The Mercedes C-class has been the stepping stone to the Merc range for a long time and it’s not surprising why it always had the baby Merc tag linked to it. Yes, nowadays, there are smaller models like the A-class and GLA that allow you to have the Merc badge but to really drive and feel like a Mercedes, you have to get a C-class. This new one is supposedly so good that Mercedes has decided to call it the Baby S-class. But is it, really?
For one, the styling is very similar. The C-class has always been styled to mimic the S-class and this new W206 is even more so. The sides and rear are so similar, especially around the wedge-shaped tail lamp area. The front end is different for the C300d AMG line model we are driving, and it looks all the more aggressive for it. The inverted front grille and the sleeker headlamps are a big departure from the last-gen. The classic rear wheel drive sedan proportions are well encapsulated even in the standard model, but the body kit on this adds a lot of sportiness. The wheels are 18 inches and have a thicker lip that reduces their inner diameter.
Step inside and apart from the squaricle vents, it is very much shaped like that of an S-class. There is a massive 11.9-inch floating touchscreen in portrait layout taking centre stage and it’s fantastic. The display is very clear, the layout is very clean, it supports 3D maps, biometric authentication to select driver profiles, has a Burmester surround system, various connected car features and wireless Apple Car play support. The system allows various Mercedes Benz cars to communicate with one another and share traffic alerts, rain and road conditions, etc. The AC controls are touch operated and will show at the bottom of the screen at all times. The sunroof is touch operated and so are the seats, which take a second to start moving and there is no feedback from the buttons either. The steering is thick and nice to hold and has more capacitive buttons. The driver gets his own 12.3-inch display which is hugely customizable.
Where the C class feels leagues ahead of its competition is in the cabin ambience. The swanky dashboard, the scooped-out door pads, the shapely seats and the choice of materials used for all of that – it makes a 3 series look like the last-gen.
The front seats are large and have good bolstering, especially on the sides. There is plenty of space and the controls are perfectly positioned. The rear seats are better than the last-gen car with 21mm more legroom, but they are a bit low and are best suited for two. The twin sunroof arrangement makes the cabin feel airy.
The C300d is the engine to have if performance and driving pleasure are important. It produces 265bhp and 550Nm from a 2.0L inline-four. Other engine options include the same 2L engine in 220d form with 200bhp and 440Nm and a 1.5 litre petrol in C200 form with 204bhp and 300Nm. All engines get a mild hybrid system that can provide 20bhp and 200Nm on top of that and this bumps efficiency a lot. The C300d has a claimed fuel efficiency of 20.37kmpl and yet can do 0-100kmph in 5.7 secs. It has plenty of grunts and the car feels like it has a big V6 under the hood. Tap the throttle and the twin-turbo diesel can build up speeds rapidly. The 9-speed automatic is very refined and quick in Sport mode. The engine is reasonably refined that it’s only intrusive near the redline.
Another area where the C300d impressed us is in its handling. It feels tighter and much more agile than the outgoing gen. The chassis feels nimbler and there is plenty of grips. The steering is very accurate and has enough feedback to easily correct it when all that torque comes gushing in to break traction at the rear. The ride quality is on the firm side by Merc standards, but even this 18-inch version doesn’t feel unsettled on bad roads. The brakes are fantastic and have immense stopping power for the performance on offer.
The styling may be evolutionary, but the new C class feels a big step up from the previous generation in the way it feels and drives. The cabin quality and tech have gone to another level where it will have competition worried. The C300d is a gem of a motor where you can have your cake and eat it too. It is expensive, but that’s the way with most new cars.
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