Mercedes C-Class 2007 review

The new C-Class improves upon the previous version in almost every way

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new C-Class is a significant step forward from the outgoing car in nearly every respect. It's more involving to drive and, as with its S-Class big brother, follows the firm's new style direction. The traditional grille on the SE and Elegance models gives a more conventional look when compared with the Sport version. Suspension and ride is tuned towards greater comfort, while the C350's petrol V6 offers plenty of refinement. Sport variants are undoubtedly impressive, but the Elegance is better value for money.

Get ready for the car designed to attack its rivals on two fronts! With the new C-Class, Mercedes is hoping to capture a wider range of customers thanks to a pair of distinct front-end styles and split personalities.

The Sport model (called Avant-garde in Europe), which we drove in Issue 952, is aimed at younger buyers. But SE and Elegance versions get a more traditional Mercedes grille, complete with the three-pointed star standing proud on the bonnet. The latter are much less brash and reflect the dignified look of larger models in the German firm's range.

Yet while the noses might appeal to more conservative tastes, beneath the surface the SE and Elegance are certainly not old fashioned. Both trims come with Mercedes' new active suspension system, called Agility Control. Sport-spec C-Classes benefit from a more advanced version of the hi-tech set-up, but even in standard form it constantly varies damper activity to ensure a comfortable ride.

As a result, the Elegance model is supple and relaxing to drive, with an impressive level of refinement. As you would expect, it doesn't feel as hard-edged as the Sport, but the handling is still responsive and, crucially, it's noticeably better than that of the previous generation. The same degree of improvement is also apparent when it comes to body control.

There's plenty of grip and composure when travelling at speed, and the latest C-Class is certainly more involving than its predecessor. The steering is nicely weighted, although it doesn't have the same feel and precision as its BMW 3-Series rival.

Inside, the Merc's cabin offers a good driving position, clear ergonomics and decent space. The large instruments are smart and modern, while cars with sat-nav get a version of the S-Class's COMAND control system and a colour screen that neatly retracts above the air vents.

With soft-touch dash materials and familiar switchgear, build quality throughout the interior is up to class standards. However, the design feels closer to that of the A-Class than the E-Class. At least Mercedes offers a comprehensive options list.

We drove the C350, which is powered by the same 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine as the outgoing model. Mated as standard to the firm's 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission, it delivers impressive performance low down in the range, but the 268bhp unit has a breathless feel higher up the revs.

Nevertheless, the new C-Class is just as capable in Elegance trim as it is in Sport guise - and saves buyers £1,700. Sure to appeal to old-school Mercedes fans, it offers all the comfort and refinement customers in this sector expect, coupled with an extra dash of improved dynamic appeal.

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