Posts Tagged ‘Mercedes C-Class’

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Mercedes C-300: The All-Purpose Luxury Car

December 31, 2011

 

By Roger Witherspoon

 

The snow was no problem.

It was only about two inches deep and, at that level, most cars would ignore it. But the temperature kept skipping just above freezing, producing cold rain, and then heading back south, turning the white stuff into a two inch glaze. It was the kind of road conditions made primarily for snow plows, tow trucks, and Jeeps and if I didn’t have to take a low riding, sleek, Mercedes sports sedan out during the middle of this mess I wouldn’t have.

Not that it mattered. With some cars, icy conditions are problematic and the only way to move is by disconnecting the electronic traction control because the continuous, unpredictable, uneven skidding among the tires crashes the wheels’ computer system. That was not a problem here. While the five-spoke, 18-inch aluminum wheels and  all-weather radials looked good on the four-wheel drive Benz, they were also quite functional and treated the ice as just another hard surface.

That was helpful on the Taconic Parkway rolling through the Franklin D. Roosevelt State park behind a fast moving Jeep Cherokee. We entered a slight curve in the highway and the rear of the SUV began to sashay back and forth. The driver, panicking, hit the accelerator in an effort to bull his way through the ice – which was precisely the wrong thing to do. The Jeep did a slow 360 across the three-lane highway and ended up on the shoulder.

            I eased up on the C-300’s accelerator to give the Jeep space to dance across the lanes, and then easily cruised around him and continued on my way. There is a lot to be said for having four-wheel drive, traction control and appropriate tires.

            The new Mercedes Benz C-300 is a four-door sports sedan whose long, sleek, low silhouette is intended to turn heads. But its exterior design, for all its eye-catching details, is always second to its primary function providing safe, sure, extremely comfortable transport in all conditions. In that regard, the Mercedes C-300 is a petty package on a really efficient, versatile, sports sedan that offers a lot for about $48,000.

Under the hood is a relatively small power plant for a sports model, producing just 228 horsepower. But it is mated to a seven speed, automatic transmission which seamlessly gets the most torque out of each gear and effortlessly shifts among them. The quality of the transmission is particularly evident when used in electronic manual mode on an open road. It is not a car for drag racing – the top speed is just 130 miles per hour, and it accelerates from 0 – 60 in just over seven seconds. But except for Saturday night drag racing on certain urban streets, you really don’t use maximum acceleration unless you are already on the road and need to pass something in a hurry or get out of the way. And when it matters, the C-300’s power plant can deliver.

The ability to maneuver on icy terrain is part of a package of road condition safety features Mercedes hopes will steer buyers to its showrooms the same way Volvo cars have traditionally drawn those who view safety and stability as primary features.  In addition to the relatively standard traction and stability controls, Mercedes’ engineers have added capabilities, such as cross wind sensors which actually shift the angle of the car’s chassis to slightly tilt into the wind. The effect of the innovation is particularly noticeable on mountain curves, where you can hear the wind howling down the side of the mountain towards you, only to flow harmlessly over the changed silhouette.

This Mercedes has side radar alerting the driver to the presence of cars on either side when changing lanes – a feature that is becoming common in upscale cars. But Mercedes has changed it from a passive system noting objects in the area, to an active safety system calculating how fast the distance between the cars is closing. The system can do two things: alert the drive to a possible pending collision and, if a crash is imminent, apply safety features such as tightening safety belts, reducing speed, and readying airbags.

            Inside the sedan is what you would expect to find in a luxury car: a powered sunroof and rear window sunscreen; soft, powered, leather seats which are heated in front and can fold in the rear; and a host of electronic gear. The leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and has fingertip controls for cruise, information, audio, and easy to use Bluetooth. There is a 7-inch pop-up color screen for the navigation and entertainment systems.

For music there is a 6-disc CD player, as well as connections for USB drives, iPods, and MP3 players, as well as a six gigabyte hard drive to carry 1,500 or so of your personal favorites. The music emanates from eight speakers, producing a smooth surround-sound blanket which could lull you to sleep – except there is an alarm which goes off if the car drifts into another lane or onto the shoulder.

Whether one is driving through snowy, seasonal Nor’easters or watching the speedometer hit triple digits while rolling past mountaintop windmills in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, the C-300 provides quite a ride.

 


2012 Mercedes Benz C300

 

MSRP:                                                                        $47,850

EPA Mileage:                        17 MPG City                          24 MPG Highway

 

Performance / Safety:

 

3.0-Liter DOHC V-6 engine producing 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque; 7-speed automatic transmission with electronic manual mode; 4-matic all wheel drive; 3-link independent front suspension; multi-link independent rear suspension; 18-inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels; 4-wheel disc brakes; electronic stability program; dual 2-stage front airbags; side airbags; head protection curtains; dual front pelvic airbags.

