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Enjoys class of upscale Mercedes

The new 2008 C-Class from Mercedes-Benz took an active role in the recent film National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The chase scene through the streets of London was one of the largest that city has ever witnessed.

The Jerry Bruckheimer movie used landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and Southwark Bridge in a pursuit scene that required 40 stunt people, 70 logistical support vehicles, 50 extras and nine cameras to pull off.

Six Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars were used, many heavily modified for camera rigging and stunt driving paraphernalia.

Our tester Steven Riegert didn't get to be an extra in the movie, but he did get to spend a week driving around Calgary's landmarks in the completely redesigned 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic. Our test car wasn't rigged with movie equipment, either, but it did come with the $3,200 premium package.

Riegert, 26, is an engineer and was born and raised in Calgary, where he learned to drive his parents' 1995 Volvo 850 Turbo Wagon. He was brought up reading Road & Track and TopGear magazines, and has some performance driving school and track experience under his belt.

Riegert's C300 4Matic was finished in obsidian black metallic paint. Included as standard equipment in the entry-level luxury car was the seven-speed automatic transmission, Bluetooth integration, auto-dimming mirrors (rearview and driver's side) and heated front seats.

The Mercedes made a good first impression. Riegert liked the car's aggressive front-fascia styling, and adds says it had a decent side profile with interesting character lines. "But the rear three quarter angle looks frumpy, and not up to the (styling of) the rest of the car," he says.

The Mercedes-Benz media website says this about the C300: "The design of the new-generation 2008 C-Class sedan evokes effortless sportiness and confident style. Above all, the interplay between its taut lines and broad, rounded surfaces makes for a clean, yet expressive look. "

A DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine provides that performance, and while the engine makes a respectable 228 horsepower Riegert felt the acceleration wasn't snappy enough for him.

"Upshifts on the seven-speed automatic transmission are very smooth, (but) power off the line is soft and throttle response is marginal," he says.

Driving the Mercedes-Benz on the highway to Banff, Riegert liked the cruise control, adjustable in one km/h or 10 km/h increments. There was little speed loss uphill, and the car was quiet on the highway.

Riegert was happy with the sport suspension, and says the car handled Deerfoot Trail with aplomb. He found the C300 was tight and had very little body roll in corners. Mercedes-Benz's permanent, all-wheel-drive system -- 4Matic -- performed, as it should, behind the scenes and without Riegert noticing it was functioning. The 4Matic system varies the amount of torque delivered between front and rear wheels, but starts with a 45 to 55 per cent ratio favouring the rear.

"The C300 was a very solid vehicle, and felt like it was carved from a granite block," Riegert says.

And that's a reputation Mercedes-Benz has always fostered. The C- Class was introduced in 1993, replacing the 190-series automobiles that had been on the road since 1983. The 2008 C-Class is the third-generation Mercedes in the entry-level luxury segment. And the engineers did something right, as the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) judged the 2008 C-Class Best New Luxury Car in its annual Canadian Car of the Year awards.

Riegert's first car was a 2003 MazdaSpeed Protege, and he says that was a car he didn't particularly like. He kept the Mazda for three years before purchasing a 2008 Toyota Yaris RS.

"At this point in time, all I need a car for is commuting back and forth to work. For me, it was strictly about reliability and fuel efficiency, and I'm not too concerned about looking flashy."

But the Mercedes had some convenience features he grew to appreciate, like the heated, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat and the bi-xenon headlights.

He liked the interior fit and finish, with its tight panel gaps, and notes there weren't any squeaks or rattles.

"There was tons of room inside," he says of the cockpit. "The rear seat passengers also had plenty of leg and head room, but it seemed like the trunk was a bit small. Trunk space would be adequate for four people (on a road trip) as long as they didn't pack too heavily."

At the end of the test, Riegert felt the 2008 C300 4Matic would be an ideal highway cruiser, able to pull hundreds of kilometres in comfort and luxury.

He figures the car best suits someone in their early to mid-30s, and who is established.

Although Riegert wouldn't rush to dish out the $50,190 (price as tested) for the C300, after the driving experience he says, "When I'm ready to move upscale, and (shop for something) with more options and badge appeal, Mercedes-Benz would be on my list now."

The Specs
  • Engine: 3.0-L, 24-valve DOHC V-6
  • Horsepower: 228 at 6000 r.p.m.
  • Torque: 221 foot-pounds at 2,700 to 5,000 r.p.m.
  • Wheelbase: 2,760 millimetres
  • Overall length: 4,581 millimetres
  • Curb weight: 1,695 kilograms


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