I find the older I get, the more appreciation I have for a leisurely and more relaxed way of driving. Sure, getting out onto a twisty road with some million-horsepower asphalt devourer will still get the adrenaline going, but the appeal having just enough power to soak up the miles in quiet and refinement grows more and more profound.
This is probably why I was looking forward to trying the new Mercedes C-Class. No, not the AMG, but the regular C 300 Sedan. This once-titan of the Mercedes line-up now plays second fiddle to the SUVs and fully electric models which continue to grow in volume, so despite being one of the most popular Benz models for the last 20 years, it still relevant today?
Let’s kick things off with the range. The entry level C 200 gets the ball rolling at $86,000 plus ORC but the C 300 retails at $102,900 plus ORC. The flagship C350e PHEV is $117,000. Under the bonnet sits a 2.0L four-cylinder petrol engine with EQ Boost. The EQ Boost system regenerates energy when lifting off the throttle or braking, storing it and then using it later when it is deemed necessary. It also allows the four pot to shut down completely when coasting to a stop. Yep, this new C-Class is a Mild Hybrid.
The C 300’s beating heart is a good for 190kW and 400Nm of torque which is channeled through a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is rated at a combined 7.3L/100km and 164g/km of CO2 is produced.
The new C-Class is 65mm longer and 13mm wider than before. It is also quite the handsome so-and-so. Its clean-cut lines are more minimalistic over the previous generation and the LED headlights and taillights are in keeping with the current Mercedes design philosophy. Another nice touch is the grill which if you look carefully, is made up of small Mercedes three-pointed star emblems. My test car had the optional 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloys which complete the ensemble very well. All in all, it looks good.
The same level of minimalism continues on the inside with the new C-Class mimicking its bigger flagship brother, the S-Class. There is an air of sublime quality and refinement here with new leather clad chairs more than capable of holding you snug while every thing you touch feels extremely well made. Some of the touch buttons to operate the climate control and the volume on the handsome steering wheel are quite sensitive to the touch, but they still work really well.
Dominating the centre console is that MBUX 11.9” touchscreen infotainment system. As well as incorporating the latest rendition of Navigation Premium, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and Mercedes Me Connect, you have the latest voice interface system to assist with the vast majority of onboard features. Simply say “Hey Mercedes” and much like Alexa, you can utter a whole host of commands. Ahead of you neatly sits the 12.3” LCD colour driver display which shows all the relevant driving data. This has to be one of the sharpest looking instrument clusters around too.
Other tech which comes as standard includes a 360-degree reversing camera, 10 airbags, Adaptative Cruise Control, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist, Parking Assist with parking sensors all round, Adaptive Brakes, Speed Limit Assist, Illuminated Sills and a plethora of choices when it comes to cabin ambient lighting.
However, if you want things like a Panoramic Sunroof, Memory Front Seats, a HUD, Traffic Sign Assist and Heated Front Seats, then you will want the optional Vision Package which will set you back an extra $3,800.
It doesn’t matter whether you are seated front or rear. The level of head and legroom in the C 300 deserves a mention. Ease of entry and exit is also pretty good. My 5ft 10 frame found itself very snug all around, especially in the back. Open the power assisted boot and you are greeted with 490L of boot space. This is quite capable of swallowing up a decent amount of luggage but it could have been bigger.
Moving off and the C 300 certainly nails it as a refined cruiser. That four cylinder engine with the help of EQ Boost is remarkably quiet and while there is some four cylinder burble high up the rev range, which is to be expected, it spends most of its time softly humming away that for the most part, you hardly hear it.
Running through the multiple drive modes is easy via the touch buttons below the centre console. In ECO mode I was able to average as low as 8L/100km which is nothing to scoff at. However, the only trade off is the ride is somewhat harder in this mode due to the C300s underpinnings wanting to make things as slippery through the air as possible.
COMFORT is mode I had for the majority of my time with the C 300. Here is where the ride is at its best, then again you probably figured that one out already. Sure, there is a smattering of body roll when you push hard, but pushing hard is simply “not done” with this kind of car.
Wafting along with you feathering the throttle is more than appropriate and through doing this, the C 300 rewards you with a simply sublime level of comfort across all road surfaces. Due to some considerable pedal travel, the brake requires a firm press to slow things down. That said, having a snatchy brake pedal would shatter the mantra of being a comfortable cruiser.
The 9-speed auto box also serves up some of the most seamless shifts around, even though you experience a split-second delay when manually shifting via the paddles on the way up. Steering is also nicely sorted with light feeling but still manages to be direct.
If you desire a drive with some additional exuberance, SPORT and SPORT PLUS are happy to assist with this. With EQ Boost providing and additional shove, the four-pot petrol engine makes itself known. It is probably not the most exciting engine note ever but when you get it into its stride, it quickly quietens down.
That said, apart from a smattering of sporty drives, I really never felt a huge desire to push this thing. I was happy to waft quietly along with the likes of John Coltrane and Miles Davis trumpeting through the speakers and just leisurely eat up the distances, both around town and on the motorway. The new C-Class certainly doesn’t disappoint. It is a marvelous cruiser, plain and simple.
So, excluding the AMG and the PHEV, is the petrol C-Class still relevant? Yes, I think so. However, its fanbase is fast becoming more niche. For those not ready just yet to venture into electric avenue and seek a comfortable cruiser and tourer while having the familiarity of an incredibly well sorted engine and drivetrain, the new C 300 is a stunning bit of kit. If this is you, this should be near the top of your shopping list.