What is it?
Thirty years and 8.5 million sales since the launch of the 190E, Mercedes’ compact rear-drive executive machine is now the company’s best-selling model.
And four years after the current model went on sale, Mercedes has executed what it calls its most extensive facelift which sees the C-class benefitting from 2000 new components including an aluminium bonnet and wings and part-aluminium doors.
This C 350 is the range-topping petrol machine until the full-on AMG version is launched. The mid-rank Elegance trim gets 17in, 9-spoke, alloys, chrome trim and daylight running lights and fogs on top of the SE’s ‘Agility Control’ suspension, climate control, cruise, leather wheel, colour screen, ‘Attention Assist’ and pedestrian-protecting, pop-up bonnet.
What’s it like?
Although the exterior and interior have had a very smart brush-up, the big news with this model is the new, direct-injection, V6 engine. Compared to the outgoing unit, not only is the output up by 34bhp, but fuel economy has been improved by a remarkable 31 percent. The new engine drives an updated version of Merc’s seven-speed autobox.
Despite the brisk performance, this is not a hot-shoe saloon. Driven at pace on the demanding hairpins of Tenerife, the C 350 demonstrated a remarkable calm and sophistication.
Even on exceptionally steep and narrow mountain roads, it was incredibly easy to place the inside from wheel on the edge of the road. While the steering’s combination of weight and slight slowness makes for a very sure-footed and stable progress, but it also, perversely, makes driving the car quickly easier.
The C 350 seemed to deliver a degree of ‘thinking’ time for the driver, making it easy to adjust, for example, to an unexpected tightening on a long switchback bend. The C 350 also seems to benefit from very high levels of mechanical grip, Even on very poor roads and in very poor conditions it never felt as if it would suddenly let go.
Other pluses include the beautifully made cabin and really excellent, easily modulated, brakes. The only real downside was a hesitation in the autobox as the driver came back hard on the power from a trailing throttle. Not many people will buy the V6 petrol motor, but it has a distinct refinement advantage over the, admittedly, punchy four-cylinder engines.