The C350 is fairly quick off the line if you sink the accelerator pedal all the way into the floor. It benefits from 258 lb-ft of low-end torque at 2,400-5,000 RPM! That’s pretty awesome to get all that torque at such low rev, and in a relatively light car (curb weight 3,615 lbs.) that translates into fast off-the-line acceleration. I definitely surprised a few drivers in 335is expecting this to be just something you buy for the brand prestige.
Passing on the highway is also not a problem. The 101 freeway in the Bay Area is full of old on-ramps that were designed when cars could barely muster past 60 MPH. They are extremely short and merge with off ramps, basically a recipe for disaster as you try to merge onto the freeway and others try to slow down and exit in the same 10 yards of pavement. I had a few near misses but the C350 was able to get me out of tough spots without any issues. It is quite responsive and as I mentioned before, handles very confidently despite the light steering feel.
The C350 feels fairly tight on corners and confident around the curves. The suspension was pretty stiff and the ride was tight, as you’d expect on a sport sedan. The steering is too light for a sport sedan. Compared to the Infiniti G37, BMW 335is and the Audi S4, the steering wheel felt large, light and non-sportive. I give it a B+ for handling in the company of these other sport sedans.
As I mentioned before, I’ve never been a huge fan of Mercedes-Benz styling. That being said, it is distinctive and everyone you ask can definitely point out a Mercedes in the parking lot. I always feel that the style is very ornate and there’s almost always too much going on. Mercedes-Benz’s attempt at modernizing its style has seen mixed success, in my humble opinion, and the latest and edgier designs are much better than the days of those silly peanut-shaped headlights. The distinctive Mercedes-Benz look still works better on larger cars like the E-Class or the S-Class, though. The lines and surface shapes almost don’t have enough room to play out on the C sedan. The large grille needs to be matched to a bigger and longer body. All this being said, this current C class is the best looking small Mercedes-Benz since the W201 190E, last sold in 1993.
Overall, the Mercedes-Benz C350 is a competent player in the crowded market segment of near-luxury sport sedans. It offers competent performance, solid German engineering, sound build quality, a comfortable interior, Mercedes safety and most important of all, brand cachet. It doesn’t try to optimize on performance, nor does it optimize on space, but it is a solid all-around player with the most prestige. The near $44 grand (the tester has upgraded leather seats, iPod kit, TeleAid and AMG 18 inch wheels) you spend on this car can buy you more performance, a bigger car, and more features, but you can’t buy more snob appeal in this segment than the C350.
Who should buy it?
So if you’re more concerned about what people think of you at the office than enjoying a Sunday drive on a curvy highway, the C350 is for you. Actually I’m not even sure how much credibility you’d get with the C class, since most people know this is the smallest Mercedes and the kind of people you want to impress probably would never consider anything smaller than an E-Class. So it’s really a toss-up who should buy the C350.
To summarize, the C350 offers decent performance, solid build and just enough brand cachet to impress the kids (or parents). For the same money, however, you can buy something with more emphasis on the “sport” part of sport sedan. I would not buy this car. I feel somehow that it is more of a fit for a young professional female who likes to brunch at the latest trendy café in Beverly Hills before going shopping at the Century City Mall. But then you don’t need the C350, just go with the C300 and save yourself some money for that shopping trip.
|Official website for Mercedes-Benz cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.mbusa.com|
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