How to be the envy of the golf club

The new Mercedes C-Class has finally emerged from the shadow of its big brother, the S-Class

THE battle for golf club car park supremacy remains alive and well. And this year, to trump your fellow members, you’re going to have to get one of these: the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s that simple.

Emerging from the air-conditioned cool of Marseille airport into the blazing spring sunshine during the car’s launch two weeks ago – shades on, of course – it was time for a reality check. Squint and you could be forgiven for mistaking the gleaming baby Mercedes saloon as an A-list celeb transporter, such is its likeness to the all-singing, all-dancing S-Class flagship limousine.

But while that car starts at £62,650, the new C-Class range kicks off at just £26,855. Granted, you won’t get a creamy smooth V6 diesel with Merc’s delightful seven-speed automatic gearbox for that – rather a more humdrum 2.0-litre petrol that comes with manual transmission. Want the auto? That’ll be another £1,500.

What you do get, however, is style. Even in SE trim, the lowest rung of the C-Class ladder, this thing looks every bit the scaled down S-Class. Opt for the more blingy Sport or AMG Line model and, for the initial months at least, you’ll get all the attention you could possibly desire as passing drivers crane their necks for a glimpse. By comparison, the bland BMW 3 Series and ordinary-looking Audi A4 should be running for cover. And we’ve not even got to the best bit: the interior.

From the moment the heavy door thunks shut, you’re cossetted from the outside world in a cabin of tranquility. It’s sumptuous, and material quality is generally brilliant, with lots of piano black plastic imitating a cool City cocktail bar. But push, pull and poke a bit more and you realise that, while on the face of things this is a scaled down “S”, the reality is Merc has cut some corners. The multimedia tablet, which protrudes slightly awkwardly from the dash, feels at odds with the swish, button-free centre console. A few plasticky components let the alluring image down a touch, as well. But really, what do you expect from a £27,000 car?

Anyway, you won’t worry about that as you waft serenely along, with the scent of “Freeside Mood” seeping from the on-board perfuming system, and the crisp, clear sounds from the Burmester stereo soothing your ears.

It’s best you keep the volume cranked up if you’re in the diesel, too. It’s a perky engine with plenty of getup and go, but push the accelerator to the floor and a headache-inducing drone fills the cabin. The petrol is crisper and more refined, but a good bit less economical.

Still, “wafting” is definitely what you’ll be doing: the new C-Class is the only car of its ilk to offer full air suspension – again, just like its big brother, and something to crow about on the tee – with switchable modes to ramp up the sportiness and the driving experience. Even in the firmest Sport+ setting it won’t rattle the Waitrose bags in the boot (although the C-Class is still no match for the BMW 3 Series when it comes to hustling roundabouts, let alone on a winding country road).

For years the C-Class has lived not only in the shadow of other Mercedes but also of its German rivals. Not anymore. Ultimately, it might not be quite as fun to drive, but from the moment you swing through those gates into the golf club car park, all eyes will be on you. If that’s what really counts for you, the Benz is your car.

Sam Carson works for motoringresearch.com.


THE FACTS:
MERCEDES-BENZ C250 BLUETEC
AMG LINE 7-SPEED AUTO

PRICE:£33,500 (est)
0-62MPH: 6.6 secs
TOP SPEED: 153mph
CO2 G/KM: 113g/km
MPG COMBINED: 65.7mpg

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Three Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars