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The Mercedes C-Class and I have never particularly seen eye to eye. I always found myself placing it under its big rivals, the 3-Series and the Audi A4.
I’m not implying that the previous generation was terrible car as such, but it lacked something that for years I have been struggling to pinpoint.
I gave up eventually.
Fortunately for Mercedes, there was always the AMG badge to fall back on.
All, in my opinion, was forgiveable as long as something made that kind of noise.
I had a mild argument with someone the other day when they insisted that Mercedes has never quite been able to match the driving satisfaction of a BMW, nor the utterly distinguished build quality of Audi.
My point was that, while this may quite be true of the past, it is pointless to assume that the new C-Class will commit the sins of its fathers.
So this test would be an interesting one. Having spent some time in both the 3 Series and the A4, the C Class is something different.
I suspect, however, that this feeling of awe is perhaps simply because it’s something new.
Or perhaps it’s because I really want this car to be better than just good.
First impressions as you step into the cabin are that it's impressive. Piano black and bushed aluminium finishes, supple leather and buttons are in abundance.
Driver communication with the car is done through a screen in the instrument cluster, as well as the main screen on the dashboard.
Inputs are made off the steering wheel or via a clever new touch pad system on the centre console which allows you to scroll, select and even write a command with your fingertips.
From here you control the audio, climate control and a vast array of settings and options.
The interior then has it waxed. It’s comfortable, spacious and thanks to a longer wheelbase, the rear passengers are now also treated to more room.
Torque and power bands of the Diesel motor work well together to produce a smooth pull.
Acceleration from standstill is brisk thanks to ample torque, and the 7 G-Tronic gearbox is absolutely seamless.
Despite being notably bigger than its predecessor, the new car is lighter thanks to the extensive use of aluminium in its construction.
This means corners are dealt with comfortably and safely and cruising is effortless.
The weight loss coupled with Bluetec wizardry means that an alarmingly little amount of fuel is used - given of course that the driver behaves accordingly.
As a driver’s car, it’s composed and direct, but it’s not a BMW.
This issue is curable by fitting an AMG kit which gives you lower-profile tyres and a stiffened set-up.
But that will affect comfort and running costs of tyres - which are hideously expensive. Which brings me to my big issue, the price.
For all intents and purposes, the standard C220 costs half a million rand.
For a midsize, diesel sedan?
And once you begin to spec your car, you may just end up another +R100k out of pocket.
I say again, this is a C-Class, not an E-Class.
Despite this, it’s a car worth owning.
It bristles with innovative technology and with the help of the AMG kit, it certainly looks the part as well.
As new, more powerful petrol and diesel engines make their way into the range, the C-Class should gain the power it lacks with the small diesel.
A genuine contender in its own right and, moreover, an excellent piece of engineering.