If you were already driving in Manila when the toll fees to Alabang cost as much as a stick of Marlboro Lights today, you’d know that a Mercedes-Benz is a sensible luxury.
In the 70’s, you would have argued that a car that costs three times the price of another can never be practical. You would have done the math and realized that your “Chedeng” would outlive anyone else’s Jap crap five times over - in addition to sitting on some sprung leather seats, genuine wood trim, and supreme German engineering. The premium on a Benz made sense. Today, I can tell you that a Toyota Camry rides just as nicely, smells just as good, and will most probably live just as long - if not longer. So what now? The oligarchs who saw driving as a chore for peasants have exchanged their German land yachts for Toyota vans.
That’s why there are more Toyota Alphards around the Forbes Park area per capita than any other place in the world. It doesn’t matter if I’m wrong, because you know it’s true. If it isn’t factual today, it will be in 10 years. The same old hags who bought a Mercedes-Benz for sheer symbols of success and opulence are the very same who think that the idea of it being exciting is ridiculous. You can’t blame them either, because a Mercedes was built to never excite you for a very long time, and if that’s the case, then a pair of La-Z-Boy chairs in a van should do the job better. I’d keep my S-Class, thank you very much.
The S-Class is a different story altogether. It is the reference point. It has revolutionized everything we know about luxury cars and it is the reason why the Mazda6 or the Ford Focus you’re driving is so capable today. No matter how great a BMW 7 Series may become, it will never be revered the same way - even if the Bimmer learned how to serve you sushi.
No aspiring professional golfer will ever say, “I’d like to be the next Rory McIlroy”. I mean, who is that? The S-Class is Tiger Woods and it always will be, even if it starts banging the nanny of its babies. Speaking of babies, that leads me to the baby S-Class. You know, the one from the first family - the polarizing yet highly desirable, C-Class.
"The 7-speed gearbox is so smooth, I worried it would just slip out of the chassis."
Mercedes may have always had the upper hand in the uber luxury barges, but in the more compact segment, where the driving experience actually matters - BMW has had their number since day one. The 3 Series has been the pound-for-pound champion. In almost every attempt of its rivals from Audi, BMW, and even Lexus to create a 3 Series beater, the Bavarians have always managed to lay them flat gazing into the stars before Round 1 even ends.
Over the years, the A4 has been a glorified Volkswagen Passat, the Lexus IS a Toyota in P. Diddy’s jewelry, and the C-Class, just lost in its multi-personality disorder. In one generation you had a car for driving enthusiasts, and in the next, the obvious choice if you were a Filipina nurse in the United States. It’s been very messy for the compact sedan from Stuttgart, but I think, they’re out to redeem themselves with this one. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
The best knows no alternative.
This is the current generation C-Class, dubbed the W205. And yes, pull your jaw back from the floor. It is painfully gorgeous. As a matter of fact, it looks like a compressed S-Class and that can only be a compliment. Mercedes have gotten the S-Class wrong at times, but never in recent time have they gotten it so right - and it trickles down to this hearts-in-eyes-emoticon kind of beautiful C250 AMG Line. Just by walking around it and taking in all its exterior details, it immediately strikes you as being significantly more expensive-looking than its German rivals. The car sits proudly on the driveway like it knows it was born into royalty.
The AMG Line with its aggressive body kit and stunning multi-spoke 19-inch wheels only make it even more desirable. The way it’s been put together is a lovely marriage of modern touches with classic ones - like the way the LED headlights mesh into the large tri-star grille. There’s no piece that’s too loud or takes away too much attention from the total entity of the car’s design. It’s like Behati Prinsloo walking into a bar in a long black gown versus strutting in the catwalk in a skimpy bikini with wings stuck on her back. In other words, it is beautiful and sexy, yet elegant - without any compromise.
Unleash your senses.
Inside, it only gets better. The cabin is haute couture. It has been designed to be so pleasing to the eye, you couldn’t be blamed for not wanting to blink. Everything that you touch is of the highest quality, except maybe for the centre stack which feels like high-gloss plastic. There’s leather everywhere and stunning brushed aluminium trim. If it were up to me, I would have gone with the wood trim - but since that is the AMG Line, I assume sportiness is what they were after. Speaking of sport, the seats hug you and give you so much lumbar support, it will put your chiropractor out of business. On second thought, maybe it won’t because the driving position is slightly off-centred.
The 13-speaker Burmester Surround Sound System® makes the cabin look so lovely, but I will admit that I found it underwhelming considering how expensive of an option it is. Don’t get me wrong, they sound good when you’re in the correct musical genre, but it’s not the most versatile system. The surround sound feature, as Miguel and I discovered, only destroys the sound stage - which is why we turned it off. It’s good, but the Fender Audio System® on the Volkswagen Golf GTS will blow it out of the water. Of course, the Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound System® on the Porsche Panamera is the reference point, except it costs as much as a Suzuki Swift. I’d take the audio system, by the way.
The cabin space is surprisingly good too. I noticed that when the driver isn’t as tall as I am, the rear legroom is huge. It’s a shame that there isn’t a rear centre armrest on this particular car. How could they have missed that? Here’s the thing about cars like this. Most that will buy or drive this in the Philippines are either 55 year old executives or their 20 year old girlfriends, neither of which will appreciate an AMG-tuned sport suspension - so turn off Marvin Gaye, keep your pants zipped, put your hands on the wheel and bury the throttle. The stiffness would’ve been justifiable if it contributed positively to the car’s handling, but it hasn’t. It makes it edgy and nervous as you approach the limit.
There’s the steering too, which is as numb as a cocaine addict’s gums. When you turn the wheel, it gives no reaction whatsoever and then before you know it - you’re already facing the other way. And then we have the COMAND system, one of the most confusing on-board computers to navigate. When you go deep into the system, it feels like you’re floating in the Pacific Ocean, and you’ve not a clue where North, East, West, or South are. Mazda does it better and simpler. I expect more from something that’s been around before World War I.
Special sets the standard.
As far as I know, we buy luxury cars not solely because they have the best technology or because they’re the fastest. These are coveted by many simply because they offer a lovely experience that is almost always a realization of a dream. Shutting the door of this C250 is an event in its own, because it sounds just like the old W123s - a nostalgic nod to build quality supremacy. The 2-liter engine is sensational and the 7-speed gearbox is so smooth, I worried it would just slip out of the chassis. The interior is, there’s no other word for it, special. In conclusion, buying any of its rivals is a good choice, but not all set your heart ablaze.
You can have an Audi A4, which is like a Tartufo ala Linguini - bland, conservative, yet utterly delightful. Then you have the BMW 3 Series, a Gorgonzola and Blue Cheese Wagyu Burger that’s edgy, sensational, yet extremely familiar. You can’t go wrong with a burger. And finally you have this, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which is a Poached Goose Foie Gras au Torchon - an overpriced French Laundry masterpiece that can only be fully appreciated by those blessed with the gift of taste. The first two might be more complete, more filling, and more exploitable, but neither of those will be the one you’ll be talking about and craving for in the years to come.
The best or nothing.