Mercedes C-Class

Three new trim levels offer Mercedes C-Class buyers an even better choice.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Judging by our first taster of the C-Class, Mercedes’ claims of delivering two personalities in one car stand up. The Classic and Elegance trims pamper and cosset like any other model from the brand, while maintaining a sober image that’s so popular with customers. The Avantgarde serves up a more sporting look and a rewarding driving experience, which should win the C-Class new admirers. Now all you have to do is decide how you like yours.

Even though Mercedes offers a range comprising 15 different models of all shapes and sizes in the UK, the C-Class is still its best-selling car.

And to increase the appeal of the compact executive even further, the all-new model has a trick up its sleeve. Driven here for the first time, the updated C-Class is offered in three trims with two very different looks.

Those who admire the brand’s traditional strengths of sober style and refined dynamics will love the Classic and Elegance variants. But if the three-pointed star comes across as a little stuffy, then the assertive-looking Avantgarde we tried lives up to its name.

But it will be much more than the C-Class’ innovative design that will keep it competitive against the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series. The firm’s engineers have worked on the suspension, and the end result is Agility Control, an adaptive damper system which is also available in a choice of specifications.

The standard set-up offers a soothing ride over long distances, while the optional Advanced Agility serves up two driving settings: Comfort and Sport.

Our C320 CDI came complete with the Advanced system and a sharp AMG styling kit. Under the bonnet, the engine is carried over from the previous model, and is as impressive as ever. All 510Nm of torque is avail-able from a very low 1,600rpm, and the muscular V6 diesel keeps the chassis sweetly balanced, thanks to the rear-wheel-drive set-up.

On the Advanced damper set-up, the suspension is lowered by 15mm, while there’s a faster steering rack with speed-sensitive assistance, uprated throttle response and a revised shift pattern for automatic models.

However, does it all work? On the twisting mountain road of our route, default Comfort mode made the C-Class supple, serene and relaxing – typically Mercedes.

Yet its steering is more responsive than before, and body roll is kept well in check. The uprated brakes prove sharp and fade-free, and the 7G-TRONIC auto shifts smoothly.

Sport mode transforms the car’s character, though, with the dampers stiffening, making the Merc even more focused. Throttle response is more eager, the steering weights up and offers greater feedback, and body movement is virtually eliminated.

The setting also improves the auto box; it snaps through its ratios faster and holds on to gears to provide more engine braking. The C-Class is a big step up over the previous car – now, it can give the BMW 3-Series a run for its money in terms of driver appeal. Yet at the same time, long trips won’t leave occupants tired.

Of course, those aren’t the only highlights. The C has an accurate voice recognition system, plus highly effective optional adaptive headlamps. And the firm has also been busy perfecting its PreSafe protection set-up.

Inside, the Avantgarde is fitted with sporty trim and an alloy-effect finish on the dashboard; the more comfort-oriented Elegance has the feel of a gentleman’s club, and features wood upholstery. There’s no discernable leap forward in terms of quality, and the instruments, controls and seats are similar to the previous machine’s. But the latest Mercedes remains a relaxing place in which to spend time.

So it doesn’t matter whether you prefer the comfort-biased or sporty model – either way, we think the new C-Class is guaranteed to be a big hit.

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