As I took my first drive in a new C320, a weekend jaunt on a fine stretch of two-lane that snakes tightly over the Cascade Mountains, I pondered a car that, to me, is a bit at odds with its subtle, understated advertising campaign.
The "Live. A Lot" ad campaign that we’ve all seen previews the new C-Class as a car for younger baby boomers to splurge on and maybe hold on to their youth. But the initial feel from behind the wheel was more that of a spirited, driver’s car, rather than the stylish and practical, albeit a bit stolid and reserved feel I got from experiences with the old C. Truth is, the C-Class has changed a lot, and even if M-B doesn’t necessarily want to think of the new C as a BMW chaser, it’s going to steal some sales away from its German rival.
At first glance, the C-Class retains a similar outward appearance to the car that it replaces, but at second glance you begin noticing subtle but dramatic changes in the new car. The near lack of any front overhang, and a long, sloped windshield are the most apparent changes, as well as a more raked appearance to the grille and headlights, the unusual headlight shape reminding me of the shape one might see in a lava lamp when those gooey globules are fusing together. From every angle, the new C is sharper and more curvaceous.
Mercedes-Benz attests that it didn’t forget about safety with the C-Class’s bent toward a sportier image. Dual-stage front airbags, side curtain airbags, and side door airbags for front and rear are standard. Dynamically, the company’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) continues to be standard on all Mercedes-Benz models for 2001. The system incorporates various sensors, including yaw sensors, to determine when there’s a loss in driver control and correct for it using the throttle and anti-lock braking system. Also standard is the unique Brake Assist system, which assures that full braking force is delivered during panic braking.