When I got my C250 from Mercedes, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to drive the same C250 that smoked its tires through an abandoned post-apocalypse Manhattan.
I got inside, stepped on the accelerator, and WHOOOOSH – the car took off. I thought, “Yes! Truth in advertising!!” until I realized I’d been hoodwinked. See, touch the throttle, and the C250 will lurch forward out of your Walmart parking space as hurriedly as if you’d floored it in attempt to pass the Subaru wagon one lane over. Anything past 4200 RPMs, however, and the engine calls it a day, and you’ll see Subaru tail lights. It looks like they filmed an AMG stunt double in the city that day.
For a 4-cylinder 200-hp turbocharged engine that gets 31 mpg, however, the engine does its job. Those who want a remote chance of burning rubber might upgrade to the optional 6-cylinder engine. (or find out whatever happened to that magical (mythical?) tire-smoking C250 from the commercial?))
The C250 has the most sensitive on-center steering the side of a Mini Cooper. The slightest touch on the wheel will dive the vehicle into a corner. Which is fine for racing, however, at highway speeds, it’s a nuisance. You must keep the wheel absolutely still, or else you’ll veer out of your lane. Your mileage may vary, and perhaps it’s just my style, but on long trips, I like to move around in my seat, adjust the stations, slap the kids in the back seat, hydrate, and in the C250, the slightest nudge on the steering wheel causes a hard direction change. Like driving and texting? Forget it. You’ll be in the ditch before your first smiley face. There are ways to make a car’s steering sensitive, without making it a chore to keep going straight. Take a BMW 3-series for a spin, and you’ll see what I mean.
The only available transmission is an automatic. I can talk about how fast, efficiently and sportily it shifts, but if you bought this car, you probably don’t care – Mercedes’ only model with the a manual transmission is the lowly SLK 250. I will say the transmission shifts fine. If you want more control, put it in manual shifting mode – just don’t expect a lightning-quick, response – in manual shifting mode, your lever nudge is a suggestion, which gets approved by the transmission committee, eventually.
The engine is smooth, and doesn’t announce itself until it nears redline, which is when it sounds like a cargo van – albeit an expensive one with leather seats. I’ve read auto journalist who poo-poo the idea of piping engine sounds through the car speakers, however, in this car, I’m completely for it. Anything would sound better than the stock engine sound at full tilt.
The interior is pretty pleasant. Nice leather, clear gauges. The cowl is low, with great outward visibility. The doors close with a satisfying clunk. The cupholder is behind the shift lever, which guarantees your drink will always get in your way while leaning on the center armrest. For years American car publications complained about the lack of cupholders in German cars. Now that we have them, we’re still complaining. Serves us right.
My model was the stripper, I know, for Mercedes completely went out of their way to rub it in. Note the heated seat button, next to 5 buttons of “features you could have had, were you not such a cheapskate.” Seriously, unless you select $15,000 worth of options, and get the buttons to prove it, every time you look down here, you’ll be bonked on the head about what you could have had.
To unlock the door and start the engine, one must press the unlock button on the key, insert it into the ignition slot, then rotate it. For those used to keyless entry and ignition systems, (if the key’s in your pocket, just open the door, get in, and push the START button) this can be annoying.
This is a nice-looking car. However, it’s starting to lose its prestige since the MB CLA250 was introduced. The CLA250, which is a baby sister for the gorgeous and swoopy CL class, is much better-looking, and starts $6000 cheaper. There will be a new C-Class Mercedes introduced this fall, so we think.
Thankfully, it is not covered with AMG badges – only, however, on all four wheels. Which, in my opinion, cheapens the AMG brand. I’ve driven Mercedes AMG models, and they are terrifyingly fast, world-class pieces of awe-inspiring engineering. That being said, the reverence I feel towards those models diminishes every time I see a 4-cylinder model with an AMG steering wheel, spoiler, door sill, and seat belts. I really believe that prestige and branding is important, and sometimes, auto manufacturers unwittingly do things that diminish it.
Would I buy one? Keep in mind this car’s base price is $36,250. Add an option or two next to those blank spaces near the heated seat buttons, and you’ll have a $50,000 car. A car is about compromises: engine power vs. fuel economy, comfort on long trips vs handling during spirited driving, etc. The Mercedes C250 tries too hard to be a racy car, with it’s hair trigger throttle, and ridiculously sensitive steering. Yes, they’re trying to chase BMW, but in the example, I think they’ve overshot the mark.