The problem with expectations is that the reality can sometimes be disappointing. This applies to a variety of scenarios, with those involving money coming out of the pocket being the most impactful for most people.

I’m sure many of you have experienced paying a substantial sum for a meal before, only to find out that the flavours were a little subpar. Or coughing a few thousand ringgit on a device that ended up being incapable of delivering a pleasant user experience or the features you were hoping for?

This leads into my next observation, which is the costlier the product, the larger the expectations. And among the many things that people shell out money for, buying a car, specifically one in the premium segment, is where you’ll find the highest of hopes.

Such was the case when I was handed the keys to the updated W205 Mercedes-Benz C 300 AMG Line for a few days. With a retail price of RM304,888 (OTR without insurance), it’s the highest-spec, non-AMG C-Class that money can buy today, so expectations are high, but does it live up to them? Let’s find out.

If you’re hoping for a car that looks good parked anywhere or on the move, I’m pleased to say that the C 300 is an attractive looking vehicle. The new front bumper that is part of the AMG Line package is visibly sportier, with a more pronounced lower intake featuring a “Space Invader-like” mesh, while the corners have guided air channels and horizontal slats for better presence. If it looks familiar, that’s because it’s almost identical to what you’ll find on the performance-focused C 43.

The C 300 also comes with a diamond pin grille to distinguish itself from the lower-spec C 200, and if that isn’t enough, there’s also a set of Multibeam LED headlamps that are exemplary in their function.

With 84 diodes in each cluster, the lighting system provides excellent illumination at night, and is capable of lighting up individual sections of the road ahead, including upcoming corners, without blinding other motorists around the vehicle. In fact, the automatic high beam function worked so flawlessly that I left it on from the time I had the car till it was returned.

Other styling revisions can be seen at the rear, with a new lower apron that further adds to the aggression with a prominent diffuser and exhaust finishers. There are also C-shaped light guides for the taillights, and the previous multi-spoke wheels have been swapped out for 19-inch five twin-spoke AMG wheels (from the pre-facelift C 43), which are met with 225/40 front and 255/35 rear profile tyres.

If the revised exterior caught your attention, the good news continues on the inside, as the C 300’s cabin has been given a substantial upgrade as well, chief among which are the dual displays you see as soon as you get in. The first is a 12.3-inch unit that acts as the digital instrument cluster, with three different styles (Classic, Sport and Progressive), while the second is a 10.25-inch screen for other vehicle functions.

It’s all very fresh and modern, and when you throw in the new, Touch Control-equipped steering wheel, the C 300’s cabin still has the flash and pizzazz to impress the masses. There’s also an abundance of lovely materials here, although it’s a bit disappointing that there’s no leather to be found on the dash, which is found on the top of the door cards – a strange mix, this. Still, the fit and finish has been improved from before, with the plastics around the centre console feeling more solid, as described by Hafriz Shah, a previous owner of the pre-facelift C 300.

As was the case with the pre-facelift model, front seat comfort and visibility remains good, and you have a respectable amount of legroom at the rear. Second-row climate control is a neat touch, and for those who prefer to be chauffeured, all-around sunshades provide a touch of privacy and protection from harsh sunlight. Lest we forget, Mercedes-Benz’s 64-colour ambient lighting is among the best, and still attracts quite a fair bit of attention from those stopped beside you at the lights.

You also have no less than three means to interface with the updated COMAND Online system, be it via the familiar (although rather archaic) rotary dial and touchpad on the centre console as well as the steering wheel’s Touch Control. The redundancy isn’t much of the issue here, but I feel it would be a lot simpler if a touchscreen function were present for the main display instead. Even better, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) would be a good fit, although the carmaker has said the system is incompatible with older platforms despite it being present in the latest GLC.

An on-screen keyboard would certainly make keying in locations into the navigation system a whole lot quicker rather than cycling through a horizontal list or drawing out alphabets. However, in the real world, who here actually uses this in-car function, especially in a world where Apple CarPlay and Android Auto usage is so prevalent?

Thankfully, the system provides support for both, although in my case, using Android Auto was a rather bothersome experience. Firstly, without a touchscreen, you have to use the rotary dial to guide a circular highlight to the desired on-screen button before you can select it, which is distracting on the move.

My attempt to use the steering wheel’s left-side touchpad as a substitute was not better, as it doesn’t appear to work with Android Auto, compounding the problem further. As an example, a simple act of wanting to skip to the next song on Spotify required either one of few things to happen.

The first is to bring up the Google Assistant by saying “OK, Google,” or have the instrument cluster show the media page at all times and using the right-side touchpad to skip tracks, which neglects other information you would like displayed.

Alternatively, you could keep the on-screen highlight on the next button on the Android Auto interface, but let’s say you want to key in a new destination into Google Maps, you’ll have to work with the rotary dial again and the slow process of keying in letter-by-letter presents itself again. It’s all very finicky, and I would assume a next and back button on the wheel would make skipping tracks easier. A touchscreen would do wonders too.

So far, we’ve established that the C 300 looks good on the outside and inside, but the human machine interface is bit of a mixed bag when it comes to operation. Of course, the most important aspect is the driving experience, and this is where it gets tricky again.

New to the latest C 300 is the M264 in its 2.0 litre form, which replaces the previous M274 mill. The twin-scroll turbocharged unit churns out 255 hp (258 PS) from 5,800 to 6,100 rpm, which is a 14 hp/13 PS increase from the 241 hp (245 PS) that the previous M274 served up.

Peak torque remains unchanged at 370 Nm, although it now arrives from 1,800 rpm on the M264 compared to 1,300 rpm with the M274. A nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic replaces the previous 7G-Tronic, although the transmission is already available for the C 200 and C 250 since mid-2017. Drive is sent to the rear, and the century sprint time is unchanged from the 2016 C 300 at 5.9 seconds (the 2017 C 250 takes 6.5 seconds); the top speed is 250 km/h.

No major complaints about the powertrain here, as it is a delight to use. On low-speed excursions around the city, the engine is responsive and power delivery is smooth, with the 9G-Tronic providing nearly imperceptible shifts. The accelerator pedal was a tad bit sensitive for me, even in Comfort mode, as a slight flex of my big toe saw the car pull forward rather significantly.

Using Sport and Sport+ (selectable via the Agility Select system) amplifies this further, and in doing either, the engine holds a higher rev point in preparation to provide all of its 255 horses at a moment’s notice. Highway speeds are reached without much fuss, and when poked to go faster, the engine makes itself more audible, which gives you the impression that you’re going faster than what the speedometer actually reads.

One entertaining experience is when the accelerator pedal is fully depressed at cruising speeds, say 70 km/h, the 9G unit will act like a two-stage rocket, dropping a gear and another shortly after, before the car is slingshot forward. It’s certainly a very impressive engine, effortless in hauling the 1.5-tonne heft, and I would say its one of the main high points of the C 300.

The same can’t be said about the car’s ride, which is rather odd given the C 300 gets the fancier Airmatic air suspension system. At most speeds, the car does well to cushion lesser road imperfections from intruding into the cabin, although it does feel a touch floaty over certain crests, harking back to older air suspension systems – Mercedes-Benz’s more advanced systems like the Air Body Control suspension on the W213 E-Class feels far more controlled.

While the primary ride is manageable, secondary ride, especially over sharper-edged blemishes can be a jarring experience, which is made worse by the 19-inch wheels and relatively low-profile run-flat tyres.

It’s a curious feeling when driving the car on PJ roads, as the floatiness is felt over mild bumps, but crashy when encountering potholes. One would expect a more composed, neutral ride over the former and a mitigation of the latter, but that’s not the case here.

Setting the suspension to Sport mode (also available are Comfort and Sport+) tones down the pillowy feel slightly but amplifies the firmness. Even in this configuration, the car’s body doesn’t feel very settled, and you’ll need to hold your nerve when attempting to drive the car in a more spirited manner.

The inconsistent weighting of the steering also inhibits the driving involvement, but this isn’t much of a concern as this isn’t an AMG model. For regular use, the quick and light steering makes navigating tight roads an easy affair, and the feel of the wheel in your hands is rather nice.

In terms of delivering a premium feel from the moment you walk up to the door and get behind the wheel, the C 300 delivers on all fronts with an attractive exterior and a well-furnished cabin. This initial impression lures you in further as you fire the car up, and the first few minutes on the road with that engaging powertrain further solidifies the experience.

However, give it a bit more time, and the neither-here-nor-there ride starts to rear its unattractive head. Personally, I would have preferred a lesser system like Dynamic Body Control with adaptive damping or the passive Agility Control setup; a case of less is more. Add to this an infotainment system that requires a bit of fiddling and doesn’t play nicely with your smartphone, and the overall experience is slightly dampened.

Even so, the rest of the C 300’s spec sheet is impressive for its price point, as it gets AEB, an around-view monitor, a panoramic sunroof, a Burmester sound system, a powered boot – things its closest rival lacks.

So, does the C 300 live up to the high expectations of a premium car buyer? In most aspects, yes, but like the ride, it’s a bit of mixed bag. It has the look and feel that one would assume of a modern Mercedes-Benz, but the driving experience wasn’t what I was expecting.