THERE'S never really going to be a cheap Mercedes on the market and there's a very good reason for that - you get what you pay for.
While many manufacturers offer similar spec levels and promise the earth, there is something very reassuring about getting into a Mercedes. There is that guaranteed quality of build, world class equipment levels and drive capabilities that simply cannot fail to impress.
Thankfully, after such a big build up the Mercedes C Class estate sport model lived up to all expectations.
First impressions have to take into account the incredible length of the vehicle - it seems to go on forever, but somehow manages to maintain an eye-catching streamlined look with neatly-crafted curves.
I thought driving such a large vehicle in heavy city traffic would be difficult, but the C180 was deceptively agile and with outstanding all-round visibility and the added assistance of some parking sensors, it was actually quite nimble to manoeuvre in and out of tight parking spaces.
Then out on the more open road the 1.8-litre engine delivered plenty of power and the vehicle cruised effortlessly through the five-speed automatic transmission. The acceleration was impressive and so too was the road-holding for such a large vehicle.
Another factor that was immediately apparent was the smoothness and virtual absence of cabin noise throughout the drive¦ even at higher speeds. The highly efficient suspension easily absorbed any bumps and dips and that's a real plus on today's potholed roads.
And when it comes to creature comforts, the Mercedes is packed to bursting with them. In fact, there are so many great features on this vehicle, the spec list spanned three A4 pages.
For starters there is a finely tuned stereo system complete with eight speakers and iPod and MP3 compatibility. Then there's the all round tinted windows, two zone climate control with dust filter, lockable glove box with cooling function, Bluetooth facility for hands free calls, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and the neat dashboard design with chrome ringed dials. The list just goes on and on.
All controls are ideally situated for ease of use although when I initially began driving I found I was activating the cruise control lever by mistake rather than the indicator stick.
But that's a very small gripe in an otherwise stunning vehicle. If I were being exceptionally picky I would suggest rear seat passengers could benefit from a little more legroom, but that's about it.
Safety features are very comprehensive with anti-lock brakes, plenty of airbags, a tyre pressure warning system and plenty more besides.
And when you take into consideration the excellent fuel figures of the BlueEfficiency model, it really is quite a vehicle all round.
£32,445 156PS, 4-cylinder, 1,796cc petrol engine driving rear wheels via 5-speed automatic gearbox 132mph 9.2 seconds 38.2 29 179g/km3 yrs/unlimited miles