The new Mercedes C-Class against Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series

Exchanging a few pleasantries with the Mercedes? Oh no, the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series will certainly not stop there in the first comparison test against the new C-Class. It's not like it's all about winning.

Just the thing with the graph paper! Really, that's a 1982 hello: Mercedes puts the hundred and ninety..." - "What can I do for you?" Jessasmariaundjosef, what was that? Well, on the one hand a sign of advancing aging - how else should you interpret it, when you start telling younger passengers about the past? And on the other hand? The voice control of the C-Class chattered in because it felt directly addressed by the word combination "Hello Mercedes”.

But we won't get to the past here anyway After all, it's about the future - at least the question of whether Mercedes with the new C-Class can now win again against the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series the predecessor distinguished. Since then, it has been part of the essence of their competition to drive and drive each other forward. Most recently, the 3 Series, which came onto the market two years ago, was ahead in comparative tests - already e.g u much past? Audi has since updated the A4. And now: a new C-Class, which is still an event.

In addition, the A4 45 TFSI Quattro and 330i xDrive compete against the C 300 4Matic - all with four-wheel drive, automatic and four-cylinder turbo petrol engines with an output of around 260 hp. If you think that this is the most exciting of all the most exciting tests of the year, then we will be happy to agree with your profound expertise, especially in the celebration of our anniversary year. But now no more operas are talked about, it starts.

C 300: the more C-des

But wait, we still need the graph paper because it brings us to the rear axle: for the 201 car, the 190, the Mercedes engineers designed an independent multi-link rear axle from 1978 after the Prototype of the C 111. Until then - so the legend goes - they drew drafts on graph paper. Because the five-link construction requires precision down to three-hundredths of a millimeter, a computer comes into the house on which the developers, who despise modern devil stuff, work out and test 60 variants.

Do we want to build a ramp with this anecdote to mourn the loss of the better from before? Ramp yes, but not for that. Whereby we are pleased that it is precisely such a completely analogous metal construction such as a rear axle with steering and not something co-programmed that constitutes what is possibly the most decisive advance of the C-Class. Because like the S, the C now also steers at the rear – for an additional charge of 1,250 euros.The rear wheels steer at a maximum of 2.5 degrees – counter to the front wheels at speeds of up to 60 km/h, which reduces the turning circle by a good 40 cm and increases maneuverability even in tight corners. Above Tempo 60 they steer in parallel. This virtual wheelbase extension ensures more driving stability at higher speeds and especially on fast motorway bends.

We'll find out in a moment whether this will work. But first, let's take a look at the C-Class. Since it has been said with every new edition since 1993 that it is now a real small S-Class, the surprise should be limited that the interior is based on the model of the top model. So here, too, is the large central touchscreen, which organizes the operation through to climate control, seat massage and assistance systems. Despite the enormous range of functions, handling is easy after a short period of familiarization. A remarkable amount of operation can also be discussed with voice control - even the color of the ambient lighting.

Then there's the instrument display with the option to view the traffic around the car. There are only a few real keys. So you can't avoid fumbling around with the steering wheel buttons, which react even worse than usual in the test car.

Do you have to make a drama out of it now? Sure, what else? Apart from the slightly bulging upholstered front seats and the strongly inclined rear seat backrest, the C-Class hardly offers a chance to do so. With slightly expanded dimensions, it accommodates its passengers with a little more space - which should always be sufficient, but never spoil, so that there can be no doubt as to whether purchasing an E-Class really means a step up. The trunk, unchanged in volume, can be expanded as in the others, but only here the three-part rear seat backrest unlocks and folds with a button pull.

One more button press, now onto the launcher. The 48-volt generator brought the four-cylinder engine to idle speed almost immediately (more on engine technology at the end of the article). Selector lever to "D" and the Mercedes rolls off powerfully - kindly supported by the starter generator, which boosts the combustion engine with up to 200 Nm. During braking phases, it recuperates energy that is temporarily stored in a battery and supplies the vehicle electrical system when the system is in Eco mode when coasting and switches off the engine.

But now the M 254 is there, touring up to thousands of revs - intense in temperament and in the heartiness of the sound. In addition, the nine-speed automatic can rarely push the two-liter from low speeds, even when gently accelerating from recommended speed on the highway, hectically switches one, two, three levels back. Wouldn't be necessary, especially as consumption increases.Despite the most complex efficiency technology, it is the heavy Mercedes in the test average with 8.6 l/100 km over BMW (8.4) and Audi (8.2) - whereby such differences in cars in the 50,000 euro area hardly cause an uproar among buyers should move. In fact, all three are remarkably efficient for a 260hp, 155mph, four-wheel-drive automatic turbo sedan.

