Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon (2014 -) Driving & Performance

Review by Gareth Evans on
Last Updated: 26 May 2016
4.5
This is the next generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class Saloon, the firm’s popular premium executive saloon. It now shares much of its technology with the flagship Mercedes product – the S-Class.

4 out of 5

Performance

At launch three engines are on offer – the C220 BlueTEC diesel, the C250 BlueTEC diesel and the C200 petrol. There will also be a hybrid diesel version called the C300 BlueTec Hybrid towards the end of 2014.

An all-new six-speed manual gearbox is standard, or there's a revised version of the firm’s eight-speed automatic available as an option. Mercedes expects this will claim a staggering 83 percent of all C-Class sales.

We can see why, too, the manual gearbox still isn’t brilliant and felt notchy and vague in the test car we drove.

The automatic, however, is brilliant. It’s smoother than ever and really helps to punctuate the car’s luxury feel. However it’s still not as quick as the latest modern twin-clutch automatics such as found on BMW and Audi’s rivals, though considering the more comfortable nature of the C-Class it seems fitting to us.

Diesel engines

Expected to account for the vast majority of C-Class models, the C220 and C250 engines are basically he same 2.1-litre unit, yet have different power outputs.

The C220 will be the very best seller, and generates 168bhp and 400Nm of torque, meaning it’ll cover 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds. An improved version of the 2.1 found in the old C-Class, there’s a marked improvement in refinement. A four-cylinder diesel is never going to be as smooth as a six-cylinder, but it’s on the right road.

Our pick would be the C220 coupled with the automatic gearbox, which offers a superb combination of pulling power versus decent fuel economy.

Upgrading to the C250 means more power (202bhp) and 500Nm of torque. Accelerative figures for this model include a sprint from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, and it certainly feels far quicker on the road.

Petrol engine

The C200 is a 1.9-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 182bhp and 300Nm. It’ll dash from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds.

This is a very versatile unit which performs very well on the road. It’s unlikely to be the most popular unit in the range but that’s not to say it drives badly. We found it very characterful and a much better match for the manual gearbox than diesel engines.

Diesel hybrid

While you may associate hybrid cars with efficient, low-CO2 motoring, the C300 is more surprising in its performance abilities. Developing almost 230bhp from its four-cylinder diesel and electric motor combination, there’s a huge amount of torque on offer the instant you touch the throttle. This makes for probably the most engaging drive of any C-Class we’ve yet tried. It’s quiet and refined in town too, so there's lots to like.

Agility Switch

This alters the car’s driving characteristics depending on the sort of driving you’re doing. It defaults to Comfort mode, which provides the most laid-back driving experience.

Eco tunes the car to provide best fuel economy results, while Sport and Sport+ modes sharpen up the car and make the driving experience a more dynamic one.

Finally, you can set the various parameters up to your taste using the Individual setting.

4.5 out of 5

Handling

Where the adaptive air suspension is installed, selecting Sport or Sport+ mode will alter the car’s handling characteristics for optimum performance driving. We’d choose the air suspension if it was our car – it works serious magic on the C-Class and brings it up towards the level the S-Class sits at.

Unfortunately most UK buyers won’t tick that box, but that does mean they’re left with the excellent standard steel suspension.

We tested this set-up in its most comfortable configuration and it’s great for everyday motoring. There’s a fair bit more body-roll evident but the pay-off is a ride that’s as comfortable as any car in this class.

The steering system we tested wasn’t without fault either. While it’s fairly nicely balanced in terms of weighting, and it’s very light at low speeds, there’s a disappointing lack of feedback. Ultimately it means you don’t have the confidence to drive this car as fast as you might otherwise. Mercedes does deserve credit for judging the weighting through faster corners very well indeed, though.

Again, the Agility Switch can be used to vary the handling of the car if adaptive suspension is fitted. You can flick between Sports and Comfort settings.