2015 Mercedes-Benz C 400 4MATIC
3,0L V6 Bi-Turbo
329 HP @ 6,000 rpm
354 lb-ft @ 1,600 - 4,000 rpm
7G-TRONIC PLUS 7-Speed Automatic
For the past 30 years, several manufacturers have been trying to dethrone the BMW 3-Series in the executive sedan segment. It wasn’t till last year that the Cadillac ATS was actually able seriously challenge it, but it only managed to share the throne by squeezing its butt right next to the 3-Series. Next up challenger is Mercedes-Benz, who is going after that throne with the all-new, code name W205, 2015 C-Class.
Built on a brand new architecture that allows extensive use of lighter materials, the new C-Class’s chassis, apart from lighter, is also more rigid than before. In Canada, the C300 and C400 are only available with the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, while the exotic C 63 AMG and C 63 AMG S are rear-wheel drive. The 4MATIC versions are fitted with the 7G-TRONIC PLUS transmission while the AMG rockets get the AMG SPEEDSHIFT 7-Speed Sports transmission.
The power plant lineup has a flavour for all tastes; the C300 is powered by a 4-cylinder 2.0L Turbo making 241 HP and the C400 gets a 3.0L V6 Bi-Turbo punching out 329 HP. The AMG cars get 8-cylinder ACME TNT dynamites pushing out 469 HP and 503 HP in the S model.
Prices start at $43,000 CAD and top out at $82,900 CAD before adding any options. Our test vehicle, the C 400 4MATIC with the Premium and Sport package was $58,700, a very fair price considering what you get for the money. Special mention goes to the incredible twin sunroof that floods the cabin with natural light and the Burmester audio system that can turn a stuck in traffic vehicle into a personal auditorium. Needless to say, you also get a fancy AMG styling package, navigation, a huge LCD screen with the updated COMMAND system that now includes a touch pad, the Agility Select system that controls the incredible AIRMATIC suspension, a steering wheel that could perhaps be the nicest wheel I’ve grabbed this year and the very effective THERMATIC climate control. Safety gear is also very generous, as the collision prevention system and attention assist are in place and backed up by a vast number of airbags.
From a distance, it looks almost identical to the much bigger S-Class, their flagship sedan. That can only be a hint, that the “Best Or Nothing” punch line applies here as well, in whole. The long hood, sculpted sides and tucked in bum are complemented by a very aerodynamic roof-line to create a very sexy shape. On the 19″ wheels, it really looks spectacular, probably the classiest among its peers. The front bumper cleverly goes all the way up to the hood, acting as a soft cushion in case of pedestrian impacts but at the same time protects against costly stone chip repairs. The spoiler below, looks like something Blade would kill a vampire with and the twin exhaust setup at the rear surrounds an aggressive looking air diffuser.
Inside, the design is definitely a leap forward from the outgoing model, and knowing how good the old one was, you can imagine what a compliment that is. The continuity of the design lines goes door to door, with slightly curved surfaces and more technology integrated. The round air-vents were a good pick and having three of them in the centre of the dash helps redirect air exactly where you want it. The seat adjustments are on the door panels and the seat warmer switch is now part of them, while the column mounted gear selector has opened up lots of space on the centre console for the bulky and complicated infotainment controls. The screen sits on the dash, as the latest trends have established, the instrument cluster is totally new, combining analogue gauges with a graphical display making it easy to read and nice to look at. However, the best looking item inside is the steering wheel that has a thick hand-filling rim and looks very sporty with the flat bottom and paddle-shifters.
The interior showcases high levels of craftsmanship, with top shelf materials used and combined with what can only be described as very classy taste. The open pore wood adds an aristocratic feel and the stitched leather and soft to the touch plastics add a splash of luxury. The greatest news is that quality isn’t half-assed, the good materials are found top to bottom, giving it the edge over its rivals. Fit and finish is top notch and the ambient lighting at night really makes the interior glow in an ultimately appealing way. The seats are stiff but very supportive, comfortable and keep you relaxed even after many hours of driving. The driving position is low, something SUV lovers might not appreciate, but it is one of the reasons driving this car feels so involving and direct. Visibility is great, thanks to the thin pillars and well sized mirrors that have the super bright blind spot indicators embedded. The rear view camera returns a high-res image even in low light, so reversing will never be an issue.
