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First drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
Germany presents modern Middle England, neatly encapsulated in a two-box package of leather, wood and (near enough) iPad.

 



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| First Drive | Frankfurt, Germany | Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate is the outworking of a car company working merrily in its comfort zone. This is an excellent estate: handsome, practical, comfortable and as reassuringly high quality as a John Lewis picnic basket bursting with Waitrose groceries. Alas, it's just as frightfully unoffending.

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz C 250 BlueTec SE
Pricing: £33,220
Engine: 2.1-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door estate
Rivals: Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring, Mazda6 Tourer
CO2 emissions: 117g/km
Combined economy: 62.8mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Power: 204bhp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,600- to 1,800rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

Across the last couple of niche-chasing generations Mercedes has arguably struggled to find its aesthetic milieu; while BMW and Audi have developed strong visual identities that tie together all their models (sometimes too closely), Mercedes' stuff has been a bit higgledy-piggledy, distinguishable more by the massive three-pointed star on the front than anything else.

But it seems to be slowly, surely coming together now - and the C-Class, to our eyes, nails whatever it is Mercedes has been trying to achieve recently. It is a lovely looking barge. And it's got a low drag coefficient and everything, which for an estate car is kind of superfluous, true, but at least an indicator of how swish this thing is. It's 20 per cent more slippery than the last C-Class Estate.

This Merc really shines on the inside, though. Quality is exceptional, and the cabin seems to nail those often mutually exclusive attributes of soft-touch luxuriousness and modern restraint.

None of that's any use if it's no good at being an estate - but it is. The boot starts at 490 litres and grows to 1,510, which is only ten more than the outgoing car (and than the bigger-booted BMW, coincidentally), but there's now a 40:20:40 split rear bench as standard, and under the loading floor there's a small repair kit and a large space. You could argue that a car that's grown in every direction bar height should really have gained yet more luggage space, but then there is more rear legroom (40mm), and headroom. And as children tend to moan more than boxes, that's probably the right place to stretch out the car.

Driving it: 4 4 4 4 4

Mercedes' people might throw around all manner dynamism-referencing adjectives about the driving experience, but this car has clear S-Class lineage - it's far better at the relaxed stuff than it is at even half-tilt.

The spec of our test cars may have flattered to deceive, mind - we drove the C 250 BlueTec and C 300 BlueTec Hybrid, both specified to the hilt and including the near-£1,000 adaptive air suspension option. As it was though, the C-Class behaved with the unflustered composure of... let's just get this one out of the way... the German World Cup-winning squad. Ta-dah!

That's especially true with the C 300 Hybrid, which comes to the UK later in 2014. It's almost the stuff of 20th Century science fiction to combine a four-cylinder diesel, an electric motor and a seven-speed automatic gearbox and make it so smooth, quiet, quick and economical - it's a 99g/km car, for Götze's sake.

In that context, the nuances of steering weight and feel, rear-end grip, throttle response and such like - arguably the heartland of a BMW 3 Series' appeal - don't matter as much. They're all fine, for the record, in as much as the Merc feels hefty and planted, but this is a car whose strength really lies in its beautifully designed switchgear, the pin sharp definition of its iPad-aping infotainment screen, its soft-touch door pockets, its highly accommodating driving position and the sense that it's really very lovely in there.

But not perfect. At higher speeds there's a bit of a wind- and tyre noise issue (possibly exacerbated by the lack of engine drone), and Mercedes still hasn't quite made the operation of its infotainment interface intuitive enough. There's also the question as to whether a C 180 with a manual gearbox and biscuit wheels will have quite the same sparkle as a bottom rung 3 Series Touring. Probably not.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

In the context of equivalent Audis and BMWs, the C-Class is quite fairly priced: the nearest 3 Series Touring to a C-Class Estate in C 250 BlueTec SE guise, for example, costs £205 more. It's as though they check these things. That said, and as is usually the case with the premium makers' output, it's possible to have a fit with a biro and spec a C-Class Estate well beyond the price region it should really be in.

The standard equipment list is good, though, so that should be fairly easy to avoid. Bog standard SE cars get leather, 16-inch alloys, the full-fat touchpad multimedia setup, a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, digital radio... it goes on. Go through Sport trim and to top-spec AMG Line, and for a circa-£3,500 premium you'll be sitting on 18-inch wheels, in sports seats, staring at a stitched leather dashboard and bathing in LED interior lights, plus plenty more.

Worth Noting

Back to those options; Mercedes offers myriad high-priced safety and comfort features including the aforementioned air suspension (a first in class, we're assured), a head-up display, an automatic tailgate and Stop&Go Pilot, which "facilitates partially autonomous driving," making the car a "wellness oasis on wheels," says the company. Okay. You can also download an app for your actual iPad that lets you see how much fuel you have left while you're watching the telly, which we're sure will prove very useful.

Summary

Instead of trying to beat BMW at its own game, Mercedes has made - and pardon the clichéd comparison, but it's true - a mini S-Class. A proper Mercedes, if you will. Perfect it isn't, but a perfectly lovely medium-sized, middle-class family wagon it certainly is. We like it.


Mark Nichol - 17 Jul 2014









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2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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