What is it?
The newly launched estate version of Mercedes' much-vaunted new C-class. The extra £1628 you'll pay for the C 350 estate over the saloon buys you a more practical but no less attractive bodyshell, and 1500-litres of boot capacity.
What's it like?
I have a problem with this car. It’s not that I don’t like it; in fact I like it rather a lot. The C-class is a fine car and, to me, this estate version makes even more sense than the saloon. The C-class’s splendid chassis is left untarnished, and the it's not that much more expensive than the saloon, so the only real negative is that the absent rear bulkhead allows slightly more road noise to creep forward.
I also understand that for some people the C 350 petrol will hold more appeal than the C 320 diesel. Ecologically and economically there’s no arguing with the oil-burner’s supremacy, but from a driving and refinement perspective the 350 has its advantages; for a start it’s 95kg lighter.
My problem is that I know it could be better. From late 2008 the C 350 will feature CGI BlueEfficiency; Mercedes jargon for direct injection. The real puzzle is why this technology hasn’t appeared sooner, given it’s been in the CLS since the middle of last year. Either way, the effect will be to reduce consumption from 28.5mpg to 33.6mpg while boosting power to 288bhp and torque to 269lbft.
But the new C 350 is still a compelling car. Keep it in its 2400-5600rpm peak torque band and the V6 is oily smooth, while the 258lb ft produced is enough for decent progress, even with a full load.
Stretch beyond these limits, though, and it can sound a little strained; BMW’s 330i is easily the more eager. The BMW is cheaper too, but the bigger load area and more appealing design of the Mercedes just about justifies the £1740 premium it will cost you over an automatic 330i Touring M Sport.
Should I buy one?
Yes, but only if you really can't wait for the CGI technology. If that's the case, and you’re after a petrol C-class estate with a bit of potency, this is your best option.