What is it?
An all-new iteration of the Stuttgart staple. Formerly, the C-Class looked a bit conservative, but aimed (and didn’t quite succeed) in matching the way a 3-Series drives. The new one is styled more elegantly, but feels aimed less at hooning about and more at proceeding in great comfort, safety and refinement. Tech includes optional adaptively damped air suspension, a first among its rivals. It feels like a smaller Merc S-Class, and that’s a very good thing.
The new half-aluminium platform will spawn the next generation of E, CLS, GLK, coupes and cabrios, so just as well it’s right.
The familiar 2.1-litre diesel in the C 220 and C 250 BlueTEC has been fettled for economy and silence, and just mumbles gently while serving useful overtaking performance. The steering gets more direct off-lock and the calibration is terrific. Thanks to the weight cut of 100kg or so, the car never feels bloated. The C isn’t set up to be power-interactive in bends – the attitude is always mild understeer at road speeds – but it’s ultra-faithful and capable. The ride is supple too. OK it pogoes a bit if you nudge the ‘agility control’ switch towards the sporty settings, but you can opt for ‘individual’, and set chassis and powertrain eagerness independently.
And of course it’s a brilliant cruiser. Driver-assist options use radar, stereo camera and ultrasound to figure out what’s going on all around, further taking the load off the driver. It can look for – and take action to avoid – vehicles, people and other obstacles coming from pretty well any direction except outer space.
On the inside
The swish new cabin design is as much of a step ahead as the exterior look, and the quality mostly superb. Seats are great too, and space improved. Whatever number of the vast gadgetry options-list you’ve ticked, a screen guides you through it all in a series of slick animations. It’s easy to use too, with a quadruple-redundant layout of a big control-wheel, shortcut keys, voice activation and a new touchpad.
Since these are mostly company cars, what matters is lease rates and emissions-based tax. Lease rates are low, because trade-in values are so solid. This means that though the sticker price looks high, monthly payments are OK. And because the C 250 diesel emits just 109g/km, the monthly tax on that P11D price is also pretty easy to swallow. The gotcha, of course, is to avoid going too bonkers with the options. It doesn’t only look like an S-Class, but can cost like one if you get carried away...