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C250 CDI Sport BlueEfficiency

Road Test

Mercedes-Benz C-Class C250 CDI Sport BlueEfficiency

Driven September 2009

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We have become spoilt. Had, 25 years ago, Mercedes announced a car with more torque than the ‘Hammer' E-Class AMG and in-gear acceleration to flatten a supercar, but which returned 55.4mpg and 134g/km of CO2, we'd have hailed the Germans for mastering in-car nuclear fission or the mystery of kryptonite.

But now? Now, we look at those numbers and think, ‘Yeah, very nice, but any chance you could make it sound a bit less... dieselly?'

So let's ignore the rattle and instead concentrate on all the good stuff in the C250 BlueEfficiency, the latest diesel from Merc's eco-range and perhaps the most convincing blend of fastness and frugalness we've yet seen.

Under the bonnet is the same 2.2-litre, four-pot turbodiesel in the E250 CDI. Even in the big E-Class, it did a more than adequate job - thank sequential turbocharging and 368lb ft of torque (that's more than an F430) - but it turns the C into an absolute flier, a proper performance saloon.

It'll hit 62mph in seven seconds flat, but even that impressive stat doesn't do justice to the in-gear acceleration. Drop into fourth at, say, 40mph and there's a real pin-yer-ears-back thump of torque as the speedo zips up to UK-illegal speeds at a frankly unseemly pace.

Yes, there are plenty of other quick diesels out there - Mercedes's own C320 CDI is a rapid thing, for one - but it's the combination of performance and economy that puts the C250 right to the head of the eco-pack. Even the BMW 325d can't get close, taking a few tenths longer to hit 62mph while emitting over 150g/km of CO2 and returning 49mpg.

The C250 isn't perfect. Our test car was fitted with 17-inch alloys and the optional, lower sports suspension, which combined to produce a disarmingly gritty ride quite out of character with the C's motorway-devouring nature. Smaller wheels and the standard suspension set-up should sort that, but worse is the manual gearbox, which feels brittle and notchy, a flaw exacerbated by the high-biting clutch. The auto gearbox will suit the C250 better, but sadly that adds around 20g/km of CO2 - and a vital tax band.

Then there's the noise, which, even by diesel standards, is as agricultural as Norfolk: not for the Mercedes C250 the mellow thrum of BMW's 6cyl diesels or the hushedness of the French four-pots. But spec smaller wheels, splash those few quid you've saved on a box set of ‘The Great Noisy Supercar Engines Ever! Volume 14" on CD, and here's proof that you can indeed have your environmentally friendly cake and eat it. Albeit noisily.

Sam Philip

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