 

Interior / Comfort:

 

AM/FM/Sirius satellite radio ; voice controlled 7-inch retractable color display;  6-disc CD/DVD player with 6 GB hard drive; iPod, USB, and MP3 connections; Bluetooth  phone and music connection; 8 speakers;  tilt and telescope steering wheel with fingertip cruise, phone and entertainment controls; voice activated navigation; power sunroof; heated front seats; split, fold flat rear seats; powered rear sunshade.

 

 

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Mid-Sized Luxury In a Mercedes C-350

October 7, 2009

 

By Roger Witherspoon

The drive down the New England Thruway had been just the way a motorist likes it: fast, uneventful, on an uncrowded roan under a warm fall sun.

Jon Lucien was crooning his Caribbean brand of soul, and the eight speakers in the Harman /Kardon Logic-7 surround sound system was so all-consuming that you could almost hear the ocean surf and the soft hum of flying birds as the miles slid by. The sound was contained in the Mercedes C-350, a sleek, trim, low, mid-sized sedan with the understated styling of a Jaguar and the quiet, effortless power of a high priced sedan.

So as I merged onto the Cross Bronx Expressway – a two-lane, under-paved, overly patched roadway slicing through New York City which is often just a parking lot for cross country trucks – I was not expecting to be bum-rushed by a tired, double-hulled trucker in a hurry. But as the lanes merged, I realize there was only room for one vehicle, the Mercedes or the truck, but not both of us. And we were fast running out of roadway.

So I jammed the accelerator to the floor and, with a rumble from the twin chrome exhausts, the sedan with the thin, aggressive-looking grill, shot forward. In an instant, the speedometer seemingly skipped every number between 65 and 100 as the Mercedes leaped out of the way of the hustling trucker, and put plenty of daylight between the two of us. Then I went back to enjoying the road.

There are advantages to driving a well built car, particularly one which can double as either a commuting, go-anywhere sedan, or a sports car. While not the fastest vehicle on the planet, the 2009 Mercedes C-350 can cruise all day in triple digits – if you’re in the wide open southwestern part of the country – or take you at a more sedate pace through the more crowded eastern roads. Either way, you travel in comfort and quiet style.

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine cranking out 268 horsepower, more than enough to let this car mix with the front of the road running pack. It rolls on 18-inch, AMG, light aluminum, twin-spoke, alloy wheels which hold the road as if coated with rubber cement. Its independent front and rear suspensions soften patched highways and suburban gravel roads. It comes with a seven speed automatic transmission which switches gears instantly and applies power immediately. And for those who like hands-on control, there is a manual, sport mode using the chrome gear shift to slide from first to seventh gear.

This may be a sedan, but the front styling is all sports car, with a thin chrome grill containing the Mercedes circled star over a thin black radiator in a combination that looks like a grimace. The headlights slope back like a motorcycle rider’s aviator glasses covering small, bi-Xenon headlights and fog lamps. The side mirrors have turning lights on them, so oncoming motorists know you are about to turn. The C-350 has a short, stubby rear which hides a large trunk that can be enhanced by laying down the rear seats.

Inside this quiet ride, the comfort starts on top with twin sunroofs to light the front and rear seats. Only the front sunroof opens, however. The interior décor is leather and maple wood trim, giving the C-350 the polish one would expect in a car carrying a price tag approaching $50,000. There is also enough room in the back for my six-foot, five-inch neighbor to relax and not worry about bumping his knees or head.

It is packed with the electronics one would expect in a luxury vehicle. There is a seven-inch, color, LCD information screen which pops out of the dash board when the engine is turned on. That provides access to the navigation system, which is not touch screen activated, but still easy to use and intuitive. There is AM/ FM, Weatherband, and Sirius satellite radio, as well as a six-disc, in-dash CD or DVD player, though the movie can only be shown when the car is still. There is an MP3 connection but not an iPod link. The 350 also has Bluetooth cell phone connections, and all of these can be activated and controlled by voice commands.

Are you in a strange town and have a taste for a pizza? No problem. Just tell the nice robot lady with the British accent that you want the nearest pizza restaurant and follow her turn by turn instructions to dinner. She’ll also play your favorite tune along the way.

If there is a negative note or two, it’s that the center posts are wide and, combined with high headrests, interfere with the sight lines for cars on either side of the vehicle. And the test car got about 14 miles per gallon, which is a drawback in this era of high gasoline prices. But the government also gave it five star crash test and four star rollover test ratings, making it one of the safest cars on the road.

But if you are looking for a, comfortable, safe, fast and sport set of wheels to go anywhere in style, the Mercedes C-350 isn’t a bad set to travel on.

 

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