Today we really wanted to see some water. We’ve gotten our first 2015 C-Class models in, and it’s been on our list to explore them. It also happens to be mid-October, which is prime time for fall to make its appearance. It’s gorgeous outside.
We’re having our launch party for the C-Class and GLA-Class next week at Dos Taquitos, and to prepare for those, we’ve written full reviews of each car. We want people to have a strong sense of these vehicles whether stopping by or going online. We wrote about the GLA a few weeks ago and now turn our attention to the C-Class, which is where our hankering to see some water comes in.
But first things first: what kind of C-Class are we reviewing? The model we chose for this review is a C300. It’s well-balanced in terms of its options, neither chock-full nor Spartan. The exterior is a demure shade of Palladium Gray, and the inside has a dual layering of chocolate and cream leathers. Right away we can tell that this is a different level of vehicle than the GLA.
While the GLA was rugged, fun, game, and direct, the 2015 C-Class has a more elevated tone. The center console is beautifully covered in glossy Linden wood with a look-at-me posture. The dashboard and door tops in chocolate brown leather beg to be appreciated. High-end Burmester speakers in the dashboard and doors are wonderfully polished in aluminum, every inch the stereo-lover’s dream. Even the rear doors get these lovely speakers, making rear passengers just as attended-to as the front’s. The step up from the GLA is clear.
So, on to the water. It’s human nature to be drawn to bodies of water. It’s why we like lakes, love beaches, build pools and take cruises. For some reason today, we wanted to find a body of water—call it a mini-vacation—so off we went.
Attempt Number One: Durant Nature Preserve
The first body of water we found on Google Maps was the Durant Nature Preserve, which billed itself as a “Quiet, woodsy retreat with hiking trails” and a small splash of blue on the map. This also gave us our first test of connecting our smartphone via Bluetooth® and using our maps app over the C300’s stereo system. We wanted to try navigating from our phone and the C300’s built-in navigation, so this was part one of our comparison test.
After a brief stop at Jubala Coffee in Lafayette Village (kudos to you who guessed correctly on our Instagram hint), we punched in the address for the nature preserve and let our smartphone do its thing. Connecting the phone to the car was super easy, and following our phone’s directions was a cake walk. We sipped coffee, adjusted the climate control settings and played with the sunroof all while Google Maps relayed directions as clearly as ever.
We should note that although the C-Class has a turbocharged, four-cylinder like the GLA, the C-Class offers considerably more horsepower and torque. The 2015 C-Class is 200 lbs. lighter than it was a year ago, which helps it to feel agile and winged on its wheels. Although we did most of our driving in the Eco+ driving mode, which maximizes fuel-savings over neck-straining acceleration, the C-Class was quite peppy. We did try each driving mode (Eco+, Comfort, Sport and Sport+), and we’ll let you know later on how that was.
In any case, within a few minutes our phone proudly deposited us at the nature preserve, which is to say it put us right at the beginning of a very long dusty and gravelly road. Nature preserve, indeed. Although we’re sure it was wonderful, we didn’t want to dust or ding our new toy with sharp rocks, so we decided to find another source of water.
Attempt Number Two: Annie Louise Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park
Google cited this one for its open fields and although it seemed to be more green than blue on the map, there was a small splotch of blue in the middle, which would be good enough for us. Plus, it gave us an opportunity to try out the C300’s navigation system. Using the glossy, piano black rotary controller and touch-sensitive finger script writer, we enter the Wilkerson address.
One thing we immediately like about this system is how it handles audio. Whenever our phone needs to say something, it stops the music, says its piece, lets a few seconds of uncomfortable silence go by, then resumes the music (the FM jazz station, if you were wondering). The C-Class’s system, however, turns down the music to where it’s still audible, gives its direction, then immediately restores the music.
It sounds like a small thing, but it makes for a much pleasanter experience. The C-Class also seemed to use more natural and relaxed language than our phone’s more stilted app. We could listen to a jazz pianist tinker away at his solo, take a right on Falls Neuse, then a left on Raven Ridge, and never miss a note. Mercedes-Benz also did a good job insulating the cabin from road and engine noise. Jazz music comes first for us, and a car that shares that priority is a friend of ours.
As we made our way into the preserve and found its office, we saw lots of construction but not a lot of water. The desk attendant explained that the park was undergoing renovations and expansions, and that the pond could be accessed via a hike on foot. That’s okay, we said; maybe another day. We had been hoping to find a body of water we could drive up to.
“Have you tried the dam?”
The attendant pointed out that the Falls of Neuse Dam was just a bit north of us, a few minutes actually.
“You head out on Raven Ridge the way you came in, then take a left on Falls Neuse, then another left when you see the sign.”
Attempt Number Three: Falls of Neuse Dam
Getting back in our car, we noticed two things. One, the C-Class has a pleasant chime when you open the door. Keyless entry is a delightful modern touch that lets you never use your key again. The beauty of this is that the car unlocks itself for you and gives you this musical tone when you open the door. Charming. The second thing we noticed is that the seat belt squeezes you upon starting the car. You’re not going anywhere!
The jazz station is featuring a guitarist now, letting him set a playful theme that mirrors our quest. The sun’s peeking out from behind the clouds and we can better appreciate the tinted sunroofs—wider up front, more sculpted in the back. These integrate nicely into the molded aluminum of the C-Class’s dove-tailing roof.
We poke our way into this final preserve and finally see it, a quarter-mile of straight-edge concrete that separates Honeycutt Creek from the Neuse River. There are a few parking spaces on our side and we park. A mother and her daughters are having lunch down by the water’s edge at a covered picnic table. A pair of teenage boys scarf down some fast food in their car, escaping school for a half-hour. A man jogs down the length of the dam, his yellow training shirt marking his steady progress.
The water is a calming site, a vast anthem of force held back by something we managed to dream up. A controlled fissure lets a stream trickle out the river on the other side, and we can see some men fishing down below. It’s quieter here, and we can’t remember the last time we saw a dam. Our quest sated, we snap a few photos on our phone, and let the C300’s door whuff itself closed, sealing us back into our chaise of soft leather and jazz, now a smoky-throated lady vocalist.
We had no real plan for how we would fulfill our quest today, and we’re surprised that it worked out. Leaving the dam, we toggle the C-Class into Sport+ mode and are surprised again when it leaps forward with eager direction. After dutifully ferrying us around today in Eco+ mode, the car feels much happier when we utilize its 4MATIC® all-wheel drive and tune the engine to performance. This is a much more lively car than we’d realized, preoccupied as we were with water and coffee.
The C-Class is a popular model, and Mercedes-Benz has clearly made an effort to please the faithful with a more comfortable, enjoyable version for 2015. Our C300 oozed luxury touches and textures, brimmed with smart technology, and was wrapped up in a lovely body. Without even touching the higher-level C400, we still enjoyed a premium audio system, back-up camera, and touch-sensitive scripting system. The C400 boasts a considerably stronger engine, as well—we can’t imagine how fun that must be.
There’s a definite sense of distance between the CLA- and GLA-Classes and the C-Class. All three are Mercedes-Benz’s through and through, yet the company makes sure to reward those seeking higher levels with even more luxurious touches. It’s the sort of escalating philosophy that makes us wonder what the latest version of the E- and S-Classes are like, which is a nice note to make on our to-do list.
The C-Class sets such a high-bar in the luxury sedan segment, yet augments its commitment to driving fun with a less weighty body and masterfully-controlled engine. It’s a car that pleases every one of its passengers, and certainly this driver. We highly recommend.