It's not that long ago that such fuel consumption was only achieved by small cars, such driving performance only by sports cars and such suspension comfort as in the C-Class only by luxury limousines. Mercedes no longer offers air suspension for them - only the plug-ins get level control with air chambers on the rear axle. There is as little to regret about a great loss of tradition - Airmatic was only available for the previous C generation - as there is a loss of comfort. The softness with which the sedan with adaptive dampers (1,071 euros) smoothes over even rough bumps comes very close to the quality of the Airmatic. Even in comfort mode, she has the body movements under control - until you let the chassis show what handling it's capable of.

It's finally worth activating a sport mode with tighter characteristics for the steering, drive and dampers. Even so, the C springs even better than the 3 series in its comfort level. And yet the car moves closer to you - because of the grandiose steering. Up to that point, she had steered the car smoothly and calmly, without being overly excited. On feedback, she played back what was relevant. Her brilliance was revealed in a discreet subtlety. But when you need it, it's all there - with superb precision and finely dosed feedback, still without rush or sharpness, but with hasty polish. The fact that the rear wheels are also steering is particularly noticeable in the fact that the C-Class scurries even more nimbly and nimbly through tight bends or steers through fast corners with almost unshakeable safety.

Today you can unwind a few hundred irrelevant kilometers on the motorway with her, taken care of by comfort, the impeccable all-wheel drive and the well-positioned assistance department. Tomorrow on your way home you'll be doing three downhill runs early so that you can whiz down a few country lanes for fun. In this way, the C-Class – unlike the A4 and 3 Series – opens up a range of driving pleasure.

Yes, it was expensive, but Mercedes no longer advertises with the price anyway. Different - so much folklore must be - than in 1993 with the first C-Class (from 40,825 DM). But adjusted for equipment and with test-relevant extras, the C 300 4Matic is cheaper than the 330i xDrive and hardly more expensive than the A4. But the two will certainly not yield a millimeter now.

A4 45: Ing. from Ingolstadt

Well, with the A4 it would probably be even more accurate to claim that he doesn't even want to allow the Mercedes a head start the size of a zero joint.Ah, the zero joint, which term could perhaps not describe the character of the A4 as an engineering car more poetically, but certainly more aptly? When it debuted in 2015, this put the A4 under pressure – it was chilled instead of cool, nerdy instead of charismatic. That's why Audi is botoxing its flanks outside with the 2019 facelift and moving the touchscreen and large digital instruments into the cockpit.

Since then, the C-Class and 3 Series have come close to the A4 in terms of material and processing quality, and have overtaken it in terms of operation. Its touchscreen sometimes reacts sluggishly, the menu structure is sorted too nested, the voice control is less understandable. So the Audi doesn't have much that makes it stand out.

It does create a little more space for the passengers, offers the most comfortable seats and costs the least after adjusting for the equipment. Due to the lowest weight and the highest performance, it works out a small advantage in terms of acceleration and fuel consumption with the two-liter turbo, which is initially hesitant to start up and then sounds hearty when revving up. Like the 3 Series, the A4 idles the accurate but often jerky double clutch box when coasting. In addition, the all-wheel drive only transfers part of the power to the rear axle via the central multi-plate clutch and a claw clutch when there is a real or pre-calculated need for grip, leaving the A4 mostly only with front-wheel drive.

But the differences are so small that he only gains a few points with it. When it comes to assistance, it is at the level of the Mercedes, but it cannot match it when it comes to suspension capacity with the adaptive comfort suspension (690 euros). Despite good response, it doesn't get the swaying under control so quickly after long waves, and the heaving movements at the rear only late on short ones.

The sport mode of the chassis hardly changes anything about that. Which is because he hardly ever changes anything. The engine does not respond much more spontaneously, nor does the steering feel more grippy or the handling more spirited. In the meantime, one perceives less cool feedback in the A4 steering, and lack of precision was never their problem anyway. But it still only creates a connection between car and driver, but not solidarity. Unlike the flawless driving safety or the vehement brakes, you probably don't have to expect that from a premium sedan. However, the C-Class and 3 Series show that you can expect it.

