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2008 C-Class Driving Impressions
I had been looking at the 2007 C-Class and decided to wait for the 2008 to see if I liked it better. My impressions:
New car is larger in a good way - doesn't feel bigger when driving, but the added width is appreciated (in 2007 model, my shoulders would rub against the B-pillar). It does have more total legroom, but since I'm 6'4" with long legs, no one above the age of 8 is going to sit behind me.
Ride seemed a little rougher than the 2007, but the cars at the dealers all have the 18" tires, which may have contributed. Ride is still better than the Lexus IS or the G35, comparable to BMW. I'm sure the Luxury model will be quite smooth.
Quality impressions - there have been many articles about how Mercedes put a lot of effort into ensuring the quality control of this model is better than the prior edition. It shows when you are in the car - it is well assembled and the materials all have the feeling they will last forever. I suspect that the quality scores of the new model will be better (JD Power).
Engine/tranny - feels OK, probably needed some more miles on it before it opens up, tranny worked as expected.
Controls, etc - generally fine. The cars at the dealers all have the Multimedia package on them with the Nav system and the Mercedes I-Drive. I like the placement of the screen up higher than in the 2007 model, good brightness and legibility. Yet, I still wouldn't buy my car with this ($3000, when I can get a Garmin for $300). Harman Kardon audio system was nice, but, it only comes with the Nav system. Mercedes should have left this as a stand alone option, or put it in the P1 package (w/o the DVD changer). Again, the salesperson said "customer research" told Mercedes people didn't like all the stand alone options on the 2007 model - generally I agree, but then make sure the option packages are properly created. I need to hear the base audio system to see if the quality is materially different, however. The I-Drive generally works OK, takes a few minutes to get used to it, but fairly intuitive. Would have preferred the Nav/Multimedia screen to be linked to the controls on the left hand side of the steering wheel - seems odd that Mercedes would encourage you to take your hands off the wheel and reach down to fiddle with a control while driving. Aren't Germans the ones who said having cupholders in a car was bad??
Seat controls - moved from the door panel to the side of the seats - the salesperson said this was the result of "customer research". Being in that field myself, I told him that sometimes customers don't know what the **** they are talking about. Having controls on the side of the seat isn't better than having them on the door, and the car lost a little bit of its "Mercedes-ness".
Cruise control placement - for the love of god, why didn't they move it? Again, Mercedes said they moved the seat controls because thats what people are used to, but yet they have a cruise control on the left side of the steering column thats too close to the turn signal stalk. Every other car in the US has the cruise on the steering wheel, or on the right side of the wheel. I hit the cruise control 3 times during the test drive while attempting to use the turn signal.
Seat comfort - this was the most disconcerting for me. Again, I'm quite tall, so its hard for me to get comfortable in most cars, esp. cars this size. I liked the 2007, it was a car I felt immediately comfortable in - good front legroom, good seat height, solid seat cushions, etc etc. For some reason, during my 20 minute test drive, I kept fiddling with the seat controls trying to get comfortable in the 2008. One thing that is quite noticeably different between the 2007 and 2008 is the dash design - the 2008 dash slopes up toward the windshield and seems much higher than in the 2007 (which is basically flat). I felt like I was staring into the dashboard, and not thru the windshield. When you raise the seat to help minimize the claustrophobia, the back of the cushion raises, but the front doesn't raise as much. Therefore, you get the sensation that the seat cushion is flattening and sliding you forward into the steering wheel - not a good sensation. When I put the seat down to get more comfotable, I felt like I was sitting in my old Honda Accord - i.e. "on the ground". Granted, I'm not the most rep person size wise, but my wife is 5'2", and I imagine the high dash will be an issue for her. I'll find out tomorrow.
Mercedes Henry Ford color schemes - I was really hoping the Sport models would come in something other than a black interior (yes you can get gray seats, but still the black dash and steering wheel I believe, and not gray leather). Black is simply too hot in the summer, plus is a little dour. This is one area that the [non-permissible content removed] have an advantage on - much more color flexibility on the interiors. I could buy the Luxury model, but I really like the external appearance of the Sport model. Is it so hard to offer a beige/tan interior on the Sport??
Curious to hear what others think.