The BMW 3 Series has always been the driver’s car of choice in its segment. Mercedes is now gunning for top honours with the more powerful C 250d. But can it match the effervescent nature of the BMW, or does it merely come with better bragging rights? In an attempt to find out, Abhishek is reminded of a ghost…
Do you know that slimy blue ghost? Well, actually, you may not! Allow me to elaborate. As a kid, I had this friendly blue ghost in my imagination that would swoop out from under my bed and beam at me. Thanks to my parent’s scare tactics, I was programmed to be afraid of ghosts. But, secretly, I would be disappointed on nights when I was too tired to spot my blue companion slithering out. It gave me an adrenalin rush of sorts, as I tossed from side-to-side in at attempt to avoid it.
And strangely enough that’s what this BMW 320d M Sport, in its rather attractive shade of Estoril Blue, reminds me of. I’m sorry, but this thing is as far from a luxury sedan as can be. The moment you so much as go near ‘Sport’ mode for the powertrain, the 320d responds with razor sharp throttle response and quick gear changes. Make no mistake, I love the way this car drives but I’m always a bit afraid of its trigger-happy nature – which always puts me dangerously close to breaking the speed limit pretty much everywhere.
Surely, however, some part of the 3 Series’ character must have appealed to Mercedes-Benz – as the C-Class recently has gained a more powerful diesel engine option in the form of this 250d, which now makes it more potent than the 320d with 201bhp and 500Nm on tap. On paper, then, the C 250d has 14bhp and 100Nm more than the BMW 320d.
Is it just me, or do you smell a battle brewing here? Right, I’ve cracked my knuckles and it’s now time to get behind the wheel of both these cars to see just how the more powerful C-Class takes on the driver oriented 3 Series.
Let’s go for a spin in the new car first. And, immediately, the C-Class feels so much more of a luxury car. The cabin is very quiet, the ride is supple, and the throttle response is so much more linear. Prod the right pedal deeper, and the C 250d behaves nothing like the BMW. Even though this is the more powerful car here, it feels like all of that power is buried under a nice cushy blanket and you don’t really get that kick-in-your-back acceleration like in the Beemer. Instead, you just get a nice surge of power as the nine-speed gearbox works seamlessly to propel you forward in a smooth manner. Now that’s more like a luxury car, isn’t it?
And because the C 250d doesn’t respond with the immediacy of the 320d, I’m not tempted into mashing the long pedal and nudging the speed limit every time I’m in the driver’s seat.
However, the other day I came out of some slush and onto tarmac in the 3 Series with the traction control off. And, as I drove onto the mud-coated tarmac and buried the throttle the car neatly wagged its tail as I managed the controls and then set me off on my way. The fun aspect of the 3 Series simply can’t be ignored, and out on expressways the responsive powertrain of the 3 Series really makes it a fantastic car to drive – while always making you feel as though there’s more than 188bhp and 400Nm under the hood. It carves corners in a planted and confident manner, making it a hoot to drive. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is sharp to respond, and compliments the driver-oriented nature of the car.
Factor in the M Sport body kit, and it looks the part too as it appears to have been lowered – thanks to the body kit. The sporty theme of the car is further accentuated by the 18-inch M-spec alloys, while on the inside the M Sport steering wheel really looks nice – as does the alcantara and carbon fibre trim on the dashboard and centre console, further highlighting the car’s intentions.
The Mercedes, though, has much more sedate interiors in line with its character – sporting lots of leather and quality switchgear. Although, the dummy switches for the manually adjustable front headrests aren’t really in character with a 46-lakh Rupee car.
But that’s pretty much all that I can complain about, as everything else in the C-Class is just right. Seat cushioning is perfect, and the ride is supple – making for very comfortable journeys, as the suspension quietly dismisses road imperfections. The steering, while offering decent feedback, is light to operate at slow speeds – making for a very comfortable drive in the city.
In fact, when I was required to run a mid-day office errand I chose to go in the three-pointed Star as it’s just so comfortable to drive in traffic. And that says a lot about a car, because sometimes on a busy street – of which we have more than a few – all you want is a comfortable car.
Little wonder, then, that the C-Class is currently the best-selling car in its segment – with 432 units sold in June ‘16 alone. In fact, that makes it the highest selling luxury car in India at the moment! I think that may have something to do with its miniature S-Class like exterior design too, which, personally, isn’t to my tastes.
The BMW, on the other hand, asks more in terms of commitment from its buyers. Its stiff suspension setup won’t make for a ‘luxurious’ ride in the true sense. But attack a corner at speed, and you’ll see how the heavier steering and flat ride inspire so much more confidence in the driver. And, to me, it definitely looks better too.
Make no mistake though, while the BMW feels fast in a more outright manner, the C 250d will propel you up to serious speeds without you even realizing. Both these cars are fast – it’s just a matter of whether you prefer the sensation of speed or not.
These are very different machines – one is an expensive suit that’s also very comfortable, while the other is a set of designer gym gear that’s designed to allow you to stretch and breathe. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which you’d rather have on more of the time.
- Mercedes-Benz C 250d
- BMW 320d M Sport
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 201bhp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,600rpm
Price: Rs.45.98 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: The C-Class is now the bestselling car in its segment, and by quite a margin. While the car has all its bases covered, the more powerful C 250d appeals to those looking for that little bit more from behind the wheel.
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 188bhp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,750rpm
Price: Rs.46.11 lakhs (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-FACTOR: With its body kit, larger wheels, M Sport steering wheel and carbon fibre accents, the BMW 320d in this M Sport trim looks more purposeful than ever before. Needless to say, its effervescent DNA is still very much intact.
Also read: Mercedes-Benz SLC India launch on 26th July