No need to panic at silence
I HAD only just left the Mercedes dealership where I picked up our test vehicle, when my progress was halted by the usual city traffic snarl – cars trying to merge from side streets, monster trucks not letting them and impatient taxi drivers leaving chaos in their wake.
I was biting back the frustration, concentrating on the tail lights in front, when I noticed the eerie quiet around me.
So quiet, in fact, that I could almost hear the crunch of pastry, as the tradie in the ute beside me bit into his sausage roll.
With a disconcerting twist in the tummy, I realised that I could no longer hear the engine.
The radio was still on but the car itself seemed to have turned off.
Just great, I remember thinking, on the one occasion that circumstances collide to make me do the pick-up in worn jeans and a top bearing the kisses of a snotty baby, the car dies on me.
In this get-up, the thought of making my way back to a dealership where even the valet seems to be dressed in a Savile Row suit is enough to fill me with dread.
Distracted, I press down on the accelerator, as the traffic starts to move again and joy of all joys, the car fires up again.
Thanking my good fortune, I take the exit back onto the highway and race along the 90-minute drive home, too scared to even stop for my obligatory service station coffee.
In the safety of my driveway, I read about Mercedes’ fuel-saving start/stop system that shuts down the engine as soon as the vehicle comes to a stop – in traffic or at traffic lights. The engine starts again immediately, as soon as the driver releases the brake pedal or presses the accelerator pedal. Isn’t hindsight grand?
This feature is just one of some 2000 mid-life changes Mercedes has given the C-Class to keep it fresh, competitive and a leader in its class.
Even a cursory glance around the interior of the C250 is enough to prove the impressive changes, with the luxurious E-Class obviously proving the inspiration for a warmer palette, with much-improved materials.
Gone are the cheap hard plastics and somewhat stark feel. Welcome instead soft-touch surfaces, updated centre console and dashboard surface and a new-look gauge cluster with accent colours. The leather seats are comfortable and cradling and boast electric controls, as well as a sensible amount of shoulder room.
Well thought-out hidey holes complement the new design and storage is further boosted by a 475-litre boot. Leg room in the back, while acceptable, is largely dependent on the generosity of the occupants in the front pew.
On the road
The 2.1-litre diesel engine, with its two turbochargers, is a piece of work to be proud of. It steers the Benz with guile, showing poise even in trying situations. Acceleration is sublime, the ride compliant and steering responsive.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox is equal to most challenges – eating up highway miles without raising a sweat but nimble enough to make negotiating tight spaces a breeze. A Mercedes always feels sure-footed with great balance and an air of security – and the C250 is no different. It is decidedly refined and quiet for a diesel, with some tyre noise on secondary surfaces the only real complaint.
What do you get?
More often than not, the German manufacturer is quite generous with inclusions. After all, hefty price tags need to come with benefits. Alloy wheels, cruise and climate control, nine airbags, Bluetooth connectivity and rain-sensing wipers are all standard.
The high resolution colour TFT display with COMMAND online incorporates a navigation system, an internet browser and the ability to store 3000 songs.
Many of the revolutionary driver assistance technologies that have made the E-Class a must-have make an appearance with blind-spot assist, pre-safe brake and adaptive high beam assist sharing space with Mercedes’ Parktronic system and lane-keeping assist. The latter works to ensure you don’t stray from your lane when distracted or tired. Using cameras mounted in the mirrors, lane-keeping assist monitors road markings and alerts the driver via a steering wheel shake. If veering is not corrected, the system automatically brakes one side of the car to steer back on course.
BMW 3-Series (from $56,900), Audi A4 ($66,900) and the Lexus IS series (from $76,900).
Good looks, good space options, impressive fuel economy and excellent safety and driver assist systems make the C250 CDI a consideration for families, executives or retirees accustomed to the finer things in life.
Mercedes’ Blue-Efficiency technology, coupled with shedding 10kg of the C250’s weight, has made for a car with better fuel economy and fewer CO2 emissions. At 5.1 litres per 100km it will be a long time before drinks.
The exterior of the C-Class has also seen the benefits of a mid-life rumble. It looks sleeker and sharper: new restyled LED headlights, prouder bumpers and a more contoured bonnet. Side air inlets create a sportier look, with new wheels adding the finishing touch.
The C-Class has emerged from its makeover with a new lease on life. It looks better, drives better and has the upmarket ambience, performance and technology to justify the price tag.
Model: Mercedes Benz C250 CDI.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive compact sedan.
Transmission: Seven speed automatic.
Engine: 2.1-litre twin-turbo diesel generating maximum power of 150kW at 4200rpm and peak torque of 500Nm at 1600rpm.
Consumption: 5.1 litres/100km combined average.
Performance: 0-100km in 7.1 seconds.
Bottom line: $67,900.