What is it?
When it comes to combining driving enjoyment with everyday versatility the automatic choice for many remains the upmarket estate, and this is Mercedes' offering.
Less flashy and in many ways the more sensible alternative when real world usability is taken into account, nothing impresses quite like a well sorted estate – especially one carrying the illustrious three-pointed star.
In the UK, some 20 per cent of all C-class buyers have traditionally opted for the estate over the saloon. That’s not a lot in comparison to other European countries, but it is enough to see this new one offered here with the same eight engine options and three trim levels as its saloon sibling.
What’s it like?
The new estate mirrors the sharp new look of the recently introduced saloon through to the trailing edge of the front doors, but from there on back it is totally unique. While the outgoing C-class estate placed its emphasis on sporty good looks, this latest one has clearly been conceived more as a load hauler, it’s rear window sitting at a more upright angle and the roofline boasting a less exaggerated angle towards the rear.
It’s 55mm longer, 42mm wider and sits on a wheelbase that has grown by an appreciable 45mm over its popular predecessor, giving it a much broader footprint. Nominal boot space has increased from 470-litres to 485-litres over the previous C-class estate; with the rear seat backs folded forward the volume increases by an even more impressive 155-litres to 1500-litres.
By comparison, the BMW 3-series Touring boasts 460-litres and 1385-litres respectively, with the outgoing Audi A4 offering 440-litres and 1355-litres. The stretch in exterior dimensions has increased maximum load length – measured from the front passenger footwell to the tailgate - by a considerable 170mm to 2820mm.
Helping to boost versatility is a wide tailgate opening, a boot floor that sits flush with the sill and handy latches to secure the luggage. But in a move that smacks of cost cutting, the rear seat cushions no longer flip forward to allow a flat load area. For a company that prides itself on the strength of its engineering this is inexcusable, leaving the forward part of the floor sitting at an angle to the rear section.
Other gripes? The securing mounts for the luggage cover, set on the rear seat backs, have no place in a Mercedes-Benz. They look cheap and, worse, sit slightly proud of the floor, setting up the potential for scratches to items placed on the forward section of the load area. Not perfect, then.
Still, the C-class estate remains a highly practical alternative to the saloon. And a good drive, too. We slotted ourselves in the C 320 CDI and were taken by its alluring combination of performance and refinement. The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 sitting up front is the pick of the C-class line-up, whether in saloon or estate guises, delivering a strong 221bhp at 3800rpm.
In the UK, a seven-speed auto will be standard, which is good, as the six-speed manual is notchy. The auto endows it with 0-62mph acceleration in 7.9sec and a top speed of 152mph.
The C-class estate’s on-road qualities are every bit as impressive as the saloon’s. It’s a more mature car than its predecessor boasting a superb ride quality and more responsive handling. The added body mass over the saloon is hardly noticeable, though prospective buyers should consider the optional sports suspension. It brings greater body control without any discernible deterioration in ride quality.
Should I buy one?
Yes, if you want a comfortable, competent estate. Mercedes-Benz expects the C-class estate to add £1000 to the price of the equivalent saloon. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it though.
With left-hand drive production being given priority, we’ll have to wait until next March before the latest C-class carry-all lands here, by which time a facelifted version of the 3-series Touring and new A4 Avant won’t be too far off.