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Sunday, August 31, 2014

All-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has the makings of a luxurious crowd pleaser

We’ve just bought a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300, the mainstream version of the newly redesigned C-Class sedan. Based on our first impressions, we think a lot of people are going to like this car. It’s somewhat larger inside and out than the last generation, and it remains beautifully finished inside. It’s everything a Mercedes ought to be: comfortable, quiet, agile, and altogether well sorted out.

The new C-Class takes styling cues from the flagship S-Class, new last year, and comes standard with a raft of up-to-date safety gear such as a collision-avoidance system that can automatically brake to stop the car in some situations. Two versions are available initially, the C300, powered by a 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, and the C400, with a 329-hp, 3.0-liter turbo V6. The C-Class is now built in Alabama, alongside Mercedes’ SUVs.

We opted for an all-wheel-drive C300 with a typical options array, including the Premium package, panoramic sunroof, blind-spot assist,  and rearview camera. With a sticker price of $47,560, our C lands at the higher end of the sports sedan spectrum, where it competes most directly against the BMW 3 Series.


First impressions

As you begin to cover some ground, it becomes clear that power from the small four-cylinder engine is ample and that turbo lag is essentially imperceptible. The seven-speed automatic works well. So far, this powertrain combination has been averaging a respectable 26 mpg.

A console-mounted button labeled “Agility” lets you toggle between Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport Plus modes. Each setting alters transmission shift points and changes the steering heft. Predictably, Eco dulls responses while Sport Plus may be too frenetic for relaxed cruising. Comfort is the happy medium most people will probably prefer for everyday driving. And when in a hurry, Sport mode might be the choice. Helpfully, the mode selector and dash display make it instantly clear what setting you’ve selected.

As to actual agility, the new C has quick reflexes with very prompt steering response, making the car corner with alacrity. It’s sporty and always enjoyable to drive. The pliant suspension delivers a comfortable ride, with Mercedes’ typical cushiness and settled body motions. The cabin stays quiet, but you do hear an unmistakable four-cylinder thrum, which may seem a little out of place in a $47,000 sedan. But that’s the modern world; Many luxury-level cars use turbocharged four-cylinder engines these days.

Inside you’ll find the expected Mercedes upscale execution, with a high-quality feel to every surface, switch, and button, and nothing garish or flashy. The artificial-leather upholstery, called MB-Tex, is the most believable fake leather you’ll find anywhere, and honestly, it can pass for the real thing.

The center screen looks like it floats in the middle of the dash but unfortunately, its baffling menu structure resembles the S-Class’ too much. Other Mercedes models have a more straightforward control interface, and it looks like the folks in Stuttgart are about to give it up.

 A piano-black touchpad provides an alternative method for selecting various functions and on cars with navigation, the touch pad allows for some shortcuts. Some of us found that it gets in the way of the more reliable center knob.

The rear seat, a low point of the last C-Class, has markedly improved and now allows decent space for an adult.

So far, the new C-Class seems to be a very satisfying car with accomplished ride and handling, top-drawer interior fit and finish, and advanced safety features. It certainly has the potential to land among the highest-rated sports sedans, but we won’t know that for sure until our formal tests and evaluations are completed in the weeks ahead.
Gabe Shenhar