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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - C250 Bluetec Estate

Our Opinion

We like
Design, safety, comfort, performance, dynamics, connectivity, efficiency, technology, practicality, value
Room for improvement
Busy ride, some road noise, fussy lower console controller, interior rattles, loud engine at times

Gallery

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Mercedes-Benz logo29 Jan 2015

Price and equipment

MERCEDES-BENZ has made some magnificent wagons, and the latest S205 series C-Class Estate is no exception.

Handsome, spacious, safe, refined and powerful, it embodies everything that a premium European family car should possess. That the wagon outsells the extremely competent sedan in Germany comes as no surprise.

Longer, wider and a tad heavier than the three-box variant, the newcomer is nevertheless lighter than its boxy predecessor by 65kg, and gains a host of extra features including the option of Airmatic self-levelling suspension.

Attracting a $2500 premium over the sedan equivalent, all Estates include a collision warning, autonomous braking below 80km/h, driver fatigue warning, blind spot warning, nine airbags, a litany of electronic driver aids, keyless start, satellite navigation, ambient lighting and Artico artificail leather upholstery (older readers might remember the MB-Tex pleather from a generation ago).

It also features active park assist, DAB+ digital radio and a five-mode Agility Select driving system. The latter changes the throttle, transmission and air-conditioning responses according to an Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ or combination thereof.

Our C250 BlueTEC adds adaptive cruise control as part of the Driver Assistance Package Plus, leather upholstery, 19-inch alloys and privacy glass among other goodies, helping to justify the hefty $72,900, plus on-roads price point.

Our test car included a $5000 Vision package comprising a panoramic glass sunroof, auto LED headlights and head-up display for the instrumentation, as well as the $3000 Comand package that swaps the standard seven-inch LCD screen for an 8.4-inch device with an upgraded infotainment system.

It also includes a Burmeister audio system upgrade, as well as internet connectivity, a hard-drive and access to internet based information systems such as real-time traffic and weather information, and Google services.

Interior

Here are the basic wagon facts.

Measuring 80mm longer in wheelbase, the Estate’s body grows by 96mm in length and 40mm in width, boosting rear-seat legroom by 45mm. The rear backrest now splits 40/20/40 instead of 60/40, with overall cargo volume ranging from 490 litres to 1510L.

And from a functionality point of view, the Benz excels, offering a beautifully finished cargo area, which easily eclipses most medium SUV alternatives in terms of use and volume.

Up front, the Estate continues the latest C-Class’s alluring dashboard design and presentation, which represents a massive leap forward in terms of quality and aesthetic appeal.

S-Class limousine style metal switches, gorgeously tactile circular airvents, attractive analogue dials, a perfectly executed steering wheel, interesting materials and textures and superb ergonomics mark the C250’s cabin as one to beat.

Great seats and heaps of storage are added plus points, but the interior isn’t perfect. For one thing, our car (like almost every W205 series sedan we’ve sampled) had a few phantom rattles. The standard sat-nav system looks cheap and nasty (though our Comand upgrade is up to brand expectations).

And the protruding lower-console controller is both awkward to use and an eyesore to behold.

Some Merc diehards also found the aluminium-intensive doors a bit too light for a three-pointed star marque offering, though their weight-saving benefits are obvious. There’s certainly no quality downfall to go with them.

The rear seat area is almost as good as the front, with a nicely angled backrest and even more headroom than what the W205 sedan offers.

Perhaps our favourite fact with the newcomer is the long overdue abolition of the tiresome old foot-operated park brake for an electronic version.

All in all, then, the C250 Estate’s cabin is a class act. Bravo Mercedes, and too bad, Benz’s competitors.

Engine and transmission

While it is not the newest or quietest (especially at start-up) donk on the block, the old 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre direct-injection four-pot turbo diesel still pulls like a freight train, thanks to a tremendous amount of torque on tap.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the engine has to burst through the 1500rpm barrier before it feels lively enough. Once on song, the resulting performance is like constantly driving down a steep hill, with effortless acceleration your constant companion.

