Getting Out of the Way?
Frank S. Washington, Mon, 01 Feb 2010 10:36:53 PST
CHICAGO I had driven a Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC here from Detroit to attend the auto show and I was giving a colleague a ride back to her hotel after attending an offsite reception.
She asked me a common question amongst auto writers, "what do you think of the car." I gathered up my thoughts and said that the Mercedes-Benz C300 reminded me of something that my elders used to say.
When a toddler would start walking, talking, trying get potty trained and doing other stuff earlier than what's considered normal, they'd say he or she was moving out of the way for the next baby. And that's what came to mind when I thought about the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
I want to talk about the ambience of Stuttgart's entry level sedan. The point is the new C-Class doesn't seem like it is an entry level luxury sedan. The car has size. From the interior and exterior it has grown into the size of a mid-size sedan, well almost.
Though the rear doors were a bit too small for easy entry, I got into the back seat and once there found plenty of leg room and the head room was acceptable. That was with my driver's seat still fully deployed. In other words, the C-Class can transport four full size adults comfortably.
During my week long test drive I found nothing cheap about the car. Other than no burled walnut emblazoned across the front of the dash board, there was plenty on the center stack, Mercedes- Benz didn't scrimp on interior materials.
The car featured the same command system and controller that adorns the flagship S-Class. The option package was considerable and impressive. It had a panorama roof, iPod integration, burl walnut trim and Tele Aid. Keep in mind that this is an entry level sedan and the options kept coming.
The premium package included Bi-Xenon headlamps, satellite radio, heated front seats, and a rear-window shade and there was more. The multimedia package featured a hard drive based navigation system, a retractable color display screen and a premium sound system.
My Mercedes-Benz C300 was powered by a V6 that made 228 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque. The engine was mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. This power train provided ample oomph. And the 4MATIC (all-wheel-drive) system provided precision handling. That's the other attribute of all-wheel-drive that gets overlooked; other than its ability to trudge through moderate snow.
The car handled really well, acceleration was adequate, and the suspension was not undone or damaged by the potholed streets that are a trademark of winter in cold climates.
Anyway, my only complaint was that I could not connect the Bluetooth system to my cell phone which is compatible. I did not call Mercedes-Benz; no time before I hit the road. Still the owner's manual was useless. My point is the last two out of three Benz's that I've test driven, I've been unable to connect Bluetooth. It really is time for that phone call.
I thought the engine was a bit load, a rarity is a Mercedes but that's a matter of more soundproofing. It might go unnoticed by an untrained ear.
The base price of my test vehicle was $35,400. Add on the optional equipment and the total was almost $47,000. Although the C300 4MATIC may be worth it, that's not an entry level price.
Both Audi and BMW now have new and cheaper entry level vehicles: the Audi A3 and the BMW 1 Series. I don't think it's that much of a stretch that as the C-Class moves a bit up market; to think that it is getting out of the way so that Mercedes-Benz can match up at the entry level position with its primary competitors.