Mercedes-Benz C250 family wagon transformed
VEHICLE CAN BE ADJUSTED TO THE ROAD CONDITIONS
SUVs are where most of the action is in the new vehicle market but Mercedes-Benz is not about to give up on the more traditional station wagon.
While sports utility vehicles may offer plenty of room and a higher driving position, the advantages often come at the expense of the driving experience available in sedans and station wagons.
Given that the vast majority of SUVs rarely venture off-road, why make the sacrifice — or better still, opt for an estate car offering greater driving agility, and plenty of space.
The Mercedes Benz C 250 Estate fitted with the optional Airmatic Agility Suspension fits this bill.
This is technology passed down from the larger and more expensive E Class models, to the medium-sized C Class models.
The system, which adds around $2500 to the $89,900 cost of the C Class estate, adjusts the damping force on each wheel according to the state of the road.
On poorer stretches of road, or where you need additional ground clearance, you can raise the vehicle level manually by 30mm simply by pressing a button on the centre console of the car. The optional extra also gives the driver four different settings in which to enjoy the driving experience — in default comfort mode, sports mode, sports plus mode, and eco-pro mode.
Driving from the (mostly) silky-smooth Auckland Northern Motorway north on to Northland’s rough and fast-deteriorating roads provides a good contrast of road conditions, and the Mercedes wagon handles it all well.
But in the Sport and Sport+ modes the ride is firmer and steering more precise, with the wagon eager to demonstrate its sportier capability. For a medium-sized wagon this vehicle is remarkably agile.
Another aspect of the suspension package constantly monitors the level of the load the vehicle is carrying to ensure it maintains a level position, no matter how rough the road surface.
While the system doesn’t pretend to offer the flexibility of a full cross-over or four-wheel-drive SUV, it does provide a better ride quality and more of a sedan-like driving experience, even over rougher roads. At high speeds the vehicle lowers itself to further reduce wind resistance and to increase stability.
At the same time the wagon offers better aerodynamic performance than the boxier and more square-shaped SUVs and cross-overs.
From a practical point of view, there is plenty of space in the wagon, especially with the rear seats folding down to provide a flat floor space. With the rear seats up the wagon has a boot capacity of 490 litres, and when the rear seats are folded flat, there is a whopping 1510 litres.
Creating this carrying capacity is simple — instead of having to lever the rear seats down, in the Mercedes-Benz wagon they fold down with the press of easily accessible buttons on each side of the rear compartment. The rear door of the station wagon can also be opened by waving a foot under the Mercedes star, beneath the rear of the vehicle.
The rear door is closed by pressing yet another button on the base of the door.
Where most SUVs may have the advantage on the C Class estate is height in the rear of the vehicle. Instead of carrying square, tall objects, the Mercedes-Benz has a long and lower load-carrying capacity.
But then drivers wanting van-like carrying capacity are unlikely to be looking at the C Class wagon.
Those who are looking at it as an alternative to an SUV are likely to be won over by the driving dynamics of the car, which are superb.
There are also luxury-class features such as adaptive cruise control, a stop-start function and keyless entry with hands-free access.
The willing four-cylinder 1991cc direct-injection, turbocharged engine puts out 350Nm of power. The wagon is rear-wheel-drive, another feature likely to appeal to those considering a more comfortable and sportier drive than an SUV.
Inside there is plenty of room and the electric seats can be positioned to suit any shaped driver, by simple levers on the doors.
The model tested has a manufacturer’s list price of $89,900, and apart from the agility suspension was also fitted with the Mercedes Command package (GPS mapping and a superior Sennheiser surround-sound stereo system), worth $2990, and the Vision Package, which includes two panoramic glass sunroofs with heat-insulating glass.
The current C Class Mercedes has been widely acknowledged as a class-leading model since its introduction last year, with its agility and handling particularly being widely acknowledged.
The agility suspension option broadens this appeal and the wagon adds practicality to a visually stylish package.