Base diesel version of new big-booted C-Class holds plenty of fleet appeal
Have you noticed recently, when walking or driving the city streets after dark, how many windows are lit up not the colour of halogen but any lurid combination of red/blue/green? Suddenly, coloured LEDs are everywhere, seemingly mostly installed by young people.The reason I bring this up is because of the dashboard in the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate that has just arrived at our door in the UK. The entire thing has ambient backlighting, even including the air vents, along with the rear door handle panels and the little panel in the roof. You can choose from a myriad of colour schemes (we liked soft pink best) through the giant new touchscreen, which has supplanted almost all of the physical controls.This is endemic of the priorities that seem to now lie behind not just the new junior executive Mercedes-Benz but the car industry as a whole, reflecting a trend in wider society. Technology is the name of the game. A survey a few years ago found that way more car buyers would spend extra to get better infotainment features than additional safety systems. Ignoring the fact that ADAS are too often subpar (although actually not, I must clarify, in the C-Class), that says quite a lot – and shows that Mercedes is probably playing the right game. The MBUX system facilitated by that 11.9in touchscreen has conversational voice control (which apparently allows you to form a creepy “emotional bond”). It can connect to a special app on your phone. It can wirelessly supply Apple CarPlay or Android Auto mirroring. It has augmented-reality sat-nav. It hosts the climate controls (which, although never ideally located here, are at least decently integrated, if still requiring a tap too many for some things). And it sits alongside a 12.3in digital instrument display, again customisable through several layouts (dials with the sat-nav between for us, please). I’m sure you get the picture. Or if you don’t, just turn to, tellingly, the first page in the (digital) brochure. Are we complaining? Not really. The system works perfectly well and is easy enough to learn. It looks very slick and it responds quickly to inputs. And it never once went even slightly haywire during our week with it. Will that all still be true in a decade’s time? Now there’s another question entirely.