2016 was a year of seismic changes: Trump, Brexit … And the Cochranes buying their first (truly) European car. Having owned a Mazda, Honda, Lexus and most recently a Ford Mondeo wagon (Okay, sort-of-European!), the wife decided it was time to replace the Mondeo diesel’s low-speed DSG foibles with a little more badge cred (read: European).
I determined that the replacement would be a wagon (not ready for an SUV yet), and considered that we may lose the great practicality of the Mondeo for a more stylish, less roomy load lugger. With a $60K budget, I researched the Skoda Superb and VW Passat that offered the same space with more style, but the VW DSG diesel combination still exhibited the disliked DSG traits.
This was confirmed in a test drive of an Audi A4, which thus put it out of contention, leaving a BMW 320i or Mercedes C250. And when unable to find a two-year-old BMW with the mandatory combo of keyless entry/start and active cruise control, the C250 diesel you see here was the one!
So definitely, style over practicality – the Merc’ wagon with the AMG kit is a fantastic-looking car externally, and the sports seats and steering wheel inside feel great. From its launch in 2014, I have loved the C-Class interior, and there are lot of little things that make it livable day to day:
- The column-mounted gear lever is much easier in practice than I thought, particularly when performing three-point turns in a hurry (going back to Lexus’s dog-legged gate seems so archaic, and fortunately I haven't exploded the transmission after accidentally using it as an indicator!).
- I was also skeptical about the cruise-control stalk (as opposed to buttons on the Ford and Honda), but with it always in standby mode, a simple flick sets the active cruise control. The cruise control keeps the speed limit perfectly, and the reaction of the active setting is far superior to the Mondeo’s (I would be very interested in CarAdvice doing a specific comparison of manufacturers' active cruise controls to judge which is best). What isn’t quite as good is the 10km/h adjustment increments versus the Mondeo’s 5km/h increments. When you want to set the cruise at 115km/h (to allow for the admittedly small speedo error), you need to tap up five times in 1km/h increments.
Other small things that help:
- Wheel-mounted gearbox paddles are always on standby, so no need to change the gearbox mode in order to drop it back a gear if needed.
- Keyless locking by touching the door handle, even if not all the doors are closed.
- Closing the boot and locking the car via a single button on the boot.
- The adaptive LED front lights are superb and keep the high beam from ever dazzling another car.
I've been happy with the choice of a diesel in place of paying fluctuating prices for increasingly more expensive premium. Fuel use has been in the low sixes for mostly urban driving.
What hasn’t been so great thus far? Inside, the lack of speed limits in the sat-nav was disappointing, and the voice recognition is patchy. Currently it’s confusing 'Home' with my boss’s name, which isn’t so great when wanting to talk to the family on the weekend.
The suspension is much harder than I thought it would be – a combination of the AMG wheels and run-flat tyres. Which brings me to one of the two biggest pain points. Run-flat tyres. I’ve had two instances of punctured tyres: one time when in a small town south of Narooma, which meant we had to wait three days for a new tyre to be delivered; and a second time when I hit a pothole on a rural road. Granted, both times it has enabled me to drive to a tyre centre, but I don’t see how the lack of a spare tyre has enabled any more boot space. At least a third issue when I got a slow leak due to a screw was able to be repaired.
The final point regards servicing. The third-year service was the single worst service experience I’ve had – after the Diesel Particulate Filter light came on at the end of the test drive close to pick-up time, it had to be kept for a second day. After no communication until I rang them at 4pm on the second day, I was told the test drive had still not been done.
Finally, on the third day (a Friday) at 4pm and speaking to the manager, it was being looked at, but couldn’t be guaranteed I’d be able to pick it up before 6pm if there was still an issue. Eventually it was okay, but I was not sent the service report until the next day, without any comments about brake or tyre life you’d normally expect for your service report.
And two months later, the 'Add Ad-Blue' warning light came on, despite it being a line item on the service schedule. After a follow-up, it seems the communication issues are something they’re working on. With the large number of new cars Mercedes has been selling lately, the small dealer network really impacts the service experience.
Overall, we’ve been very happy with the car. The reduced boot space has been noticed on holiday drives, but day to day it’s been great, and you always feel good walking up to a car as good looking as this! Maybe when it's time for an SUV (I think we all need to admit it's inevitable...), I'd be very happy for the updated C-Class sedan to replace my Lexus.