The Mercedes-Benz C320 CDI Avantgarde automatic is a stealth jet, or in street racing parlance, a sleeper. It’s the most powerful diesel-powered compact saloon on the market, yet you’d have to spot the C320 CDI on the bootlid to know it.
The recently-facelifted C-Class is ageing gracefully, and, given the love-it-or-hate-it looks of its archrival, the new BMW 3 Series, should still attract a fair following. On the European markets, there is a 172 kW AMG turbodiesel called the C30 CDI AMG, but, legend has it that the vehicle could not be converted to RHD because of its engine layout. Producing a mere seven kW less, Mercedes-Benz latest-generation common rail, turbocharged and intercooled 3,0-litre V6 oil burner is the closest we’d get to a C30, and it produces a colossal 510 N.m of torque from as low as 1 600 r/min.
The result? Step on the accelerator and the car’s electronics do their utmost to contain wheelspin. The car is fitted with a smooth seven-speed transmission and it bolts hot hatches into oblivion with little effort. Although this is the same engine that does duty in the S-Class, the engine produces a raucous note in the smaller, and less padded perhaps, C-Class frame. Does the roar really suit the C-Class, complete with its smartly tailored-styling and cosseting leather-trimmed interior? Well, AMG owners would argue it does!
The steering of the C320 CDI is nicely weighted, very responsive and feels quite sharp. It’s the best Mercedes-Benz steering I’ve encountered in a non-AMG Benz since the CLS. What’s more, the C-Class’ ride quality is arguably still the benchmark for compact saloons. The C320 CDI has more power than the average C-Class buyer will ever need, but this model perhaps represents the pinnacle of the W203.