Mercedes C350 Saloon Review

Best Exec Saloon Money Can Buy

By Imthishan Giado

It’s the classic young exec dilemma – should I buy a 3-series, or a C-Class? Rakish performance, or baby limo comfort? Well, the choice just got a lot harder because the C350 saloon is a cracking good car – but is it enough to beat the mighty BMW?

First things first – this is by no means a new car. For 2012, the C-Class has received the mildest of refreshes with a slightly softer front end that brings its new Coupe cousin to mind, while the interior gets a materials uplift and some improved switchgear. Otherwise it’s business as usual for the baby Benz, with a major update still a few years away. Sober, serious, refined are the words you employ, not breathtaking or pantswettingly gorgeous.

Nevertheless, this is still a good looking, handsome machine, the kind that’ll get you into all the best hotels. While BMW is still recovering from the Bangle era of outrageous art-school flourishes and Audi pursues its Bauhaus-inflected minimalism, the C-Class remains the epitome of of restrained elegance.

One box you have to tick is the AMG pack. Without it, the little C comes with small wheels, no bodykit and generally looks like the kind of car Daddy gave his sweetheart when she turned 16. AMG mode on and you get proper pumped up wheel arches, chunky six-spoke alloys and AMG badges on the sills and the boot. Sure, it’s not really a C63 but there’s no harm in dreaming, is there?

Interior time

Inside, the C’s a good place to be, thanks to the uprated materials. The old C always felt a bit low rent at times – the plastics were soft to the touch, but they lacked the fine tactile sheen you get from the higher end of the Ingolstadt catalogue, and much the same could be said of the leather used in the interior. Well, if you spend lots of money – AED247,093 to be exact – you can get the C350 trimmed out to the same level.

To my eyes, the screen nestled in the centre of the speedo now boasts slightly sharper graphics, as does the centre console display. Shame the ergonomics aren’t perfect – the control wheel is still firmly on the passenger side of the interior and that could lead to er, uncomfortable moments if you reach too far. I’d also like some BMW-style shortcuts for commonly used functions like the radio and telephone – as it stands, you have to navigate your way through the COMAND system or use the steering wheels controls, and neither is absolutely ideal. Of course, Mercedes really wants you to use the Linguatronic recognition system but I gave up on that after about two attempts – Siri, it is most definitely not.

Six-footers will find the accommodations to their liking – those Germans are a big bunch, after all. In the back, there’s reasonable room as well, although tall backseat passengers might have the front seatbacks brushing against their knees if there’s an equally sized occupant up front. As always, the rear seat squab could be higher – long journeys might be wearing. Still at least there’s plenty of room for your odds and ends in the luggage compartment – at 475 litres, it’s comfortably clear of the BMW 3-series (450 litres) and very nearly as much as the king of big boots, the Audi A4, which boasts 480 litres.

On the Road

We drove the C350 coupe recently and that was absolutely an revelation, a car which genuinely made us wonder if it was all the car you’ll ever need. This Fire Red saloon isn’t nearly quite as good – it’s carrying a good bit more weight and length, with the suspension resolutely leaning towards ‘sporty’ rather than ‘sportscar’. Nevertheless, the steering is sharp and accurate, if somewhat devoid of feel on the straightaway bits and the car obediently tracks your inputs, body roll largely kept to a minimum. It’s not quite as pinsharp as the coupe, and definitely less thrilling through the corners than the new 3-Series, but considerably more interesting than an Audi A4.

What it also does very well is being immensely comfortable. Even with the big 18-inch AMG wheels and slightly firmer suspension, it’s a relaxed cruiser, never bouncing around like some track day monster. It’s matched to a relaxing engine – the 3.5-litre V6 which belts out 306bhp and 273lb ft of torque matched to the now-ubiquitous 7-speed auto which is resolutely tuned for fuel economy. Yes, you actually can hammer through the gears and exploit this six-pot’s surprisingly strong midrange, but why would you? Far better to imperially waft past traffic, the automatic cleverly keeping the torque curve pinned to its most effective point.

Special mention has to be given to the radar cruise control system which, short of the one in Bentleys, is possibly the best out there. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to not having to drive, and frankly eerie how it patiently maintains pace on the highway, even managing to deal surprisingly well with the kind of last minute lane dodgers our highways are infected with.

Why bother with anything else?

More than anything else, buying this car defines the kind of driver you aim to be. Buying a C350, you clearly care about your badge, but you’re old money rather than new, and resolutely uninterested in anything approaching the vicinity of a trackday, more in arriving at your destination cool, calm and collected. Like its coupe sister, this is a truly great car, precisely because of how well rounded it is, bordering on obsessive perfection.

You may never raise pulses, but to paraphrase the good gents from IBM, “nobody ever went wrong buying a Mercedes Benz.”

Mercedes C350
Price: $45,850 (base price)
Engine: 3498cc V6, 306bhp @ 6500rpm, 273lb ft @ 3500-5250rpm
Performance: 6secs 0-100kph, 250kph, 6.8L/100
Transmission: seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 1610kg

One response to “Mercedes C350 Saloon Review”

  1. Caddy Guy says:

    Its a good car but overpriced. Id prefer a Cadillac ATS anyday over the C350.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.