The driver’s seat is snug and feels properly set when it sits at the lowest position. When sitting low, the sweet connection between driver and road is enhanced as the amount of information the chassis communicates through the seat is immense. In contrast to other sporty rides, it is still comfortable and roomy enough for being a practical daily driver. The front passenger will also enjoy a comfortable seating position and plenty of toys to play with, while the back seats are surprisingly roomy too. Headroom is enough for people up to 6ft and the available legroom gets a bit tight only if the seat in front is pushed back a lot. Helping out with knee room, the back of the front seats have carved inserts that add the perfect amount of extra space. However, two passengers are the sensible limit, as the limited width and rear drive tunnel don’t help much to fit a third person. The double sunroof allows for more light to reach the back seats, making the overall feel airy and pleasant. The trunk, at 480L is a good size and well shaped, having a wide and low opening to help loading larger luggage. Especially welcome are the item hooks and the hidden compartment below but what I could do without is the slight rise of the floor towards the back.
Behind the wheel is a great place to be and when in motion, things get even better. There is a little wind noise on the highway, but that just about covers all the negative points observed. The steering wheel feels great to hold and the steering is well weighted, quick and direct. Despite the lack of old fashioned feedback, it does gradually get heavier at speed, simulating the information the driver needs to evaluate traction conditions. The Agility Select option works really well, as it adjusts the suspension firmness, steering effort, gearbox aggressiveness, throttle response and climate control to match your mood. You can also create a customized profile, by mixing and matching settings to your preference. In comfort mode, the suspension swallows everything, just like a whale, making any road defect seem like a bit of plankton. Weird analogy, I know, but what is truly weird is how far it can stretch itself between supreme comfort and firm body control, with the flick of a switch. In Sport and Sport+ mode, the connection to the road feels so pure, I would call it “organic” if I could. Planted and tight, it is ready to follow your inputs to extreme precision. The fun factor is the way the car feels all the way to the limit, and while grip levels are very high, passed them is where it looses against the 3-Series and ATS. When pushed hard through corners it reacts in a very balanced and controlled manner returning a thrilling sensation up until you over do it. At that point, the torque vectoring control pinches the brakes on the inner wheels to help you turn, but its operation is very evident since the car feels like it slightly hops through the bend. Switch the stability control off, and at that point all you will get is manageable understeer. The rear will stubbornly not go wide, so if you are looking for the ultimate driving machine, go for the ATS instead. Smily face.
Of course, the really good driving dynamics would mean nothing without a powerful engine under the hood. Making a really throaty noise, the 3.0L V6 Bi-Turbo motor is good for 329 HP and 354 lb-ft of torque, getting up to speed very quickly. Put your foot down and the sprint to 100km/h takes only 5.7″ and if you keep it down, you’ll reach the governed top speed of 210km/h. Mated to the 7-speed 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic gearbox that could’ve been a bit quicker, pulling power is always really good matching the willingness of the throttle response, unless you are in ECO mode. Smooth and refined, plenty fast and rev-happy, the motor also returns reasonable fuel economy as our test average was 10.5 lt/100km. Also, having a lot of power can be dangerous without the appropriate brakes and thankfully, the drilled brakes are not only for the looks, they also stop the car very well. From 100km/h, it came to a complete stop in 41m, a very competitive number.
So with the BMW 335i marginally defeated on points and the Cadillac ATS 3.6 not being able to match its quality and refinement, there is little left to say, at least till the arrival of the updated 340i that might put BMW back on top. There are so many details that make this car a great one, but the fact that it is truly fantastic to drive and an extreme performer in every other way, make it something it has never been before. The best in its class.
Some wind noise on the highway
The gearbox could be quicker