Is this the new benchmark in affordable luxury? We think so.
At $68,900 plus on-road costs, the Mercedes-Benz C250 sedan sits smack-bang in the middle of the all-new C-Class line-up - and according to Mercedes-Benz Australia, it’s also the variant most likely to conquer 50 percent plus of all C-Class sales.
The more budget-conscious could jump into a new C-Class for just over $60,000 for an entry-level C200 sedan, while those wanting a little more prestige could go for the range-topping C300 BlueTEC Hybrid at a cool $74,900.
Whereas the hybrid model combines a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with electric power, both the C200 and C250 variants share the same 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a seven-speed auto driving the rear wheels - though in the latter model, the engine generates more power and torque.
Universally lauded by the world’s press for its head-turning S-Class design cues, like the distinctive LED headlights, swooping profile and jewel-like rear light clusters, it’s actually the interior that is most likely to get buyers over the line.
The new C-Class offers top-notch craftsmanship, with a superb blend of soft-touch materials, genuine wood veneer trim and polished metal accents.
Gone is the button-busy centre-stack with that pointless telephone-style keypad. In its place is a wonderfully simple and elegant dash with a new floating infotainment screen taking centre stage.
It’s a high-resolution unit that’s controlled by either a touchpad or a more intuitive rotary dial. C-Class is also loaded with a raft of standard equipment.
Even the base model C200 has luxurious inclusions like ambient lighting with three different colours and five dimming levels, a 7.0-inch display with satellite navigation and touchpad control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, electrically adjustable front seats, keyless start, reverse-view camera and dual-zone climate control.
There’s also a Nappa leather-trimmed steering wheel with paddleshifters, auto wipers and headlamps, power windows with one-touch control, active parking assist, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, front and rear parking sensors, 18-inch alloy wheels and an electrically-operated boot.
The C250 improves the offering further by adding leather upholstery, 19-inch alloys, privacy glass, keyless entry and start and hidden stowage compartments under the front seats.
The new C-Class range also ups the ante in the safety stakes by adding a range of the latest active and passive tech including Attention assist, blind-spot assist, collision prevention assist plus and electronic stability program with acceleration skid control.
Again, stepping up to the C250 adds steering assist, radar cruise control with stop and go function, auto brake with pedestrian recognition, rear cross-traffic assist, active blind-spot assist (with steering intervention) and active lane-keeping assist, in addition to the standard nine airbags.
For those wanting more exclusivity with their C-Class, buyers can choose from a range of tasty option packs including the $4490 AMG Line, $4490 Vision and $2990 Comand packages, all of which were fitted to our test car.
The AMG Line is all about sporty styling cues and a more aggressive stance (the sports suspension lowers it by 15mm), while inside, it adds super-comfy sports seats and a beautiful-to-touch flat-bottomed steering wheel.
With the Vision package, you get a crystal-clear head-up display, panoramic sunroof and LED intelligent light system with high-beam assist plus and active light function.
The COMAND package boosts the infotainment display goes from 7.0 to 8.0 inches, adds voice activation with internet access, as well as a high-end 13-speaker Burmester sound system.
And for those who prefer their air with a hint of lavender, there’s an optional Air-Balance system that automatically pumps a selection of scents through the air conditioning.
It’s all top-shelf craftsmanship with a premium-level look and feel that’s light years ahead of the previous model C-Class.
So it looks great inside and out, is extraordinarily comfortable, but what’s it like to drive?
Well, there wasn’t anything wrong with the previous C-Class when it came to ride comfort – in fact, it was the segment benchmark, but when you factor in the first-in-class optional air suspension, the new C-Class takes ride comfort to a whole new level.
Drivers can choose between three suspension settings; Comfort, Sport and Sport plus, which combines with the Agility Select system to change things like engine response and steering weight.
Drive it in comfort, and you won’t believe how cushy the ride is. The C-Class just floats over the bumpiest of roads.
Switch to Sport, and instantly the car feels a lot more hunkered down and ready to tackle the twisty stuff. But even in the hardest Sport plus setting, there’s still loads of compliance in the suspension – meaning it still soaks up the potholes better than most of its rivals.
Standard across the entire C-Class range is variable ratio steering, which makes the steering sharper on lock and less so on-centre for effortless cruising.
There’s minimal body roll even under heavy load and turn-in is more precise than the old model thanks to Mercedes' new multilink front suspension that keeps more tyre in contact with the bitumen.
When it comes to performance, the turbocharged four-cylinder C250 is no slouch.
There’s a reasonable 155kW of power but more importantly 350Nm of torque from just 1200rpm (up 20kW/50Nm respectively) – meaning little or no turbo lag and plenty of punch for confident overtaking on the open road.
That extra grunt over its C200 sibling delivers noticeably better performance off the line; needing just 6.6 seconds to go from 0-100km/h (down from 7.5-sec for the C200) but without compromising its impressive 6.0L/100km efficiency (claimed).
To get the most out of it though, you’ll need to be in Sport or Sport plus modes for the quickest throttle response and a nice exhaust burp on upshifts.
And while it’s not a particularly inspiring engine note, it’s not offensive either. But does all that really matter in what is essentially a genuine luxury commuter?
The same goes for Merc’s seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s smooth and refined, but otherwise unremarkable, lacking the crisp response of the rival ZF eight-speed box.
With the new C-Class, Mercedes has targeted class-leading luxury and refinement and it has hit a home run.
Better than that, it have effectively redefined affordable luxury and raised the bar to a level that the competition will likely find hard to match.
Photography by Mitchell Oke