IF you like how the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has moved upmarket, it's not the competition you have to thank. Rather, look inhouse to the CLA-Class. With the introduction of the latter and its ability to attract new buyers to the brand with the three-pointed star, there was no way to go but up for what used to be Mercedes-Benz's entry-level sedan. And the new C-Class has done that perfectly. More luxurious, more well-appointed and looking more like the new S-Class flagship, the fourth generation of the C-Class makes the car it replaces almost dowdy. Handsome in a non-aggressive way, it has harmonious proportions.
The front end represents Mercedes-Benz's current design identity, with a grille that is similar to the CLA's but less prominent and with more elegantly shaped headlamps.
Along the sculpted flanks, the signature dropping line extends smoothly over the lithe 4.7-metre body and 2,840 mm wheelbase. The rear, however, has to be the best aspect of the new C-Class styling.
The lozenge-shaped tail lamps and curvaceous bootlid make it one of the neatest posteriors on the road today. At a glance and without any immediate terms of reference, it is easily mistaken for an S-Class, especially in white. The interior is equally impressive. Gone is the basic fascia of the previous C-Class, replaced by a flowing leather dashtop with contrast stitching and a free-standing centre display. As in the new S-Class cabin, the lines and shapes are organic, with a sloping centre console and languid curves in the hollowed door panel.
While the dashboard architecture may appear similar to the CLA-Class, the materials used in the C-Class look and feel more premium, with a wider expanse of wood trim on the dashboard and doors. The higher level of standard equipment is different too. For example, there are rear air vents and the proximity display for the front parking sensors have been incorporated into the instrument cluster. The enhanced luxury differentiates it clearly not only from its predecessor, but also the new range of front-wheel-driven Mercs like the CLA and GLA.
Three turbocharged direct injection engine versions are available and they drive the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission - the C180 with a 1.6-litre engine, and the C200 and C250 with a 2.0-litre unit in different states of tune.
All three are COE Category B models because the C180 has an output of 156 hp, while
the C200 produces 184 hp and the C250 211 hp and 350 Nm. As expected, the C250's performance is lively. Its petrol engine pulls strongly, with maximum torque available early - at 1,200 rpm to be exact. The suspension is relatively firm to keep the power in check and although it offers a good level of ride comfort, it is still sportier than most big Mercs.
An Agility Select feature offers five driving modes to tweak the steering and engine response - Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual.
Comfort is a surprisingly liveable choice, with a sharp steering and acceptable throttle response. As with current Mercs, there are shift paddles to manually change gears. The C250 also gets a bit more equipment than the C200 and C180, such as bigger 18-inch wheels and the extremely useful Easy-Pack collapsible "convenience box" in the boot with its electrically operated lid. But whichever engine is under the hood, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is now a much classier drive.
Engine 1,991cc turbocharged
Gearbox 7-speed automatic transmission
Max power 211 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque 350 Nm @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
0-100 kmh 6.6 secs
Top speed 250 kmh
CO2 emissions 136 g/km
Average OMV $44,000
Price from $230,888 (with COE)
Distributor Cycle & Carriage
Tel 6298 1818