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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - Estate range

Our Opinion

We like
Pretty no-compromise wagon looks, sharp handling, seamless C300 hybrid operation, impeccable ride comfort
Room for improvement
Agricultural sounding diesel engine, afterthought dash screen, no hybrid Estate

Gallery

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Mercedes-Benz logo4 Dec 2014

UNTIL the hyperbolic twin-turbocharged V8 madness that is the C63 AMG turns up next year, the C-Class range is exclusively four-cylinder powered, including the current performance pick.

By combining the 2.1-litre diesel engine of the C250 BlueTec with an electric motor and associated running gear, not only is the newly arrived C300 Hybrid the fastest accelerating C-Class it also manages almost teetotal fuel consumption of 4.0 litres per 100km.

That alone ought to be enough to make you consider the current flagship of the C-Class range, but if it isn't then consider this: Its $72,900 price-tag is just $1500 more than the diesel-powered C250 BlueTec with which it shares all of its generous equipment.

A plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class is on its way but the C300 Hybrid is a stepping stone allowing fans of the three-pointed star to get used to hybrids before the even more frugal – circa 2.0 litres per 100km is predicted – C350 arrives.

And a good stepping stone it is too. Where PHEVs require a cultural change to charge batteries from mains power, the C300 works just like any other combustion engine car: fill up at the pump and go.

Visits to the pump are less frequent than any other C-Class, with a combined fuel consumption of just 4.0 L/100km, the C300 knocks 0.5 L/100km off the next most frugal C250 BlueTec.

There is a growing range of hybrids on the Australian market and while many have required some kind of compromise, whether it be a cost or driving enjoyment penalty, the Mercedes C300 is pleasantly devoid of sacrifices.

It has the same elegant looks of the C-Class, the same excellent build quality and after driving the diesel-electric hybrid for a morning we are delighted to report it has the same rewarding road manner too.

For a majority of the time, power delivery is no different to any other automatic Mercedes with the seven-speed transmission silkily clicking through gears in auto mode or manually with the steering wheel paddles.

With a steering column mounted gear selector in-place of a conventional console lever, changing gear when turning sharply – when entering a roundabout for example – was not possible.

A regular selector lever would allow a doubling up of gear-shift options for such an eventuality but the C-Class lacks this feature.

A small power gauge is the only clue in the C300's interior that it is powered by an hybrid drivetrain and we liked watching the LED bars flick from the regenerative side when on overrun and braking, to drive when the electric motor was contributing to the diesel torque.

Its interior is identical to the C250 variants with a good choice of colour schemes on offer and top-quality touches not dissimilar to the flagship S-Class.

Only the slightly afterthought-appearing dash-mounted screen broke the flow of the interior, hovering in front of the dash instead of being incorporated into it.

Under low acceleration from standstill the C300 relies exclusively on electric power but with more acceleration or higher speed the 2.1-litre four-cylinder cuts in and shares the load.

The only other time the motor goes solo is under light freeway cruising and we liked the serenity of gliding along at 100km/h with zero emissions.

Many hybrids that use regenerative braking have an unusual spongy pedal feel as light braking is taken care of by loading a generator rather than pads biting into a disc, but Mercedes seems to have cracked this undesirable trait.

As one expects from a driver-focused car, the C300 brake pedal is reassuringly firm under both light and more earnest deceleration and is the start of a rewarding drive package.

With an electric motor and accompanying battery, the C300 carries a a 120kg handicap over the closely related C250 BlueTec but that extra weight hasn't adversely affected the C-Class handling.

Flicking the drive-mode selector switch from the relaxing and frugal Eco and Comfort settings to one of the sportier flavours keeps the diesel revs higher and adds weight to the steering but the change is not dramatic.

Road holding is confidence inspiring, with typical rear-wheel drive direction changes and excellent steering weight with lots of feel.

Even though the hybrid sails close to 2250kg, it has a deceptively light and playful manner that won't beg you to thrash it through twisty bits but rewards if you can't resist.

In standard C250 BlueTec trim, the 150kW and 500Nm is more than enough to spirit a car load of people and things along effortlessly but with a gutsy electric motor working alongside, the C300 has a lot of grunt.

Only its slightly agricultural-sounding four-cylinder lets down the smoothness and otherwise refined quality in every area of the C-Class. While so many other manufacturers are silencing the diesel rattle, Mercedes isn't quite up with some other competitor's compression-ignition four-pots.

At lower revs though, the C300's engine is well behaved and does not intrude into the excellent cabin peace.

Jumping in to the first of three Estate variants it quickly became apparent the same sedan handling and dynamic drive qualities have carried over here too.

While the C200 1.6-litre petrol engine might not be a firecracker, it does motor the Estate along adequately but we feel it may become frustrating if the wagon's big behind was taken advantage of with a heavy load.

Moving up to the C250's 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol made a big difference and while we wouldn't say the 155kW/350Nm offers a sporty drive it does have the poke necessary in a mid-sized wagon.

Easily the pick of the bunch is the C250 BlueTec which turns out a versatile but frugal 150kW and 500Nm. Torque comes in low with minimal turbo lag and the four-pot has no objections to revving out to its high 5000 rpm governor.

It also returned fuel consumption not far off the quoted 4.5-litres per 100km despite our more enthusiastic progress.

Nipping around the lanes and hills of the Yarra Valley we almost forgot the C-Class Estate was towing around its larger boot with virtually no perceptible compromise to handling, ride quality or driver enjoyment.

Only occasionally would the back end skip over larger bumps in corners which we suspect may be caused by a slightly beefed up rear suspension for load lugging.

Keeping the Estate's rear-end pretty has come at a slight practicality compromise with the falling roofline eating into boot space in the ceiling area but this would only factor when loading or carrying the largest objects.

We like the convenience of the electric rear-seat release and their versatile 40/20/40 split.

There is no doubt the new fourth-generation C-Class is an accomplished and all-round good performer in sedan form, but the arrival of the Estate fleet and Mercedes' second diesel-electric hybrid has brought something even better to the range.

With only a small extra cost the big-booted versions and C300 BlueTec Hybrid have all of the classic C-Class handling and looks, but with a new level of practicality that anyone thinking of signing up for a C-Class should consider.

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