it looks more complete than the previous generation and the proportions complement the overall design.

At the rear, the 3 looks more like the 5 series with typical BMW-like tail lamps and a well-proportioned boot. At the side too, sharp lines run through the doors and go all the way to the back. They make the 3 look sporty.

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The 3 series has never been a very spacious car, especially if you’re seated at the back. BMW acknowledged that issue by getting the 3GT to India a few months back – it offers great comfort and space for back seaters. In the regular though, you’d be more comfortable at the front.

The dash layout, again, is typical BMW with everything nicely placed and ergonomic. The materials used are top grade and the fit and finish will ensure that there’s nothing to complain about.

The top-end gets the iDrive multimedia system with a large screen at the centre and easy-to-use dial on the centre console to control your audio and navigation needs.

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The interior in the new C-Class too has taken a lot of inspiration from the flagship limousine. It doesn’t look anything like the current C. The screen that’s used for the COMAND system has now grown in size. Merc has also changed the way you use the COMAND system – a touchpad and a dial, placed on the centre console, take care of all the inputs. Merc’s infotainment system was not even close to being as intuitive as Beemer’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI system, but with this new stuff, it’s probably as good as the others, if not better.

The C has never been too big in its proportions and this one too remains to be that. The downside to it is that it’s never been too spacious at the rear. This one too is that way. The backseat is not the most ideal place to be in if you’re hunting for loads of room. The drive shaft tunnel eats into the legroom if you wish to seat three at the back. One thing that Merc should have sorted out with this all-new C-Class...

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BMW offers two engine options in the 3 – the 328i and the 320d. The 328i is a four cylinder 2-litre petrol block that’s good for 245bhp and 350Nm of torque. The twin turbos make sure that you maximum torque at very low revs. And it stays that way even as you go higher up in the rev range. This is the quicker powertrain of the lot, and with that under the hood, the 3 hits 100kph in just 6.1 seconds.

The 320d has always been the preferred choice in the earlier generations of the 3 in India. It’s fuel efficient and adequately powerful. The 2-litre diesel block generates 184bhp and 380Nm of pulling power. The fuel efficiency is rated at 18kpl.

Both the engines are mated to eight-speed gearboxes. That are quick and know their business well.

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On the Merc, There’s no word on which engines will make it to India but one thing is certain, the 2.1-litre oil-burner will surely be here. In the 220 tune, it puts out 170 horses and 400Nm of twist. If you want more oomph, there’s the 250 tune – it develops 204bhp and 500Nm. If you ask me, the 220 spec is more than sufficient. Very rarely would you need any more power.

Merc has something for diesel haters too – a 2-litre turbo-petrol that’s good for 211bhp. Obviously, torque isn’t as impressive as the diesels – it’s rated at 350 Newton metres. The 250s – both petrol and diesel – are as quick as each other. They both hit 100kph in 6.6 seconds and they both have a top whack of about 250kph.

The engines are mated to seven-speed gearboxes. But like the previous generation, the grouse remains that they’re not too brisk at their work and you might find them in the wrond gear at times.

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The new C is both sportier and more comfortable at the same time. And this unthinkable deed has been achieved by another genius technology – adaptive suspension. Yes, it’s the same tech that a lot of cars already have, but in this C, it changes the character of the car by a great extent.

You set the agility level to Comfort and the springs and the dampers can take care of potholes pretty well. In Sport mode, it adapts the suspension to more agile. It makes the car sit lower to the ground by 25mm and stiffens up the setup. The steering gets tighter and sharper. Striking that fine balance between good ride and sharp handling is always every engineer’s dream or nightmare at times. But the new C, Merc seems to have hit that bull’s eye.

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The numbers

BMW 3 series
328i – 4cyl, 1997cc, turbo-petrol, 245bhp, 350Nm, 8A, RWD, 0-100kph: 6.1sec
320d – 4cyl, 1995cc, diesel, 184bhp, 380Nm, 8A, RWD, 0-100kph: 7.6sec
LxWxH: 4624x2013x1429mm
Price: Rs 38-47 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)

Mercedes C-Class
C220CDI: 4 cyl, 2143cc, diesel, 170bhp, 400Nm, 7A, RWD, 0-100kph: 7.7sec, top speed: 234kph
C250CDI: 4cyl, 2143cc, diesel, 204bhp, 500Nm, 7A, RWD, 0-100kph: 6.6sec, top speed: 247kph
C250: 4cyl, 1991cc, petrol, 211bhp, 350Nm, 7A, RWD, 0-100kph: 6.6sec, top speed: 250kph
LxWxH: 4686x1810x1442mm
Price: 38-45lakh (estimated, on-road, Mumbai)

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