Time’s up for the C-class. It’s leaving our long term fleet and needless to say, we’re loathe to let it go. There’s an old-school charm about this car that has really endeared it to all of us over the past few months. True, the all-new W205 C-class is on its way here, and we’re looking forward to it, but we doubt it will have the mechanical purity of this outgoing model. One thing about our car that marks it as the last of its kind is the hydraulic steering. The C’s competition has already moved on to electrically assisted steering (as has its upcoming replacement) and driving our car just highlights how its steering feels more ‘BMW’ than any modern Bimmer. It filters out all artificiality and has such a wonderfully fluid feel to it.
The other bit that we really love about it is the build quality. With ever-tightening emissions norms and the need to improve fuel economy, there’s a lot of pressure on manufacturers to cut down on weight. This is no bad thing, except that these new cars simply don’t have the heft you used to associate with German cars. Our W204, on the other hand, has it in spades. The way the doors shut, how the door handles feel, the way the stalks work; the whole car feels like it’s carved out of one big block of metal.
In retrospect, our car’s ride was also one of its highlights. Its steel springs and well-tuned dampers – they are purely mechanical in their working – are able to react to sudden intrusions (of which there are plenty on our roads) a lot more effectively than modern air springs and trick dampers. In fact, this C-class’s ride is better than even my bigger E-class, and that’s really saying something.
All of this adds up to make for a car that has a very mechanical, connected feel to it and that’s something that’s missing in most luxury cars today. In the city, its compact dimensions, ride quality and sporty black interiors give a sense of well being like no other long termer in the fleet. And the little things, like the depth and detail of the audio system and the way the Bluetooth system pairs up with your phone instantly, make you feel all the more like the car is welcoming you in.
It’s also been to Mahabaleshwar many times and it was the car’s rock-solid stability, punchy motor and hunkered-down stance, topped off by that beautifully telepathic steering, that made the C-class the weekend run favourite. Its Autobahn-stormer roots showed through clearly in these conditions and the diesel proved to be quite fuel efficient – over the 5,500km we had it, the overall figure steadily hovered around the 13kpl mark.
The C 250 CDI isn’t perfect though. Our biggest issues are with the engine note – the twin-turbo unit under the hood is a lot noisier (not a nice noise either) than the lower-powered, single-turbo C 220 CDI engine. The rear seats are cramped and so it isn’t the best car for being chauffeur-driven in. And, with the AMG body kit and skirts that our car has, you have to be really careful over speed breakers. Most have to be driven over diagonally if you dodn’t want to hear painful scraping noises from the underbody.
None of this, however, takes away from the fact that this C-class is a gem and is one of the cars that truly signifies what Mercedes stands for. So, as we bid farewell to the C 250 CDI, we can’t help but feel we’re bidding farewell to an era as well.