330i: Sport with a view

Because especially as an M Sport, trimmed up with sports steering, tires, transmission and differential, the 3 series clamps you behind its sports steering wheel in sports seats (certainly there are also sports floor mats and for the ski season winter sports rubber mats). Whether you like it or not, he can't just let you sit and drive in front of you, he's a non-stop entertainer, a never-ending entertainer.

Yes, it's a 3-series again like, well, like the young 3-series, let's say, as an E30 or E46.For this purpose, the technicians tightened the chassis and expelled all comfort fluff. So he doesn't bother with subtleties, even in the comfort mode of the adaptive M chassis (600 euros) he jostles harshly over bumps of any kind - if he makes any difference at all, he lets short bumps through even harsher. This is tiring on long motorway tours, as is the 330i's rear-end jolting on ruts, because the stiff steering responds sharply to even small corrections. But you know: When the 3 Series unpacks its handling brilliance on country roads, it was worth every effort before.

On our favorite winding streets at the monastery, the steering no longer looks pointed or fidgety, but sharply honed. It is then even more precise than that of the Mercedes and much, much more feedback-intensive - so much more intensive that it not only reports back, but actually bumps harsh potholes back into your steering wheel.

The sport differential puts the balance in mild oversteer, the all-wheel drive puts everything back in balance when things get too close to overflowing - all good when it comes to driving safety. Also with the brakes, sorry, sports brakes: Here the 330i decelerates the most.

Second strongest: the acceleration, there it remains a few insignificant tenths behind the Audi. And even though they all have very similar two-liter turbo petrol engines, you still notice that this is a BMW engine: snappier in response, more greedy and yet more cultivated when revving up, coupled with the always well-designed ZF automatic transmission, that sorts its eight levels nimbly, quickly and precisely.

It sounds banal, but sometimes it doesn't seem so obvious with other new cars: The 3 Series is a car to drive. Perhaps even the service is part of this concept. She organizes the whole range of functions cleverly and in low-threshold menus, with excellent voice control (or the strangely fidgety gesture control) in order to distract as little as possible from driving. If the enthusiasm drove us too far, we might even explain the narrowness in the back seat as just another element that makes the 3 Series a pure driver's car. But not with us. Instead, we inform factually that the 330i brings a similar everyday practical variability as the others, fewer assistance systems, but the most extensive equipment at the most extensive price.

Not that alone costs the 3 in the end first place. The C-Class works this out point by point over the entire route. That's why the Mercedes can't be snatched away from victory - especially not in the final millimeters.

Spotlight: Mercedes engine M 254

200 Nm and an additional 15 kW should boost the mildly hybridized two-liter engine to more temperament and efficiency.

The working principle of the four-cylinder turbo petrol engine? The boost or nothing.Because that's exactly why Mercedes uses the 48-volt mild hybrid technology in the M 254, but we have to start with the gearbox - like the starter generator, which sits behind the petrol engine on the gearbox. With up to 15 kW and 200 Nm, the electric motor supports the combustion engine, which not only starts particularly quickly, but also gets up to speed nimbly, while the boost pressure is still lukewarm at low speeds. In order for the turbo to respond better, the designers (with the technological support of the AMG Formula 1 team, as the press kit proudly reports) have further developed the twin-scroll technology. The segment charger separates the flows of cylinders 1 and 4 as well as 2 and 3 so that the air flows do not whirl up each other and do not delay the response of the charger.

In overrun phases, the e-machine generates energy that is stored in a battery. The 48-volt on-board network uses it to supply the electronics and electrics when the system control switches to idle and switches off the engine in Eco mode during coasting phases. Because of the mild hybridization, the C-Class is only available with a nine-speed automatic transmission.


1. Mercedes C 300 4Matic 647 points

Everything that makes a Mercedes at 4.75 meters: outstanding comfort, superior, smooth handling and the most careful safety at a sublime price. The C is worth it, not because of the drive but in spite of it.

2. BMW 330i xDrive 640 points

Everything that defines a BMW at 66.6 km/h: brilliance in terms of dynamics, handling and operation. For this he gives up all ambitions for comfort, but also comes close to the Mercedes because of the more sovereign drive.

3. Audi A4 45 TFSI Quattro 635 points

Everything that defines an Audi in 5.6 s? Well, not quite, because the spacious, fast, efficient A4 sits oddly succinctly between its rivals in both dynamics and comfort. Price: not that high. Service: not so clever.


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