Column inches are always bulging with driving impressions at MOTOR to the point that often we don’t get to talk interiors enough.
And it’s important: a car could drive like it was built in the factories of heaven but if being in it was like sitting on a pallet in an Iraqi prison, you probably wouldn’t be so keen for that blissful driving road to go on forever.
Much was made of the new W205 Mercedes C-Class interior when it launched and let’s be frank straight up, it’s a lovely place to sit. Three months in to our C43 long-termer, we genuinely look forward to jumping in for any drive no matter how long. A near perfect seating position is achievable, for this 173cm scribe at least, and the electrically-adjustable Performance seats – pinched from the C63, and part of a $4990 optional Performance Package – look great, are terrifically supportive and comfortable.
With these seats and the microsuede on the steering wheel you could be sitting in a C63. And if part of the reason you’re keen to lay down $106,890 (as-tested) is for a quality, luxo-feeling interior, you’ll be very happy with the C43.
Having now spent more than 4000km in 1IC-6RE, the relationship is truly deepening and we want things to go further. It’s charming other testers in the office. And we’re not only ‘getting’ the whole concept of a snorting, turbo V6 all-wheel drive C-Class with AMG badges, but warming to it.
But it’s not all been fairyfloss and kittens. We must take issue with Merc’s infotainment system, COMAND. We’ve gone through all its menus, tried to learn its shortcuts and have given ourselves time to get used to it. The verdict is in: it’s far more complicated to use than it needs to be.
It’s not quite right that a sense of relief washes over us whenever we get into the C43 and notice everything is already sorted. Radio is already on the right station? Thank god. Phone already connected? Phew. And we’ve never been more grateful for a good voice control system – the COMAND’s is top-notch – as entering addresses is a breeze and means we don’t have to manually enter it into the system. And subsequently commit homicide.
To get the best out of the COMAND system it feels like you’d need to sit down with a Mercedes person and have them spend a morning training you on its use, which says something about its intuitiveness. And even then, we don’t think it would be superior to the systems of its German rivals.
Next, the cruise control: excellent at maintaining speed up and down hills. Can’t turn the radar bit off? A little annoying. Fortunately you CAN turn off the feature where the car “drives” itself down the road. The semi-autonomous “Steer Control” will, with the cruise control on, steer the car down the freeway with no hands – until it starts chiming at you to put them back on.
Great for removing lids off drink bottles when you’re doing the long-haul solo, but we’ve no clue what else people would use it for, particularly as it can get confused easily if the lane markings themselves go awry.
But, again, there’s an off switch for this. And the infotainment system? It lets the interior team down a bit, as everything else – material quality, fit and finish, roominess, aesthetics – is more or less fantastic.
The clunky COMAND is far from deal breaking and you can learn to get along with it. You’ll need to, as the C43’s interior is a place you’ll be wanting to spend time.
Sitting in it, for any amount of time
Weird rattle in sunroof over cat’s eyes – what’s with that?
Seeing 850km distance-to-empty after a fill
Fuel this month: 9.2L/100km
Distance this month: 1965km
1. IN STEREO
The standard Burmester system certainly looks cool (the speaker covers) and we’d describe it as ‘not the best we’ve heard, but good’. We’re not audio reviewers but our sense is, to most ears it will be more than satisfactory.
2. SCREEN PLAY
Classy iPad-esque screen not touch responsive, and doesn’t fold away, but display does switch off.
Heads-up display shows speed and navi info. There’s also an AMG mode with quasi-shift lights and gear position.
4. ON P-R-N-D
As it does for most models now, Merc shuns a centre console transmission lever for this simple, space-creating if somewhat emotionless selector stalk on the steering column.
5. NICE WHEEL
Dinamica (Merc’s version of Alcantara) covers the main touchy bits of the optional Performance wheel. It’s lovely, if at times a little slippery, and worth keeping in mind how it’s going to wear. We recently saw a GLA45 Edition One, a few years old now, and the Dinamica wheel was surprisingly worn. Perhaps AMG should take a tip from Audi, who flip the microsuede/leather arrangement which is almost nicer to hold and might wear better.