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First drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class – on sale now



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With the new C-Class saloon, Mercedes-Benz has returned to its root values, citing safety, comfort and agility as the main attributes.

Its customers will be pleased with the results. The car provides a fulfilling driving experience, helped by the debut of the agility control package across the range. This features a suspension system that adjusts its damping forces to the driving conditions, more direct steering and more precise gear changes.

From autumn 2007 an advanced agility package will also be available with a sports driving mode.

Adaptive brake technology has been adopted on all models and is based on a system tried and tested in the S-Class. This includes hill start assist, priming the braking system in critical situations and light contact to dry the brake discs in wet conditions.

Customers can choose from three models, the SE, Elegance and Sport.

Inside, all models feature tasteful styling, with wood trim kept to a minimum. There is plenty of space, the saloon is 55mm longer than its predecessor, and four adults can comfortably travel long distances.

It is clear that some features, such as the climate controls, have been adopted from the bigger S-Class and overall the cabin has a quality, well-built feel to it.

The dash is dominated by the fold-out sat-nav unit, which is replaced by a smaller LCD screen on entry-level models. Both are controlled using a dial on the centre console. The systems are not the easiest to navigate and could take some getting used to. Meanwhile, the multi-function steering wheel is standard.

Noise inside the cabin is minimal, even in a downpour, and the Harman Kardon sound system provides excellent musical accompaniment to the experience.

The muscly-looking Sport takes its looks from the CLK. The radiator grille is prominent, with a large star, and the overall design will appeal to those who need the space and comfort of a saloon but prefer an exciting drive.

Meanwhile, the SE and Elegance offer a more classic Mercedes-Benz look. The SE is set to be the biggest seller, allowing the most customisation, while the Elegance is aimed at those looking for a more luxurious style.

As economy continues to be topical in UK showrooms, Mercedes-Benz says fuel consumption for four-cylinder CDI engines has been reduced by 0.3 litres/100km.

Safety is also a key selling point. Mercedes-Benz boasts more than 100 crash tests, with seven airbags included as standard giving a Euro NCAP rating of five.

Mercedes-Benz would not reveal sales targets but, with such an attractive package, dealers should have no difficulty selling the C-Class.

Behind the wheel

With plenty of electrical controls on the driver’s seat, it is easy to get, and stay, comfortable behind the wheel of the C-Class.

The ride is the kind of smooth experience you would expect from a Mercedes-Benz saloon and this goes for busy city streets as well as wet mountain roads.

With the help of the agility package no doubt, the car feels glued to the road. ABS kicks in when necessary and gives an overall secure and stable driving experience.

Though the petrol V6 engine is very powerful, when driving more aggressively the diesel engine is definitely the better choice. It gives a wonderful, torquey ride that allows you to test the car to its limits.

C-Class rear vision is good, but the large door mirrors obscure vision past the A-pillar, making it somewhat difficult to navigate roundabouts and tight corners.

Price: £22,950 - £33,285
Engine: V6 C320 CDI 224bhp @ 3,800rpm; 376lb-ft @ 1,600-2,800rpm Petrol V6 C350 272bhp @ 6,000rpm; 258lb-ft @ 2,400-5,000rpm
Transmission: C320 CDI six-speed manual; C350 seven-speed automatic
Performance: C320 CDI 0-62mph 7.7sec; top speed 155mph C350 0-62mph 6.4sec; top speed 155mph
Efficiency: C320 CDI 39.2mpg; 199g/km CO2 C350 29.1mpg; 232g/km CO2
Rivals: BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Jaguar X-Type
Strength: Distinctive styling, beautiful interior
Weakness: Hard to use sat-nav
Opportunity: Fleets and private buyers wanting the latest German premium marque saloon
Threat: Strong competition
USP: Different styling options for the same price

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