Road test: 2015 Mercedes C250 AMG Line
After a couple of decades of turning out competent yet uninspiring products, from the late-1980s onwards, Mercedes-Benz showed signs of regaining vintage form with the brilliant W222 S-Class that launched in 2013. Here was a car that was a techno tour de force, brimming with clever engineering and clothed in tastefully restrained bodywork befitting the S-Class’s positioning as a limo with gravitas.
However, while the S-Class will always remain the preserve of the fortunate few, the C-Class is of more relevance to the prestige-car masses, as the brand’s volume-seller in most markets. The previous W204 model that launched in 2007 was an accomplished car, but it lacked the dynamic panache of the BMW 3-Series it was up against.
However, the Bavarian brand has every reason to be anxious this time around, because the W205 C-Class that recently landed on our shores is undoubtedly the most agile and sure-footed saloon the three-pointed star has conjured up to date.
I’ve just handed back a C250 AMG Line after spending three days with it, and the folks at the Mercedes dealership almost had to prise the key from my hand with a crowbar. Sorry to give away the game right from the outset, but it’s an absolute beauty, providing irrefutable proof that Merc is once again at the top of its game.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. The latest C-Class is an all-new car that’s built using part-aluminium construction to help it shed up to 100 kilograms compared to the oldie. In addition, the front and rear axles are 80 millimetres farther apart, liberating valuable extra space for the rear-seat occupants. The stretched wheelbase also helps give the car a more stable, planted feel on the tarmac. More on this later.
In the past, four-cylinder Mercedes engines were always noisy, rough and lacking grunt. So it was with the old Kompressor (supercharged) motor, but it certainly isn’t the case with the new 2.0L turbo unit in the new C250, which puts out a robust 208bhp and 350Nm.
This power plant is a gem: smooth, potent and serving up bags of torque in the lower rev range – just where you need it in day-to-day driving. It’s decently rapid for an affordable premium sedan. How does a 0-100kph sprint in 6.6 seconds and a top whack of 250kph sound?
The seven-speed auto is also well calibrated and has the knack of being in the right gear at the right time in its Sport and Sport+ settings. In Comfort and Eco modes, the transmission tends to shift into the higher gears as early as possible to maximise fuel efficiency, but I found those settings too dozy for my liking.
Another eye-opener is the C250’s limo-matching levels of refinement. It’s super quiet, has a supple ride (even with the optional Airmatic air suspension switched to its sportier settings) and offers a vault-like feeling of security that has long been a Benz trademark.
What would be particularly worrisome for BMW, though, is how terrifically grippy and balanced the latest C-Class is. Yes, the steering is strangely artificial at low speeds, but it gains in weight and feel at higher velocities, encouraging you to make the most of the chassis’s impressive dynamic capabilities. The C250 is capable of carrying far greater corner speeds than its predecessor, helped by low-profile ContiSportContact 225/45 R 18 rubber wrapped around tasty five-spoke AMG alloys.
The cabin is also top-notch, with the flat-bottomed steering wheel a delight to hold and behold, with its chunky leather-bound rim and satin-finish aluminium spokes. The artistry extends to the nicely crafted rotary vents, real wooden trim on the centre console and skilful blending of contrasting colours and materials throughout the interior. The stretched wheelbase means rear-seat occupants now have ample sprawling space, and the 480-litre boot is also usefully cavernous for a car of this size.
Aesthetically, the latest C-Class has the right blend of sportiness and stately elegance, although it does look quite a lot like an S-Class. However, this isn’t so much a criticism of the C as it is of the S, as one would expect the latter to have a visual identity clearly signifying it as the big daddy of the range. As it is, you have to pause and take in the car’s dimensions before being able to glean whether the vehicle you’re looking at is Merc’s entry-level saloon or the flagship.
As you’d expect in a Benz, the safety-kit list is comprehensive, including Attention Assist, blind-spot assist, collision-prevention assist plus, radar cruise control with stop-and-go function, auto brake with pedestrian recognition, rear cross-traffic assist and active lane-keeping assist, in addition to the standard nine airbags. You’re pretty safe, in other words.
The verdict? The C250 AMG Line is a winner, and it’s confirmation that Mercedes-Benz is back where it belongs. Your move BMW, Audi, Jaguar et al.
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Published: February 26, 2015 04:00 AM