Why would I buy one?
- Fun to drive
- Performance packed powertrain
- Feature-packed, comfortable and spacious
Why would I avoid one?
- Spare tyre ruins boot space
- Not the easiest to get in and out of
- Ride is a tad noisy
A baby S-Class - that’s how Mercedes is positioning the sixth generation of the C-Class. But, as is obvious from the pictures you see here, it’s no baby S on the design front. The new C, in fact, looks younger, more athletic, and distinctly different. However, when you look at the tech, the materials, and the features at play here, the baby S tag does begin to make sense. So, apart from being good to look at, and easy and fun to drive, the new C will now also deliver on a heightened sense of feel-good for those who buy one. And that’s a good thing.
Engine and Performance
9 / 10
This is the C 300d. It is the most powerful and most torquey new C-Class on offer in the country as of now. The engine is a four-cylinder, 1993cc unit, which is mated to a nine-speed automatic. It makes 265bhp of max power and a heart-warming 550Nm of torque. No wonder Mercedes claims a 0-100kmph time of under-six seconds then! And we don’t dispute it one bit. What’s more, all versions of the new C come with a 48-volt mild hybrid system that includes a small lithium-ion battery and an integrated starter generator. This system has the capability to give the C a performance boost for short periods of time as it draws power from the battery. The same then also acts as a generator when the car is coasting to recharge the battery.
Crucially, this powertrain makes the C 300d sublime on the road. It is effortless and serene when you want to take things easy. All it needs is a light foot on the throttle and it will keep three-digit speeds without even trying. And this is in the Eco mode. Now, we didn’t have the time or the inclination to test the fuel efficiency of the C 300d, but given its nine-speed automatic, the mild hybrid system, and the fact that the engine is barely turning when cruising at 100kmph, we won’t be surprised if it delivered some shocking numbers like its ARAI figure of over 20kmpl suggests.
But, let’s be clear; if it’s fuel efficiency one is after, the C 220d with an ARAI figure of 23kmpl is the default pick in the new C line-up. So, to consider the 300d, one must either love a body kit, or a car that’s fast, precise, rewarding, and a joy to drive. And that the C 300d most certainly is. All it takes is toggling to the Sport driving mode, and the 300d comes properly alive. It is even more dialled-in now, into delivering immediate and potent performance.
The throttle responds without delay, and with such well-judged linearity, every prod of the pedal delivers the ‘go’ in the exact quantity you want. And when your right foot weighs in heavy on the throttle, the nine-speed auto ‘box isn’t caught napping; it picks a low enough gear in decent time to get the rear wheels squirming for grip. Then of course, in what feels like a split second, you shoot right onto the next corner while your lips slip a smile.
This is what makes the 300d special in our book - the unadulterated involvement, the unrestricted fun, and the fact that none of it is necessary, but when you do indulge yourself, it’s unquestionably rewarding.
Ride and Handling
8.5 / 10
One of the reasons we loved the previous-generation C 300d was the balance that it struck between luxury and performance. And that continues with the new C as well. Much like the engine, the driving dynamics of the new C make it a proper enthusiast’s car. Plus, for all the talk about it being driver focused, its ride quality isn’t half bad either. The ride isn’t exactly plush. So, it won’t be challenging the S class on this front any time soon. Maybe it’s the larger wheel and the lower profile tyres on the 300d, and possibly the C 200 and C 220d might fare better. But, we will only know that once we drive those versions.
Getting back to the 300d, you can hear the suspension thump a bit. And you also can feel it occasionally, especially when tacking sharp-edged bumps. However, the good news is - it isn’t bad enough to get you wincing or cribbing or rethinking your purchase decision. Additionally, it handles the undulations, and the less severe bumps and potholes quite well. It feels taut, but settled and absorbent as well.
The driving dynamics, however, are superb! The steering is beautifully weighed; it is quick; and it’s progressive and predictable. And therefore, you feel very much in control of the proceedings. The C 300d feels lovely in other ways too. The grip, the willingness, and the talkative nature of the C’s front-end not only makes for a car that has great turn-in ability, but it also allows you to gauge the boundaries of under-steer clearly. So, you rarely end up scrubbing the front tyres pointlessly. And then there’s the near-flat body control around a bend. Not to mention, a rear-end that’s lively, but in a let-me-help-you-along kind of way.
Bottom-line, it’s tremendously fun!
Interior Space and Quality
8.5 / 10
As expected, the new C is nicely put together on the inside. And it’s here that the baby S tag begins to make sense. Furthermore, it’s now more spacious, particularly at the rear. The interior design, though distinct, has a strong flavour of the S-Class. The same holds true for the materials employed, the finishing of surfaces, and the overall attention to detail. I loved the floating effect that’s visible all across the car from the screens to the controls on the door to even the seat bottom cushion.
Speaking of seats, the new C might have sporty looking units, but make no mistake, these are sumptuous and very comfortable indeed. The rear one as well; it offers good back, side, and thigh support. Space again, has perceptibly improved over the older car, and is in fact, more than enough for, say, a five-niner like myself.
9 / 10
Name it and the new C seems to have it. Keyless and app-based entry and start. Electric adjust for both the front seats as well as the steering. Two-zone climate control. A split panoramic sunroof. Wireless phone charging. Sun blinds. And haptic touch controls all around from the multimedia system to the steering mounted controls, and now for sunroof and seat adjustment operations as well! And this is all standard on the 300d.
Features then, along with the look and feel of the interiors, is what cements the new C’s positioning as a baby S. Having borrowed these features and functionality from the S not only ups its luxury co-efficient, it makes the C more desirable now. But that’s not all, there’s a whole set of ADAS features, in addition to the latest generation MBUX system that allows the user to add biometric authentication, 3D maps, and have OTA updates, that’s borrowed from the S too.
This then is a C-class for the driving enthusiast who is concerned about running costs and wants way more bang for his/her buck. Even as a car, the new C is a step up over the car it replaces, be it space, design, the feel-good factor, or luxury. As for it being a baby S; yes, it is, but only in parts.
Photography by: Kapil Angane