Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Black-on-Black 2011 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Sport

C300 at Barber Motorsports Park.  Photo by Kathie Steele
Recently I had the opportunity to attend MBCA | Alabama Section’s Heimatfest 2011, held at Barber Motorsport Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Because this was an MBCA event where the cars were as much a part of the event as were the members, I picked up a new 2011 C Class sedan from my local Mercedes-Benz dealer’s Enterprise rental fleet to drive to the event.

This was your basic, no-frills service loaner, and it provided me with a chance to experience the W204 RWD first hand. The size of the vehicle is excellent for everyday driving, with an excellent turning radius and very good handling, especially in sport mode, where the transmission tends to be a little more spirited, as opposed to the fuel saving economy mode.
C300 Engine compartment.  Photo by William Hopper
However, my first impression was that for a base model, the 3 liter engine and seven speed automatic transmission is very powerful for daily driving as well as highway situations. After taking it on a parade lap at the Barber Motorsports Park Track, it made me yearn to try out the 350 or AMG 63 version, as this one was a bit out of breath when I stomped on the accelerator. Because I was on a budget, the fuel sipping virtues of the 300’s engine were perfect with MPG’s in mid-to upper-20’s in town and low 30’s on the highway, cruising at posted highway speeds, using $4 a gallon premium gasoline.
The black-on-black in the sport trim gave the vehicle a classic, though athletic look. The durable M-B Tex was impressive. The dash and door panels had faux wood trim, making it feel a bit more upscale than a previous C300 I had driven with brushed aluminum trim. Although not equipped with navigation, satellite radio or MBrace®, the standard audio system had weather band, a classic Mercedes-Benz touch, very helpful when traveling to follow weather conditions along the way. The unit was Bluetooth® equipped and easily connected to my mobile phone, making it safe to talk hands free.

The W204 C Class interior is roomy for driver and passenger, but leg room for rear passengers can get tight if either are on the tall side or like the seat back. This model had basic power seat functions, and the console/armrest had plenty of storage inside. The two level glove box was roomy with plenty of storage space, and featured an air vent to keep it cool. The dual front to back cup holders also worked well to hold more than just a water bottle, like an iPod or other electronics. The W204’s trunk is quite roomy and there was no stuffing in suitcases or the other various items I was carrying for my 10-day trip. I was also impressed with the use of space within the engine compartment, and could see that this model was designed to accommodate more than just the base engine.

C300 at GWS Autocross.  Photo by Harry Newman
To test its handling and sportiness, I attended our section’s autocross. The electronics caused the car to correct itself during maneuvers around pylons, cutting power, keeping the operator out of trouble, just as it should if it were in a real-world situation. Once the program was defeated through the steering wheel controls, the car maneuvered excellently with only a hint of the advanced electronics. On the road, I took it on the legendary Tail of the Dragon in the Smokey Mountains. An eleven-mile road with three hundred and eighteen curves from Tennessee into North Carolina. This twisty road traverses up and down hills deep in a heavily wooded National Forest. A road that you do not want to speed along, but quite that fun to drive in the right car. The C300 was sprightly and handled well on the tight hairpin turns, the right car for this kind of drive!

Leaving the mountain roads and heading back to the Interstate, while driving through a small town, the local constable saw me and quickly turned around and tailed me until I reached the town limits. A black-on-black Mercedes-Benz, even one that is a stripped down rental car, turns heads!  

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