From £15,285
Smooth engine and smooth looks, but slightly jiggly ride.

What is it?

The less powerful of the two six-cylinder petrol C-classes currently available. A C 230 joins the range in September 2007.

What's it like?

Smooth. This is a very silky engine, and in the C-class it's also remarkably hushed. Too hushed at points, in fact, because we know that it has a pleasant exhaust note, but you don't get to appreciate that from the driver's seat.

It's a shame, then, that the ride isn't quite as smooth as the engine. We tried the C 280 in firmer-riding Sport trim – the only way you'll get the arguably more handsome coupe-like grille – and it fidgets over road scars at low speeds. Still, we know that the non-Sport C-classes suffer the same restlessness.

The pay off is good body control, with little roll in corners and plenty of grip.

The steering is accurate and nicely direct, and provides reasonably good feedback.

The 280 comes with a standard seven-speed auto box, and in Sport trim it also has steering-wheel mounted paddles. It's smooth-shifting, though still not quite up to the best ZF has to offer.

Despite having 228bhp and 221lb ft, the 280 never feels that swift, though Mercedes claims 0-62mph in 7.2sec and a 152mph top speed. The diesel C 220 CDI doesn't feel like it struggles to keep up.

Should I buy one?

If the sums add up for you. We'd be tempted to try to stretch to the C 350, though it is an extra £4500 model for model. The six-cylinder 230 will be £1800 cheaper.

Rory Lumsdon

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