Crossing over to the 300 hp club for the first time; sipping sparingly on the planet’s fossil fizz; and pinching the whole stock of those awesome features from its larger siblings; the C class almost steals the limelight from the E class – at least for this year. So much in an entry level sedan is rare, which makes the C class one to desire, not to compromise.
In the recent makeover of skin and soul, the Mercedes C350 Blue Efficiency received a new V6 gasoline engine that delivers 306 hp and 370 Nm – 14 hp and five Newton meters more than the previous model. But what I found really impressive is the remarkable fuel efficiency figures of over 9 km per litre, over 20% lower than the predecessor, despite the power increase.
The new C350 is perhaps the most sport-worthy of its mainstream saloons. The rear wheel drive (also available in 4-matic all-wheel drive) handles cones and curves equally well, with minimal acceleration skid. True to its sporty styling, the C350 has a steering that is flat-bottomed and calibrated to keep to curves without pushing a finger. The turning radius of the C350 is amazingly short – you can actually turn around the car in a narrow alley and head back in one deft sweep.
The 3.5 L V6 engine chooses to bury its sound deep and you got to really push the pedal to please your ears with its sweetly suggestive drone. But it’s no reluctant performer when you take it for a spin. Hold on; I should add that there is a bit of hesitation initially before it shows its new naturally aspirated direct-injected spirit, and zips from 0 to 100 in 7.1 sec (6.4 claimed).
The only frown it raised was when I felt that skating feeling in the face of strong winds at high speeds. Hmm… so, nature’s turbines don’t spare even a gentle, powerful and well-balanced car as the C350!
My sporty Avant-garde’s front grille leaned back with an inset tri-spoke emblem, which is perched atop the grille in the Elegant version. The chrome beltline, as well as a sharp bone line that completes its signature design loop with the rear lip spoiler complemented the striking fire opal exterior. The jeweled silver and red rear lights announced a more extroverted Merc, with a slightly pronounced skirting at the rear.
While on the inside, the cappuccino brown leather was matched by the high gloss black ash wood trims on the console and across a soft touch deck.
Cabin and Controls
As I settled down snugly into the sporty seat, the seatbelt pre-tensioners gave me a light hug, the mark of a Merc welcome. The cabin of the C350 has a thing for sound. It keeps out all that qualifies as noise and compliments your ear for music. If I could hear sound bytes of the wind at high speeds, it’s because there was nothing else that was loud enough around me. Amidst the absence of noise, the sound system, with 12 discreetly placed speakers, turns the cabin into a floating mini concert hall.
The Mercedes COMAND, as they call the multi-function package is pretty elaborate with an interactive screen but conveniently navigated with a control knob on the flat console. However, I found the turn-indicator stalk placed a bit too low for habit – chances are, you’ll trip the ‘distronic’ control stalk a dozen times only to miss the indicator stalk all over again. Minor thing, but this could accidentally engage the speed limiter if it is on suspended mode till you wonder why the car is acting balky.
The cabin is dotted with a sprinkling of orange light that subtly highlights every gap and every corner of the cabin. But nothing expresses the attention to unobtrusive comforts better than the reading lights, neatly tucked away underneath the rear view mirror.
While the front seats have a sporty, low profile design, the rear seats are pretty normal to the family’s relief. And they are pretty comfortable too if you tuck your feet in, just in case you chance to travel with Michael Jordan in front. The ISOFIX clips make things easy with your toddler, but the fifth adult might find himself in a tight spot.
Chances are, the wife will stop complaining about your complacent direction sense. Easily programmable by entering your destination or marking your spot on a scalable map, the GPS fitted in the C-class here is one of the most driver-friendly I have come across.
The 475 L boot is pretty generous for its overall size, and there are useful storage spots inside the cabin as well. The AC offers the convenience of climate control at the rear with cool air streaming out through thoughtfully positioned vents.
Complete Driver Support
The awesomeness of the new C-class is something that grows on you with every mile and every move that punctuates a mile. It has pinched every safety and driver assist feature from its older and pricier siblings.
Distronic Plus (the unwieldy name they have given the adaptive cruise control) regulates your speed alert to the car in front, saving you the disgrace of panicky slowing down or worse.
The rear view camera in conjunction with the optical sensor panel on the dash provides immaculate guidance while backing up. It’s a terrific idea to show you the rear skirting on the screen for better judgment. The speed limiter and cruise control perhaps don’t require a special mention but the blind sport warning does. It flashed bright on my side-view mirrors warning me of drivers within kissing length – along with SFX during any mistimed attempt to overtake.
The Lane Keeping Assist is your antidote to loose driving habits. It issues a lane departure warning through steering vibrations, and in case you stray while driving in the fast lane, (what you expect the C 350 driver to be used to) it even pushes you back in lane (!), away from the hard shoulder and an AED 800 penalty. Now, if these happen too often – say, after a long day at work – the Attention Assist does everything but steer you to Starbucks!
The Essential C 350 with AMG package option
The Mercedes has too many images to live up to – of a 125 year legacy; of being German; and of being a Mercedes. The C 350 proved every bit worthy of all three and redefines entry level luxury many times over. Better still, in this Merc, great power comes with great responsibility.
UPSIDE: Precise steering, Powerful and highly fuel-efficient engine, Pleasing sound, Plenty of driver support
FLIPSIDE: Positioning of indicator and cruise control stalks, tight for five adults, wind pull factor
Drive Courtesy: Daimler Middle East and Levant
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy