Mercedes-Benz C-class review - Can it take on the mighty 3-series? - Ride and Handling

Trades some dynamic ability and excitement for comfort - unless you opt for the AMG C63

Evo rating
Price
from £30,850
  • S-class looks, exceptional interior quality, refined manners
  • Ultimately lacks driver engagement, four-cylinder models not the most inspiring

In one of these disciplines, the Mercedes C-class is excellent. The ride is generally supple even on the worst of road surfaces, while wind and tyre noise are suitably suppressed. This makes the Mercedes comfortably the best car for relaxed driving in its class, beating the BMW 3-series, the Audi A4, the Jaguar XE and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

One point worth considering is that, with the C300h in AMG Line trim, you suffer a 120kg weight penalty thanks to the electric motor and its lithium-ion battery pack. This can upset the car's composure, particularly when dealing with larger compressions. In practice, it makes the car noticeably less comfortable than the more absorbent SE or Sport models with smaller than 18-inch wheels.

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The handling is a more contentious issue, as there are very fine degrees of separation between the C-class’ abilities and its competitors. What the Mercedes does have on its side are progressive brakes with good pedal feel (they’re even OK in the C300h with its regenerative braking powers, albeit not as linear as the regular stoppers). The C-class remains composed and controlled in all forms, so if you decide to press on there won’t be any nasty surprises.

What it never quite reveals is a playful side to its character. While you can make very quick progress across ground, no matter how twisting the road, it’s very rare the C-class will ever put a smile on your face. That's less the case with the C43, which wins extra points for its body control and more engaging character, but with all-wheel drive it's also pretty much unflappable, particularly in the dry.

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A basic BMW 320d might not be as comfortable as the Mercedes, but it is still more entertaining to drive than most of the C-class range. However, Jaguar’s XE is a consummate all-rounder being as rewarding as the BMW and as luxurious as the Mercedes, while Alfa Romeo's new Giulia steers quickly and feels nimbler.

Considering the huge amount of metal that’s had to be removed to turn the C-class Coupe into a cabriolet, the fact it hasn’t lost all structural integrity is notable. However, that it actually feels quite stiff is incredibly impressive. It must be noted that the body of C-class Cabriolet feels much stronger when equipped with the smaller, lighter engines rather than the C63's big twin turbo V8. The C63 develops some unpleasant steering wheel movement as a Cabriolet that the C220d simply doesn’t.

> Also read: AMG C63 review

Despite having a more simple cloth roof rather than an elaborate folding metal one, the interior is always quiet and wind noise is minimal. However, the roof shuffles and rattles slightly in the C63, but this isn’t an issue in the C43 or non-AMG models.

There’s approximately 125kg of extra weight in the Cabriolet, but performance isn’t dampened significantly. However, the entire attitude of the soft-top does feel calmer and more relaxed than its coupe equivalent. 

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