Mercedes C220 C-Class - 4000 miles around UK

YW lives with a C class Merc – is this all the car you ever need?

4000 miles in any car should be enough to get over the initial excitement of its arrival, find little niggles, foibles or failings, even grow to loath the beast. Or conversely, learn to love, find unexpected features, flashes of brilliance. Will impressions change over time? In our case, a month at the wheel of a Mercedes C Class proved to be equally enjoyable throughout.

Mercedes C220 CDi - scampers through arching Devon lanes

Delivered in Sport trim, this CDi version had an appealing stance, shod with wide rubber on AMG 17 inch rims and subtle cosmetic appendages. Mild disappointment followed when learning that our mount was the 220 diesel version. This is not the lowest engine in the pecking order ( there’s a 200 ) but is overshadowed by 250 and 350 versions with commensurate power and performance advantages. Our time with the Merc took us from cloudiest Cornwall, through deepest Devon, sunniest Somerset…I think you get the idea. All the way to naughty Northumberland and a million other places en route.

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Mercedes C220 C-Class - bombing over bumpy roads in Northumberland

Mercedes C220 CDi - pausing on the causeway to Holy Island

Nothing remarkable about this trip: any car could have got us there and back, but such is the progress of development of diesel engines, that it can be achieved in a comfortable mid range saloon car at a brisk pace, and still achieve spectacular fuel mileage. On the hardest driving over twisty roads we clocked 37.5mpg and on a long motorway trip close to 50 mpg. You’d be lucky to average 25 mpg in a comparably quick, mid-size luxury petrol car. Nor do you sacrifice performance: pull out of a roundabout onto an empty dual carriageway, floor, no… squeeze the throttle, and vigorous acceleration ensues in a forceful, progressive manner. Complete antithesis to the ’90’s peaky 16 valvers and turbos, these dynamic diesels pump out the torque of a petrol V8 with the frugality of an econobox. Better still, your passengers won’t be secretly eye-balling the speedo, as the low revs sooth and comfort rather than alarm and electrify – tension avoided for both driver and companion.

But don’t just take it from us: Motoring photographer, writer and trackday trainer Neill Watson of joined us for the Northumberland leg of the trip and spent a good proportion of it at the wheel. Once he’d pushed the seat right back to accommodate his lanky legs he was off, storming across the empty moors and was immediately impressed with the car’s dynamics and body control. Over to you Neil:

Mercedes C220 CDi - Neill Watson at the wheel

Mercedes C220 CDi AMG – One of the most complete engine & chassis packages I’ve driven in years. The fact that it’s all built into what’s basically a middle-manager’s family saloon car makes it truly remarkable. So what’s the big deal?

Firstly the engine. It makes useful power just off tickover, rising to a lovely shove in the back by 2,000rpm that just keeps going. OK, so it’s no 5.5 V8 AMG, but for an engine this size, it’s quite remarkable the amount of mid range power it has. It’s what I call ‘real world’ performance, where it’s more important to make it past that long truck safely than to set a 0-60 time. It’s got a couple of other interesting little touches too, such as the way the throttle blips itself when manoeuvring at low speed. Many turbo diesels can be surprisingly easy to stall if you just catch them wrong, off boost, as you move around a car park. The C Class gives the throttle what felt like a series of small blips just to build a bit of boost and stop that happening – a nice little touch that shows the car was engineered by human drivers that spent time behind the wheel fine tuning it.

Mercedes C220 CDi - low roll on sharp corner

Secondly, the chassis. On the cross country route we had before us, the damping was simply superb, particularly in rebound. In fact, it had probably the best rebound damping of anything I’ve driven, never mind in the ‘standard’ type of car market it’s aimed at. Down dips and over crests, there’s none of the secondary ‘bounce’ upwards after the initial bump, just a controlled movement that inspires confidence. Couple that to a fluidity to the low speed bump that smooths out motorway surfaces and you have a remarkable mile eating car. Across the fast twisty country roads of Northumberland, I honestly think you’d have needed to be in something seriously quick such as an M3 V8 or Porsche GT3 to stay with us, yet as YW says, the lack of drama means that you could drive very quickly without your passengers being aware of it.

Mercedes C220 CDi - lapping up Northumberland's superb roads and scenery

After a long day dashing from one photo location to another, the long drag back down the A1(M) was easy, punctuated with a bit of fun I had with the torquey motor. Behind us was an over eager Golf GTi, waiting to pounce as a truck moved from the outside lane. A very subtle “one, two” pause on the throttle meant that GTI Man had to get off of the gas just at the wrong moment, he’s wrong footed, we’re in 4th gear, zap goes the instant torque and we’re gone, stretching half a dozen car lengths with a complete lack of drama as he fumbled his downshift. I know I shouldn’t, but I just couldn’t help myself….

It’s quite a while since I’ve enjoyed driving a car as much as this. The fact that it’s a smooth, totally unobtrusive saloon car just makes it more fun.

However the last word has to go to YW photographer Tim Andrew: ” Brilliant car, but give me the estate version ;-)”

You can follow the Merc’s exact routes by going to the Mercedes website. Click on “My Mercedes” top right and then on “Dream Drives” (you have to register there first)

Mercedes C220 C-Class - No go in Dorset, road closed for military activities, forces long route round

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