Hey, two white cars in a row -- lucky me! White does look good on a luxury sedan I will concede, and actually it looks good on a lot of cars for that matter. This week, instead of the pervasive compact car and Canadian bestseller I'm driving a luxury version of the "compact sedan", the Mercedes-Benz C400 4MATIC.
Of course this is a little further from a standard compact despite it's size category, equipped standard not only with Mercedes-Benz's all-wheel drive system (4Matic), the C400 comes standard with a 24V Biturbo DOHC V6 and seven-speed automatic transmission.
I'll admit I don't dream and read about Mercedes-Benz models, but when I picked up the C400 I assumed it was a V6, then when I stepped on the throttle I thought it felt like it was turbocharged, then I really stepped on the throttle and as I pushed back in my seat I became more perturbed -- how the heck is this thing so fast?
Well there we have it, a 3.0-litre V6 biturbo pushing out 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque – my butt dyno wasn't lying, Mercedes-Benz means business in the power department in nearly all of the current lineup.
You do pay for all the power and prestige though -- $51,400 to start, with $10,000 in options after taxes and you are looking at nearly $70,000 out the door.
When I think of Mercedes-Benz I think of vault-like build quality and superb comfort (especially out on the highway). So I was a little surprised when I hit the first of many bumps and potholes on our streets, the suspension of the C400 is firm, very firm. There is a switch that allows you to change the settings of the car between Sport + / Sport / Comfort and Eco and it certainly helps, but on Comfort the C400 still crashes and bangs over bumps -- this makes me sad.
What makes me even sadder is that because of this firm suspension the interior has creaks and rattles something I don't expect from Mercedes especially in a new car. There is a little bit of wind noise as well coming from the a-pillar but that is being very picky. Then again, I should be picky. We are talking $70,000 here.
But what about that interior, does it feel luxurious and solid like it should? That certainly is a yes, the switches all have a certain feel to them that is different from any other manufacturer, but they feel substantial and engage with confidence. The leather feels thick yet soft and the centre armrest is ultra-comfortable for my pointy elbow.
The moonroof is ultra cool too, two panels, gigantic in the front with a small for the rear passengers. Only the front glass tilts open (doesn't slide) but it certainly lets out the hot air on a hot day and makes the cabin brighter, especially with all the black on black trim in this vehicle.
I'd comment on the infotainment system but I'd like to give it one more day -- so far I'm not having a lot of luck with it... maybe tomorrow will be different.
Well some more playing with the infotainment system in the "Benz" and I do understand it more now and there are some nifty features / settings available to you. But it is needlessly complex. You see the screen is not a touch screen and you can see the function you want right there in front of you but you can't figure out how to get to it!
There is a touch pad that you can swipe your finger on, like a tablet you can two finger swipe for favourites, or one finger swipe to bring up menus, or pinch and zoom. But there is also a dial underneath it for redundancy and multiple back buttons and other hard buttons that all seem to do the same thing. Anyways, it took me like 20 minutes to figure out how to get the Navigation menu up to enter a destination, and changing the radio station requires you to find the radio menu, and swipe around on the touchpad.
Funny enough, there is a big menu button in the middle of the dash but it always just brings me to the climate control settings, so I'm not sure what that's about. But how does it drive? I've already mentioned the suspension that is far too stiff and need to correct what I said yesterday, the sport+/sport/comfort mode settings do not adjust the suspension, only the steering, throttle, climate control and start/stop feature.
But the stiff suspension does mean that this car handles well! You can certainly carve corners like a race car driver and the 4MATIC all-wheel drive does some trick stuff because as you turn tighter the car turns sharper into the corner. As mentioned the C400 has start/stop technology as well that shuts the engine down when you stop at a light -- and this is probably the best version I've encountered (not counting hybrids). It is very smooth in fact the first few times it happened I wasn't sure if the car had shut down or I had imagined it, at idle the C400 is also ultra smooth and quiet which helps.
Well this is odd, if you ask me directly I'd say I wasn't very happy with the the C400. The ride is too harsh, the infotainment system is way too complex and I forgot to mention before the turning radius is full size truck like.
But when going over the ratings per category the C400 rates quite high. It performs most excellently, the interior looks and feels great, it looks really sharp on the outside and the fuel economy is stellar, the only knock is on the comfort rating because of the harsh ride, but the seats amd surrounding environment are comfortable.
What was the fuel economy? Well I averaged 9.1L/100km for the week and let's just say that I was not very gentle on the loud pedal. The on-board computer was actually reading in the 8.8 L/100km range at one point but then I had to make sure the acceleration was better in Sport + mode and there went that number.
So if you live where the roads are smooth and have lots of room to romp (Calgary comes to mind) the C400 would be excellent, but around here the roads are just too rough, maybe the air-suspension helps or some smaller tires (my tester is equipped with 18's). If this was a sports car I would be happy, but as a luxury sedan it's just too stiff.
Pricing: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400
Base Price: $51,400
Options: Sport Package -- $2,800; Premium Package -- $4,500; Intelligent Drive Package -- $2,700
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $63,575