The word “character” gets thrown around a lot in the car world.
As if to say, the way a car feels, sounds, and drives somehow compiles itself into the personality profile of the car, which in turn gives rise to acclaim and desirability in certain circles. Character, I best define, as a tangible element that goes beyond the cumulative sum of parts, and resonates with both the logical thinking and the emotions of the driver.
When I first drove the pre-facelift (W205) C300 AMG Line more than three years ago – I was blown away by its looks, power, and all round pizazz – yet came away feeling a bit wanting, because as good as it was, it handled very nervously on bumpy roads and the engine’s powerband wasn’t as linear as it should have been.
Hence, that intuitive feeling of being one with the car was never quite there. Not in the same way, I felt with the less powerful and less expensive C250 AMG Line, which was my absolute sweet spot in the C-Class range.
Following the introduction of the facelift, which brought with it more power and tech, has the C300 regained that invaluable allure of proper driver engagement and hence, character?
Introduced at the tail end of 2018, the updated C-Class range introduction was highlighted by the inclusion of the C200 with EQ Boost technology, which employs a 48V electrical architecture and belt-driven starter/alternator. A new 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine produces 184 hp and 280 Nm, EQ Boost power supplements another 13 hp when accelerating.
The C300 AMG Line we see here was more familiar, the moniker having been carried over from before, albeit with the new (M264 – same family as the C200 but with one more cylinder) engine now made to produce 14 hp more than the previous unit. Torque remains the same at 370 Nm.
Both the C200 and C300 are mated to a new 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission that offers smoother shifts and better response.
The range is topped off with two Mercedes-AMG models: the C43 and C63S, which feature a 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo engine (390 hp/520 Nm) and 4.0-litre V8 bi-turbo (503 hp/700 Nm) respectively.
Both the C250 and C350e models have been dropped from the local lineup.
- Price: RM304,888
- Engine: 2.0-litre, Inline-4 Longitudinal, Turbocharged Petrol, Direct Injection
- Power: 258 hp @ 5,500rpm
- Torque: 370Nm @ 1,300rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed torque converter automatic with paddle shifters, RWD
- Safety: 7-airbags, ABS, ESC, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist with Steering Correction, Brake Assist, Forward Collision Warning
- Origin: Locally-assembled at Pekan, Pahang
Exterior updates on the C300 include a redesigned front bumper and the trademark AMG Diamond Pin grille. Additionally the headlamps have been updated with Multibeam LED units at the front while the rear LED tail lamps get new C-shaped light guides. The rear bumper gets a new lower section redesign.
Along the flanks, the C300 gets the same 19-inch 5-twin spoke wheels previously offered only on the C43 model.
All in all, the C300, especially in its AMG Line guise delivers a graceful yet sporty design which still looks as good rolling down the road as its German counterparts, namely the BMW (G20) 330i and Audi A4 2.0L TFSI.
On the inside, the C300 also receives the AMG Line treatment with beautiful and tactile open pore ash wood trim on the centre console, contrasting the technical looking steering wheel controls of the AMG three-spoke steering wheel.
The interior is offered in either black, red, or brown (as seen here), which helps create a very stylish cabin space. The seats themselves are supportive (front and rear). Ample front seat adjustment also help you find a comfortable driving position quickly. A Burmester sound system completes the experience with crisp and powerful sounds.
The W205 C-Class is still the high-watermark in terms of interior design and quality in my opinion; yes, the G20 3 Series interior is newer (and much better than its predecessor is) but it just falls short of Mercedes in terms of overall design, quality perception, and execution.
This is where the pre-facelift C300 fell short of expectations previously; arguably, its job was made even tougher because the C250 already offered such a beautiful balance of comfort and dynamism, that it was easy to look past the C300’s oodles of additional power and focus solely on how nervously it handled on a bumpy roads.
That had a lot to do with the 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres which would hop all over the road at the slightest provocation, essentially pitching the entire car out of line making it a handful even at city speeds. The problem is only compounded when one starts to pile on more speed. The engine too, as powerful as it was, offered a rather narrow effective powerband which meant, you could get caught out sometimes with either having too little or too much power depending where you are in the engine’s rev range.
The former has been greatly ameliorated in the new C300. Despite the wheel and tyre sizes being the same – the new car rides with substantially more composure and less stiffness when not under heavy suspension loads. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mercedes has performed some subtle suspension tweakery, because after ten minutes of driving the C300, I instantly felt so in tune with the car and its steering responses.
I started to trust it, finally!
The steering is quick and makes easy work of pointing the car down a chosen line, while good body rigidity means the C300 remains planted mid-corner and true at corner exits. And when you need to calm proceedings down the brakes offer up massive stopping power and ample pedal modulation.
This as you might surmise, gave rise to pushing further into the car’s performance envelope – at times unleashing all 370 Nm of torque, which comes online just after 2,100 rpm and keeps pulling with authority up until 6,000 rpm. With 258 bhp at your disposal, the C300 makes light work of covering great distances in a single seating and gets even better when you start to hammer it down winding B-roads.
For comparison, its closest competitor the (G20) BMW 330i remains the benchmark in terms of steering clarity, and a lithe and dynamic package in the corners. However, truth be told, it too can be caught out sometimes being a bit too intense on certain roads, in which case, the C300’s slightly more gentlemanly nature would be a better compromise – depending on the type of driver.
I started out this conversation with how an amalgamation of features and functions in a car can somehow produce a tangible element I call the character.
In much the same way character refers to the mental and moral compass of a person, the character of a car would refer to the intuitiveness and clarity when you drive the car and the resulting physical responses that translate themselves into a personality of sorts.
The C300 was previously never short of talent in various aspects, but somehow, when that array of talents came together during the process of driving the car, it never felt truly in union such that you could never jive with it naturally.
Therefore, the new C300 is even more impressive that a few updates during the facelift have greatly given the car in its entirety a lot more fluency (when driving) and dynamism when you need it, and when you trust it to be at your disposal. Finally, becoming the car it always should have been.