David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

Practical Caravan's expert puts the latest Mercedes-Benz C220 Bluetec Estate through its paces to reveal what tow car potential this prestige wagon has

Overview

This latest C-Class is the Mercedes-Benz contender in the compact executive market, and the estate version is a rival for the likes of the BMW 3 Series Touring and Audi A4 Avant. We’ve been driving a C220 Bluetec Sport diesel – and its official figures promise impressive performance and excellent economy.

But what we want to know is, is this diesel as well-rounded on the road as it appears on paper? And does the C-Class tow well enough to justify its premium price-tag?

Towing

So, what tow car ability does the Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate have? The manufacturer quotes a healthy 1615kg kerbweight for the C220 Bluetec Sport automatic. That gives an 85% match figure of 1373kg, so many mid-sized caravans make sensible partners even for inexperienced towers. The legal towing limit is 1800kg and the noseweight limit is 100kg – that’s on the high side for a car of this size, useful if you tend to load up the front locker.

We pulled a Swift Expression 586, supplied by Michael Jordan Caravans, with a Mass in Running Order of 1389kg, an 86% match. At motorway speeds the C-Class felt solid and composed. Some slight corrections were needed, but nothing out of the ordinary, boding well for your caravan holidays. 

In an emergency manoeuvre, the Mercedes C-Class refused to be pushed around. Grip from both ends of the car was secure and although the comfort suspension fitted to our test car allowed some roll, the Merc never felt untidy.

Even with a caravan in tow, you shouldn’t need to wait long to overtake dawdling traffic. The C220 Bluetec's 2143cc engine has 295lb ft of torque, enough to pull the Swift from 30-60mph in 9.5 seconds.

On the road, that kind of muscle means that you rarely need to use full throttle, even when towing up a steep hill. The seven-speed automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly and is seldom caught in the wrong ratio for long, adding to the sense of seamless speed.

The brakes are easy to apply smoothly, but have enough bite when you really need them. On a damp track, car and caravan stopped from 30mph in 10.6m.

In a hill start on a 1-in-10 slope, the electronic parking brake held the outfit still and released smoothly. The Merc pulled to the top without fuss, and found the same slope in reverse just as straightforward.

Everyday driving

We have now driven two versions of the C-Class, one with sports suspension and this car with comfort suspension. We much prefer the comfort set-up. It’s controlled enough for swift driving, without making you feel every imperfection in the road.

The Agility Select system allows the driver to choose between five settings for the throttle, gearbox and steering. Sport weights up the helm and sharpens the throttle, but most of the time the Comfort mode is easiest to live with. 

On the motorway, the C-Class is serene. Road noise in particular is well suppressed, and the engine has plenty in reserve. However, it’s a shame the unit isn’t more refined on start-up and under acceleration. Its coarse engine note is at odds with the Mercedes' otherwise urbane nature.

Without the weight of a tourer, you get the full benefit of the diesel’s punch. Overtaking may be noisy, but it’s over very soon!

Space

The fit and finish of the cabin in this Mercedes C-Class now set the standard for the compact executive class, and give Audi and BMW some work to do. To some eyes, the tablet-style colour screen looks a bit of an afterthought, but there’s no arguing with the quality feel of the switchgear and the flair in the design. This is a very pleasant place to spend time.

Those in the front get plenty of space. Legroom in particular is huge, so even very tall drivers should find a comfortable position. Rear-seat space isn’t quite so generous. Legroom is similar to that you’d find in an A4 or 3 Series, but there’s no shortage of mainstream estates that offer more room in the back. That said, we’re always pleased to see air vents between the two front seats.

Boot space passes muster beside other premium rivals, but many estate cars offer more luggage room at a much lower price. There’s 490 litres with the rear seats up, rising to 1510 litres with them folded.

Running costs

There’s no getting away from the high price of this Mercedes-Benz. The resale values of prestige cars often help offset the purchase price, but the C-Class’s 44% retained value after three years is good rather than great.

Official fuel consumption figures promise low diesel bills, at 64.2mpg combined. We achieved 27.4mpg when on tow.

Technical specs

Engine size2143 cc
Kerbweight1615 kg
85% KW1373 kg
Towball limit100 kg
Maximum towing limit1800 kg
Power168.0 bhp
Torque295.0 lb ft
Official MPG64.2 mpg
CO2115 g/km
30-60mph9.5 seconds
30-0mph10.6 m

Verdict

It’s a shame that the Mercedes' diesel engine isn’t more refined, and there are certainly cheaper and more practical estates on the market. However, these criticisms aside, the new C220 Bluetec Estate is a very appealing car. 

It tows very well, has ample performance and the quality of the cabin is beyond reproach. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Cabin quality and design are exceptional
  • Front legroom is impressive
  • It tows well and is stable at motorway speeds

Cons

  • The diesel engine is not too refined
  • Luggage space is good but not exceptional
  • It's not a cheap option
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