Seeing a lot of people acting like they write for mags got me in the mood so when Merc sent me the invite for the C Drive Event i had to say yes, and got a friend to come along. Link here for info on the C Drive event: http://www.themercedescdrive.com/
So first the review of the car, they had both C300 and C350 on hand to drive, with both Sport and in Luxury trim. I drove both C300 and C350 in Sport Trim with 7-Speeds Auto. The layout was not closed course in SF but on city streets and they had a lead driver while you drove the car yourself and pretty much free to do anything you wanted as long as you followed the lead car. So it was more “real world” less racing.
The first car i drove, the C300 Sport.
Actually I got in the car at first thinking it was the 350, assuming they all where 350′s (actually i got in to the ONLY 300 in Sport they had out) and the specs on the car say its 228hp @ 6,000 rpm and 221ft-lb @ 2,700 but you could not feel it. Even with traction control off, just getting the rear tires to make a little noise was not going to happen. Low End/Off the Line it just felt slow and lumbering, while mid range power felt good for that burst of power to over take. And high end was Ok but could not test that much. Just not won over with it. And with the Estimated 7.3 sec to 60, you can see why. My GTI is faster with VW figures and if you listen to R&T, its way faster.
Handling was hard to test as we had a lot of stop and turns, and was the first drive so did not want to push the limit but the car steering felt very Merc and not very sport. Light, with a little weight and not much talking back. Also because its a Merc, so even with traction off its not.. Trying to mash the pedal in a corner and you will see the engine cut out and it trys to stop you. And the lack of power is not helping. On the 2nd drive my friend was in the C300 and was behind me and he was able to get the back end to go a little on a turn but he also said it was not very easy and for him.
2nd Car i drove was then the C350 Sport and things looked up. Here you can feel the real power on the car, and getting the tire smoking is no real hard job with even the nanny ESP that is always on. This is when compared to my GTI which is a I4 Turbo 2.0l developing only 200hp you get the same feeling which is not good. I think it has to do with the Auto Tranny the Mercs use as they dont read line in 1st gear and is a traditional tranny (vs a DSG used in the VW). Also the extra weight, the C300 weighs and extra 120lb over the GTI and the GTI is already a porky car. But getting on the freeway and i think maybe i would enjoy it more, as I was able to push over 60mph in a city block before braking. So it had grunt, and felt nice but for such a large motor you expect more.
Something also big is fuel consumption is CRAP. The specs they had on the board listed the 300 as having 18/26 which is pretty bad. Compared to the 328i which gets 20/29mpg and a GTI which is 23/32mpg.
Handling on the 350 was much of the same as the 300, but maybe a little more weighted. As it was my 2nd go i was pushing the limits a bit more, and the brakes where very good. Much better then the C280 i would drive as a loaner. But in both cases I think it still handles like a Merc but its good. As for the suspension they claim to be using some sort of leveling system during the pre drive talk and they might. On the pot holes and etc, it was much nicer then my GTI which is really stiff and in the turns it was level, so you where confident as you where entering in the turns. The steering was just a bit too light for me even as the lower speeds as you feel you might over steer the car. This is where both my friend and I agreed on, that the suspension setup was nice, but too light steering.
Exterior, this car looks stunning and i think a lot better over the the out going C-Class. My friend did not like it alot, sayin it looked a bit 3-ish to him but i thought it look nice. I would give it a 10/10 on this as i really hated the old C-Class and was the reason i did not think about them when i was shopping for my GTI.
Interior, again a big improvement over the old C-Class but not a 10. The new Command for this car rocks, but the control is too close to the arm rest and just a little touch will activate it (so like a stop lights as i would rest my hand it would change stations.. Very annoying) but it also has buttons for everything so if you get lost or confuse you can fall back to buttons which is very good. Its also coming with a HD and you can send directions to it from the internet which is very cool. Build quality is vastly improved for the old C Class which just felt cheap but its not breaking new ground or something. Also the seats where just very unsporting. See the photos, they just suck. I guess its just coming up to par with the 3 Series and Audi A4 which it never did before
The event itself was great, very professionally done by Merc of USA. They had free cookies and milk “shots”, Fiji water, Free Espresso Machine setup, booths in the lounge from other companies like offering samples of various things, including a kit for whitening your teeth so i guess they are saying the new C-Class is for people like Hammond. But i think he would hate it, because its not really that sporty. I think a 3-Series would more more, or even a GTI. Its still sticks to Mercs idea of Luxury first, Sport second which is something they tried to dispel during the intro briefing but its just not true. Anyways, I think its Merc first real stab at the 3 Series and that is good.
Time for photos (more here at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zuhaib/sets/72157601229533300/)
Intro talk about the new C Class