After recently getting in to a debate around the ‘premium saloons’ and second hand market, it seemed to be fate when I was handed the keys to a 2011 Mercedes C Class, this one in particular was a C350 CDI.
Having owned a BMW 335i and Audi A4 3.0tdi Quattro previously, and one of my best friends owning a 325d, we thought for this budget, which is the better car?
In order of keeping this from turning in to a novel, I will TRY and keep it brief.
I have always had a soft spot for the Mercedes C Class and each new model has matured the car. The ability of combining the modern and sporty looks with a premium feel throughout. Looks are always subjective but I think we can all agree the C class styling is not to complain over.
The interior for me is where the C class has made a massive step forward. The interior dash and buttons feel substantial and the seating position is very versatile offering you the opportunity to set it exactly to your liking.
The electric adjustment provided is adequate and there is no real need for memory settings, unless you share the car with your partner. After completing about 3 hours in the car in total, the seats were comfortable and supportive for the entire journey. Even with 4 in the car, everyone was comfortable with more than adequate space.
Now let’s get to the important bit, how it drove. The V6 up front is smooth and relatively quiet with little noise when under acceleration. This can be seen as a good or bad thing, personally even in a 6-cylinder diesel I want the engine to feedback where I am in the rev range, so it was just a little too quiet. Torque is available whenever you need it. The torque allows rapid progress relatively serenely so you can quickly be at high speeds without realising.
I found the suspension to be very firm but controlled; at lower speeds on British roads I found it to be too firm, particularly at the front. However hit the motorway and the car soaks up most road blemishes without problem. There is quite substantial road noise from the tyres at motorway speeds.
The biggest downfall for me was the steering; I found it to be incredibly light and offered very little in the way of feedback. Whilst I was not expecting it to have steering like a Porsche, I did expect to be offered some feedback. It makes taking the car out on B roads a lot less involving than the alternative BMW.
The gearbox is smooth but can be very slow to react. The car I had, did have steering wheel paddles, although I am not sure if they serve a purpose. On acceleration if you hit change up at 3k rpm you can expect the shift to happen when you are close to the 4.5k red line. Meaning you either adjust the way you drive or just leave it in auto. Auto performs adequately once you adjust to the slow automatic gearbox. The downside to full auto is you are never sure what gear the box is in.
The car is easy to park and with front and rear parking sensors offering audi and visual direction, however they are only audible in the last two of the six segments, which is when the segments turn red.
The car is probably capable of good rather than great economy, but this is a 3-litre V6 turbodiesel, so it will never be frugal and the performance is so readily available that even short journeys are likely to involve the odd heavy prod of the throttle just for fun.
I must admit that I was a little let down with the economy, so on our 120+ mile round trip we only managed to achieve 31.4mpg, which isn’t great and falls short of the Audi equivalent which would easily achieve 38-40mpg on the same run.
In summary, if you want a refined car with great power and torque whenever you need it, good looks and build quality along with plenty of technology and you are not looking for razor edge handling, I would definitely recommend you try a C Class diesel.
The choice of engine will probably come down to budget but having driven a C220 CDI it probably offers the best overall package, even if the 4-cylinder engine isn’t as smooth.
If you want something that offers a more jeckyl and hyde personality meaning you can take it out on some B roads and enjoy more precise steering with feedback, I would recommend trying a BMW 330d.