Sunday, September 9, 2012

Test drive: A week with the Mercedes C250 in Los Angeles

Mercedes C250 in front of Hollywood Sign
If you look closely in the background, you can see the Hollywood sign, haha. I cashed in some of my Hertz points and rented a Mercedes C250 on vacation this week in LA. As a Mercedes enthusiast, I loved the car, but even if I wasn't an enthusiast, the car was a lot of fun. Click through for my review.

Mercedes C250 in front of Griffith Observatory
The C250 is Mercedes new turbocharged I-4 base model. Having previously driven the C300 with its V6, I could definitely tell the difference. In "Economy" mode, the car was sluggish, but in "Sport" mode, the turbo kicked in quicker and reminded me of my old Saab 9000. It is a blast to drive in Sport mode, and handles exceptionally well given the RWD setup. At times, the car's burst of speed was a little too much to handle on LA's terribly clogged 405 and 10 Freeways. The suspension soaked up potholes and the brakes were very responsive in stop-and-go traffic. It was truly a pleasure to drive on highway and local roads.

Mercedes C250
The C250, like the rest of the C-Class, is a sharp-looking car. One of the many design features that sticks out to me is the LED DLRs, which look menacing during the day. The new CLS-style headlights and LED taillights look fantastic - a large improvement over the last-generation's taillights. I don't really get the space-age side-view indicator lights, but I don't mind them either.

Mercedes C250 interior
The interior of the C250 was, for Mercedes standards, bare-bones. Having driven the C300 and E350, I instantly noticed the lack of in-dash navigation, which almost made the COMAND stick useless. I also didn't love the sparse layout of the steering wheel buttons. Thankfully my car had Sirius radio, which was a godsend while sitting in traffic. My model had aluminum trim, which I never like in cars because it always has a plasticky feel. Wood, despite often also being plastic, just looks better. Also, who uses the little phone buttons on the dashboard? Most Mercedes owners probably have Bluetooth-enabled phones, no? I thought the ambient lighting could have been more dramatic; the E350 is clearly outfitted better, but then again, it costs more. Some of the plastics used in the car were a little disappointing, notably the flip-up armrest, which would have better in leather as opposed to hard plastic.

Mercedes C250
Little touches like the aluminum gas and brake pedals, power lumbar support, power headrest, and of course the sunroof really stood out for me. Despite the minor gripes of the C250 being a bottom-trim model, this car is exceptionally good. Many will argue that the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series are a better buy, but I would get the C250 over either of them. The exterior styling is more distinctive, the engine is more brutish (yes, even for a turbo-4, it had an awesome grunt), and the interior layout is pleasing. While the interior material quality probably isn't up to par to either the Audi or BMW, the other factors would win me over.

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