Mercedes C320 CDI Sport: 13,620 miles

FINAL REPORT: One year on, did V6 diesel pass its toughest test?

  • The 3.0-litre V6 diesel unit under the Mercedes’ black bonnet is a real beaut! The C-Class surprised everyone who drove it with just how quick it is. Superb torque combines with excellent refinement and good economy to give a great town and motorway car.
  • If I could change one thing about our C-Class, it would be its lack of flexibility. Even prestige saloons have to be practical enough to cope with the unexpected – such as carrying a glass coffee table. So, folding rear seats please, Mr Mercedes!

Busy, busy, busy! Our Mercedes C-Class has had one of the most hecticyears of any car we’ve ever tested on our long-term fleet. You name it,and our diesel Sport model has done it!

We’ve put it through itshigh-speed paces on a demanding handling track at Mercedes-Benz Worldin Surrey. Then there was the session on a skidpan, testing out theMerc’s excellent safety and stability systems. In addition, it’s beenpart of several high-profile tests, mixing it with fierce new rivalsfrom the likes of BMW and Audi on road and track.

Oh, and it’sattended a photocall at one of the UK’s leading karting circuits, aswell as being serviced by Mercedes’ own European-award-winningmechanics from south London.

Add in all the mileage that our C320CDI has clocked up in motorway and town commuting, plus the many otherdemands of everyday life, and I think you will agree that this is onetest car which has certainly earned its keep.

So, as we prepareto hand back the C-Class after 14 months, what end-of-term summing updoes our sporty Merc get? Well, if this was a school report, we’d giveit a ‘highly promising, but there’s room for improvement’. It looksgood with its lowered suspension and AMG cosmetics, is surprisinglyquick thanks to its powerhouse engine, and delivers highly respectablemid-30mpg economy. But we’d prefer to see a bit more personality inwhat is a bland cabin, while build quality, although better than theprevious model’s, is still some way short of its predecessors from theSeventies and Eighties. We were also disappointed to find a rattlydriver’s seat, squeaky electric folding door mirror and malfunctioninggearshift paddle.

Also, for a top-spec model with all the bellsand whistles, I would have liked a bit more flexibility. I was forcedto borrow another long-termer – a Jaguar XF – to transport aglass-topped coffee table. The British model swallowed this item withreasonable ease, thanks to its folding rear seats. If Jaguar fits thisuseful feature as standard, why can’t Mercedes?

And I guess thatsums up life with the C-Class. There’s plenty to like about it,especially in Sport trim, but with a bit more attention to detail, itcould go from being good to being great.

Second Opinion

Placing a large-capacity diesel in a compact saloon certainly gives the Merc dragster-like acceleration. However, I wish the C320 would stop as effectively as it goes. Admittedly the brakes are supremely effective, but the hi-tech Brake Assist set-up, which actively adjusts pedal pressure as you slow, makes it difficult to come to a halt smoothly.

Dean Gibson

Senior sub-editor

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