MercWhat is it? Mercedes-Benz’s biggest seller.

What’s in it? A 2.1-litre 150-kilowatt turbocharged diesel with a seven-speed auto.

Is it thirsty? I used 7.9 litres per 100 km in the city, 5.6 in the country. The official combined figure is 4.5.

Drive away $77,491.

Thumbs up Heaps of torque, generous equipment and great finish.

Thumbs down Frustrating electronics, no spare wheel, tight ride quality.

The problem with changing cars every week is that electronic controls vary widely between makers, and just as you’re getting used them you have to hand the car back. This means that people like me react poorly to controls that aren’t intuitive, and this is maybe unfair given owners are in the cars for years and once they’ve learned the system they’re happy. (Aside: people who bought early BMW iDrive models may be excepted.)

So let me temper my criticism of the electronics in the Mercedes-Benz C-class by saying that when you learn them you’ll be fine, they just take a bit of learning. Data entry with the navigation is slow and frustrating, even adjusting the ventilation and temperature is a task and the radio station can’t be changed from the steering wheel – you have to use the fussy console wheel. It took me three days to find the electronic park brake and let’s not even mention the cruise control.

merc 2Fortunately the C-class is good enough to make its frustrations tolerable. It’s comfortable and beautifully finished, it has a heap of gear and the diesel motor (denoted by the Bluetec nomenclature) pulls like a midnight freight while returning great economy. It gets off the mark very quickly and overtakes fast. Nor is it terribly noisy. You can set the car up for sporty, regular or economical driving and while in eco mode the seven-speed transmission is least responsive to inputs, in others it’s quick, eager and seamless.

The funny thing about this car is that it feels bigger than it is. While it sits on the road like a big car it’s actually quite compact, and this comes to the fore when you start pressing it into corners, where it remains flat, dead stable and very secure. The ride, however, is firm and can get sharpish, and there’s some jitter along second-class surfaces that’s most unlike a Mercedes. This could be down to the rigid sidewalls of the run-flat tyres, and run-flats of course mean you don’t get a spare.

Stick to the good roads and this is a very comfortable cruiser, and in the cities it has the power and finesse to take advantage of the holes in traffic.

The C250 Bluetec costs a lot, especially given the rear seat is for occasional use only, but there’s a lot of car here.

Published April 2015

 

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