And that’s in Comfort mode. Select Sport and the reactions are even more urgent, but you’re also aware that no amount of sound deadening can completely quell the diesel din.

Also getting on a bit, but very much at the apex of the automatic transmission fraternity, is Merc’s brilliantly smooth and silky even-speed 7G-tronic.

It’s always in the right ratio, keeping things moving along sweetly at all times. There’s just no point bothering with the manual shift option because the car gets it right every time. We can’t imagine a better towing vehicle in this class.

With seamless idle-stop tech helping out, our C250 Bluetec managed respectable fuel consumption figures, however the mid-to-high sevens we recorded in inner-urban driving scenarios was some way off the 4.5L/100km official figure.

Ride and handling

Wearing 225/40R19 tyres up front and 245/35R19 rubber out back, the C250 BlueTEC Estate’s ride quality on these run-flats varied.

Bumpy roads exposed a disappointing lack of suppleness, with a constant fidgetiness unbefitting the Benz brand, however this virtually disappeared on smoother stuff, as you might expect. But the fact that the car never really rode quietly enough is irksome. Don’t the Germans care about road rumble?The upside? Mercedes’ engineers have clearly targeted BMW’s 3 Series and its sports sedan image, with the latest C-Class – even in Estate guise – carving through corners with a sharpness and ferocity that will delight the keen driver.

The steering is precise, sensitive to inputs and beautifully measured. The handling is as balanced as you’d hope from a Mercedes. And the exquisitely delicate stability intervention helps keep everything feel glued to the bitumen – even when the pilot is being ham-fisted – and the whole shebang is backed up by fiercely effective brakes.

Plus, the adaptive cruise and emergency autonomous braking tech add a reassuring S-Class level of advancement to the way this wagon sashays past slower traffic at faster speeds, underlining the toweringly capable chassis that’s working away underneath.

After our week with the C250 BlueTEC Estate, we wondered how much quieter and more refined the suspension would be if the 17-inch wheel and tyre package offered abroad was standardised.

Safety and servicing

A maximum five-star Euro NCAP rating is expected and delivered, supported by the Merc’s plethora of active and passive safety gear including the aforementioned collision warning, autonomous braking, and nine airbag technology.

No standard fixed-price servicing regime exists for the C-Class, however owners can pre-pay for a number of different service plans with terms ranging from two to five years and up to 125,000km.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km.

Verdict

No rival diesel wagon is as modern, competent, or complete as the C250 BlueTEC Estate. It’s a joy to sit inside, a pleasure to drive, secure to travel in and a beauty to behold.

Though not perfect by any means – the busy ride, occasional tyre drone, intermittent cabin squeaks, and at times noisy engine are the main offenders – nothing ever is.

It’s clear that Mercedes’ massive engineering effort and calculated value upgrading has delivered a profoundly excellent luxury/sports wagon.

This is what we mean by Mercedes’ magnificent wagon heritage. Don’t buy that clumsy SUV or confused crossover until you try a C250 BlueTEC Estate.

Rivals

BMW 318d Touring: From $60,800, plus on-road costs
While it's a couple of years older than the Benz, the middle-aged F31 3 Series wagon still runs it a very close runner-up overall. However, the relatively undernourished 105kW/320Nm 2.0-litre diesel is outclassed performance-wise against the C250 BlueTEC.

Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TDI quattro: From $70,500, plus on-road costs
Audi’s answer to the Merc is a jumped-up crossover with surprising appeal, thanks mainly to a quality cabin, capable chassis and timeless design. But the refinement is off the pace, the ride a bit too busy for our tastes, and the next-gen A4 isn’t too far away.

Volvo V60 D4 Luxury: From $62,890, plus on-road costs
Scandinavian design, obsessive safety, and a very user-friendly interior keep the handsome and underrated V60 in contention, and you won’t look like a lemming either. Not the sharpest handler, and the ride is a bit hard too, but the Volvo deserves a look-in.

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