Mercedes C320 CDI: 10,800 miles

Third Report: Unlikely racer gives us the speed bug

  • A brilliant blend of performance with great fuel economy. Plus, I love that mix of grown-up, chic styling with a dash of mean and menacing muscle car looks. The black paintjob, splashes of chrome and AMG wheels finish off a very fine effort from Mercedes.
  • Why is the cruise control stalk positioned exactly where every other car has its indicators? And when you do find them, why oh why are they confusingly combined with the wipers?

Minutes after the picture above was taken, the track was filled with the buzz of mini racing machines. Fortunately, my long-term Mercedes C-Class was safely out of the way behind the barriers.

Just as well for the would-be Lewis Hamiltons at least, as the black and menacing C320 would have blown them into the weeds! The Mercedes is an unlikely track star, because sitting under its bonnet is a diesel engine. A V6 diesel to be precise. And that makes it fast. Deceptively fast.

To make the point, we had descended on Lakeside Karting’s circuit, which is next door to the giant shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex.

Lakeside Karting normally entertains groups of corporate racers or guysout on their stag dos. So plonking a C-Class on the start-finish lineraised more than a few eyebrows with the orange-suited safety marshals.Little did they know that this Merc has an added dash of vitamin C togive it some real get-up-and-go!

For the record, our figures are 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, and a top speedof 155mph. But the key stat is torque of 510Nm at 1,600rpm, which givesthe car a real whoosh of acceleration. I’ve covered nearly 11,000 miles so I’m used to this sudden surge ofurge, but it has been known to catch unsuspecting members of staff out.

Boosting the performance credentials is the Sport pack fitted to ourlong-termer, which lowers the suspension and adds a meaty-lookinggrille, bodykit and AMG alloys. Interior trim includes brushed alloy inserts and AMG branded floor mats. With all of this racy kit, the plain-looking steering wheel seems strangelyout of place! My other grumbles also centre on the cabin, where thereare barely enough pockets and trays to store more than a pair ofsunglasses and a couple of CDs. And in time-honoured Merc style, theindicators and wipers all operate (awkwardly!) from one column stalk,and the handbrake is foot-operated.

But the C320’s plus points far outweigh the minuses. Even fuel economyin the mid-30s is impressive for a car with this kind of power. As anavowed Audi-lover, this Merc has almost converted me!

Extra Info

I share David’s admiration for the Mercedes – not least because it looks the part. The old C-Class was too much like an S-Class that had been put on a hot wash, but the current car is much more distinctive. Careful not to upset existing customers, Mercedes has adopted a clever styling strategy. The SE and Elegance models have a traditional three-pointed star mounted above the grille, while Sport models have a big badge in the grille. It looks much more aggressive, and I prefer it.

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