Watching the steering wheel move unaided as my W205 Mercedes-Benz C250 accelerates and brakes in peak hour traffic can be unnerving at times.
The Stop-go function is not perfect but these baby steps are a glimpse into the future of autonomous driving.
After six months of ownership, I’m still learning to fully trust the Benz’s active driving aids. Can its suite of sensors, cameras and CPU algorithms intervene quickly enough to keep me safe? Can the system be remotely hacked?
Leaving the Benz to its own devices is both exciting and scary in equal measure.
Despite these reservations, the current C-Class is the technological tour-de-force in its segment. But there is more to why it currently sits top of the charts.
From the outside, my polar white C-Class screams baby S-Class. The proportions lend themselves better to Benz’s current ‘sensual purity’ design language than its bigger brother. The painstaking surfacing and dropping crease lines can appear fussy from some angles though.
Inside, the interior oozes quality. It’s a feast for the senses.
The controls are beautifully tactile; the metal switches and COMAND rotary dial are cool to the touch. The dimpled flat-bottom leather steering wheel is a delight.
So too is the 13-speaker Burmester sound system. It’s an audiophile’s dream; belting out power ballads from Sam Smith to Mariah Carey with concert hall clarity. On the doors, those crisp tones emanate from lovely art deco-styled speaker grills set in black open-pore wood grain and trimmed by cranberry red leather.
On start-up, audiophiles will also appreciate the Benz’s notable refinement. It is eerily hushed on the road until you reach over 110 clicks; that’s when you can hear the wind flapping along the side mirrors and slight tyre rumble over course surfaces.
The electro-mechanic steering is fluid and precise – it is light in the parking lot and gradually loads up at speed. There is a tad less feel compared with the hydraulic system in its W204 predecessor.
The two litre petrol turbo is a punchy sweetheart; yielding 155kW at 350Nm. Like pub beer, it’s perennially on tap – peak torque is delivered between 1,200 and 4,000 rpm. Mated to a seven-speed automatic, this cog-swapper does its job dutifully – flicking between gears with minimal fuss apart from the occasional stagger from first to second when it’s in two minds.
With seven thousand kays now on the clock, the four-pot’s found its groove – a recent road trip with the missus to the Victorian high country revealed the C250’s depth of talent. The steering and drivetrain combo is comfortable but disciplined. Compared with its predecessor, you can squeeze extra dynamic prowess at the limit to put a smile on your face.
The same trip also allowed me to assess the Benz’s intelligent LED headlights. In evening commutes, the highlight from these LEDs (pardon the pun) was the high beams’ ability to automatically dip for on-coming cars and then to look up again. It’s seriously smart stuff.
The getaway also revealed the coil sprung suspension as a weak point. Over smooth tarmac, it is controlled and supple but over potholes and railway tracks, it can be firm and harsh; the bumps upsetting its way into the cabin. It is by no means a deal breaker but it lessens the impressiveness of the package. In hindsight, the optional air suspension might have been warranted.
The Continental run-flats may have also attributed to ride quality. Whilst their grip is phenomenal, the two tyre punctures I unfortunately suffered within the space of a month were plainly not; leaving me a $1,000 poorer.
On both occasions, the tyre-pressure monitor alerted me to the offending tyre. The fact that run-flats can’t be patched and must be replaced when punctured is a dampener to an otherwise exemplary ownership experience. Consolation can be sought however from Mercedes-Benz Australia’s recent introduction of capped priced servicing.
On the issue of saving coin, the Merc’s overall thirst for pricey premium stands at 9.9 litres/100 kilometres given that most commutes were in town – nowhere near its 6.0 litre benchmark.
So after six months with the C250, I haven’t regretted my choice. In fact, each day adds to the admiration I have for its refinement, comfort, safety and technology – you could even say that I have built up some considerable trust during that time.
So while it is not quite the rise of the robots a la Terminator, it’s comforting to know that the Benz’s active safety systems will gently nudge me back on course if needed.