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Mercedes for masses

While the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been a popular car in Canada, it’snever been a real competitor dynamically to the BMW 3 Series in theever-expanding entry-level luxury car market segment.


While the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been a popular car in Canada, it’s never been a real competitor dynamically to the BMW 3 Series in the ever-expanding entry-level luxury car market segment.

Obviously tired of getting metaphoric sand kicked in its face, Mercedes threw all its assets at making the new-for-2008 C-Class the best-driving compact luxury sedan yet.

The Stuttgart automaker’s designers and engineers have taken this precision German machine from a “little on the conservative side” to something trendy and a lot more fun to drive. But they also made sure to engineer in M-B’s traditional solid feel.

From the outset, a fully-redesigned suspension tune helps immeasurably, as does steering that is full of feel, along with responsive and progressive brakes. That combines to give plenty of confidence that the new C-Class is ready for any road.

Three versions of the C exist: The exclusive-to-Canada C230, powered by a 2.5-litre V6 producing 201 horsepower; the C300 with a 228-horsepower 3.0-litre V6; and the C350 with a 268-hp 3.5-litre V6. Either engine can be partnered with M-B’s 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. A six-speed manual is standard on the C300, but every other model gets the seven-speed automatic (with manual shift mode).

What makes the C-Class unique is that buyers can opt for two vastly different styling packages. Traditionalists can choose Classic, a more conservative look with the iconic three-star hood emblem, a simple chrome grille and an understated overall appearance. Those wishing a more dynamic visual package can opt for the more expressive Sport, adorned with the AMG sport package that, among other things, shaves the star from the hood and places a bigger one in the centre of the grille.

Inside, the C-Class looks modern and clean though, oddly, some trim materials look harder than they feel. Still, the seats are comfortable and supportable.

The standard equipment list is lengthy. It includes eight-way power adjustable front seats, sliding glass sunroof with pop-up function, power-folding side mirrors, bi-xenon headlights, MP3 compatible radio and 17-inch alloy road wheels. Need we mention that all windows are power operated?

Apart from its sharper, bolder styling, the main improvement from the previous generation C-Class is the sedan’s handling. It has simply been brought up a few notches on the enjoyment scale with a near-perfect balance for tackling curves, corners and bends with aplomb.

Your friendly M-B dealer can provide a rear-drive C230 in exchange for $35,800 ($39,500 if you fancy the 4MATIC version).

 
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