Something’s afoot in the compact executive class, where a sleeker, sexier newcomer is edging out the old school. And it’s a car wearing the Three-Pointed Star that’s causing the commotion. This one is bolder and brasher than the status quo, embracing a younger, more style-conscious crowd.
Why, it’s the W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, in C 300 AMG Line guise – young, fresh and sporty, if not exactly elegant. Now this, is my kind of car. In fact, the black one is my daily driver.
“The C 300 AMG? It looks very, very sexy,” said Julius Kong, our Mercedes-Benz Malaysia-paultan.org road trip contest winner, a W204 C 200 owner himself, who’s waiting for his very own W205 C 300. Indeed it is. In an area of the market where style is such a big factor, ubiquity is a killer.
It’s hard to make disparaging comments about the C-Class’ looks, especially in this top-of-the-range form. It’s very Mercedes, in a handsome and squat, chunky way, now with an added dose of excitement. Visually arresting and plenty masculine, it’s a hairy-balled riposte to the rather limp-wristed W204. Attract attention it certainly does. Plenty.
Well, it couldn’t be less subtle. Fitted with the full AMG Line exterior package (sportier, deeper front bumper with a large chrome ‘blade’, side skirts and body-coloured rear diffuser) and supersized 19-inch multi-spoke wheels with a striking dual-tone finish, it’s the antithesis of the traditional unassuming Benz.
The mini-S-Class look is continued inside too, with a distinct feeling that you’re in something special. The dashboard curves away from you up front, with sections sculpted out to create a feeling of solidity. It’s leather-lined in all the right places, with tasteful metal-look strips dotted around the cabin.
For some, the Open Pore Black Ash veneer specified for the C 300 may be a bit too brash, but it’s definitely an imposing choice of trim, and in my opinion the best among the few other finishes offered in the local C-Class line-up. If premium and exclusive were the targets, this one gets it spot on.
It gels the W205’s exterior flair with even more drama and excellent perceived quality. Build feels as impeccable as you’d expect from a Mercedes – the subtly damped switchgear, beautifully arranged ambient lighting and smart dials are all superbly executed.
Space is something that has been marginally improved over the old car too. There’s a good two- or three-inch increase in rear legroom, as commented by Julius, being very familiar with the W204 (he’s had two of them). It has to be said, though, that rear headroom isn’t as generous, especially so with the fitment of a full-length panoramic sunroof here.
On top of nailing the static showroom appeal, which the C 300, with all the bells and whistles attached clearly does, a car like this also needs to deliver on two fronts. It has to possess that special kind of desirability that extends beyond regular motorists, while at the same time provide real driver involvement to please the enthusiasts.
Comfort, quality and image are all massively important in this world, but there’s no reason why this should be at the expense of driving ability. Certainly not in this hotly contested class, broadly built around the ever-present BMW 3 Series, and more so not when the car looks as sporty as this one does.
To level with its visual drama, the C 300 needs to deliver more than just fast-in-a-straight-line thrills. That’s easily done these days with 200 hp hot hatches populating every other showroom. No, it has to engage on a higher level. Speed, naturally, but also with loquacious steering, gritty roadholding, fluid balance and infallible brakes, all linked with synapse-sparking integrity.
So, for the C-Class to succeed in the compact executive segment, especially in the upper echelon positioning the C 300 is in, it has to be both hot and cool. Poker hot to drive and iced latte cool to be seen and sit in. Simple to define yet immensely difficult to achieve.
Traditionally, expecting your Mercedes-Benz C-Class to have pin-sharp dynamics was like expecting your leather-soled dress shoes to offer perfect grip – they just don’t, but you live with it anyway. The latest model is, however, a substantial step forward.
The steering has decent feel, particularly off centre, where it weighs up progressively. The damping with the AMG Line’s sport suspension setup is a little harsh, but it makes everything feel very controlled, and the new chassis is significantly more agile than before.
Driving around Penang, the rutted roads highlight the sport suspension’s harder-edged tuning, but the car feels firm yet compliant enough over rough surfaces, while keeping the chassis in check. The massive 19-inch rollers certainly don’t help things, but you’d forgive it for its added visual presence.
Turn-in is accompanied by serious bite from the front wheels, and the rear simply tucks in however ham fisted you are with the throttle. Be brutal and you can provoke the tail into progressive, satisfying oversteer, while the C 300-exclusive sport exhaust system bark out soft pops and crackles. This was unthinkable in the previous C-Classes.
So yes, it’s a much better driver’s car than models that have come to past. On trunk roads and the highways, the Mercedes is now near the sharp end of the class with its good blend of dynamics, packaging and refinement. As far as Mercedes-Benz goes, this is as fresh and exciting as the original CLS four-door coupe ever was.
As the top-shelf C-Class offering (at least before the monstrous C 350 e plug-in hybrid came into play), the C 300 AMG Line gets Merc’s M274 2.0 litre direct injection turbocharged engine in its most powerful form, with 245 hp and 370 Nm of torque – 34 hp and 20 Nm more than the C 250.
It feels grunty from the get go and pulls with a muscular linearity, getting to 100 km/h in just 5.9 seconds – the C 350 e, despite its more impressive output figures (279 hp, 600 Nm) is no quicker off the line. Any more performance and you’re straight-up into sports car territory. For a mainstream compact exec, the C 300 and BMW 330i both, feel mega.
The engine spins with such speed and linearity that it’s all too easy to headbutt the rev limiter in manual mode through the paddle shifters when you’re not concentrating. And the brakes – with the beautifully oversized Mercedes-Benz-marked calipers and cross-drilled discs up front – offer immediate and fade-free bite.
Letting the Merc down a little is its 7G-Tronic Plus transmission. Not quite the smoothest auto’box around, it makes itself felt through unrushed upshifts, though this will only be noticeable to the most critical and sensitive of drivers. For most drivers, be it in Eco or Sport+ mode (which engages the sport exhaust flap), the C-Class feels infallible.
A bold, exciting move by Mercedes, it feels special where other class players feel normal. In terms of dynamics and aesthetics, the latest C-Class is a standout. You can buy it with your sensible head on – it’s fantastically well built and rewarding to drive, and as a whole package it’s very well resolved.
You can be extremely choosy when you’re spending around RM300,000 for a car, and at RM307,888, the W205 Mercedes-Benz C 300 AMG Line has the poise and polish to feel like it’s worth the premium over its rivals. And that, at the end of the day, is that.