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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June, 2012: Ayesha Al Khoori enjoys driving her red 2012 Mercedes C350. Story on Road Test. Asmaa Al Hameli / The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June, 2012: Ayesha Al Khoori enjoys driving her red 2012 Mercedes C350. Story on Road Test. Asmaa Al Hameli / The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June, 2012: Ayesha Al Khoori enjoys driving her red 2011 Mercedes C350. Story on Road Test. Asmaa Al Hameli / The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2 June, 2012: Ayesha Al Khoori enjoys driving her red 2011 Mercedes C350. Story on Road Test. Asmaa Al Hameli / The National

Roadtest: The Mercedes-Benz C350 is a happy medium

A review of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz C350

Compromise: not a word normally associated with young, headstrong people, is it? Often we're unable to see the bigger picture or realise that some people who seem to be standing in the way of us achieving our personal ambitions are simply looking out for us and have our best interests at heart. Yet compromise, as we come to learn, is an essential part of everyday life.

For me, compromising on a new car has turned out to be a very good thing, indeed. After driving an old BMW 320i for a year (that had been driven by my sister for almost four years), I was ready for a change. My initial plan was to convince my father to allow me to have a Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG. After I had taken a ride in one, I had become convinced it was the only car for me. Of course, my father's answer was always going to be no, as he thought I would not be able to handle such a car. I had to compromise, so I decided I would still get a Mercedes, just not the one I had set my heart on.

Visiting Emirates Motor Company in Abu Dhabi, I explained I wanted a red car that looked and felt similar to the C 63. The colour felt fierce, and I guess that is why I was drawn to it. I was immediately escorted to a gold C350, but told the last one available was red. How fortuitous. After taking it for a test drive, I knew this was the car for me. I was immediately drawn to the comfort of it, and to how easy it was to drive.

The C 63 AMG had appealed to me on many levels, and it wasn't just the sheer power of it. The AMG models look stunning, with attitude aplenty and a stance that shows performance potential while, at the same time, remaining more subtle than the supercars they match when it comes to pace. Yet my C350 came supplied with an AMG performance pack that gives it some of the visual appeal of its more brutal relative. Low-profile tyres, gorgeous alloy wheels and colour-coded aerodynamic aids all come together to lift the car's appearance from the ordinary.

And while my car didn't exactly come "fully loaded", it has all the refinements I could possibly wish for. Electric seats, cream-coloured leather upholstery, a beautifully rich sounding audio system, switchable automatic gearbox with paddle-shift - what more could a young woman ask for?

Actually, given the chance, I would ask for a navigation system that was easier to master and wasn't quite so annoying. Perhaps the software needs an update but I have, at times, been completely lost when it's supposed to have guided me to the simplest of destinations. It also seems to repeat the same instructions, like a nagging parent, until I give up and switch the thing off.

This is a minor niggle, however, because the C350 is a joy to own in every other respect. It's smooth, comfortable, refined and consistent. Acceleration from the creamy V6 engine is strong enough even for me, and the brakes have a more reassuring bite than those I was used to on my old car. The steering is lighter and nicer to use than that of the BMW, too.

It might not be a sports car, but the C350's performance does come close. The engine is quiet yet, once you hit the accelerator, it emits a pleasing roar without doing anything to spoil the refinement. A prod of the Sports button remaps the throttle and gearbox, holding onto the ratios longer and adding even more responsiveness, and it's perfectly suited to the paddle shift.

However, the C350 could be more spacious on the inside, and since I usually drive my nieces and nephews around, I would have liked to have a bigger back seat. The car also lacks efficient cup holders - it needs ones that prevent your drink from toppling over every time you brake or accelerate. And in the summer's heat, which is unbearable in this part of the world, the company could try to amp up the air conditioning in its cars to provide more efficient cabin cooling.

I got a lot of car for Dh222,000, which was after discount, since Emirates Motor Company does some great deals for government employees. And the service I have received has so far been fast and efficient, apart from the time I had it in for accident repair. Another driver hit my car from behind, severely denting the rear bumper, and it took more than three weeks to fix. I was not given another car to substitute that one, even though I asked for one, which was disappointing.

All in all, though, I have enjoyed every day with my C350. It's still a far cry from a C 63 AMG but I have no regrets. Buying it was a compromise, yes, but as with many things in life, allowing for a bit of flexibility can reap rich rewards. If you are in the market for a subtle, elegant and powerful car that flatters your skills as a driver and doesn't attract the wrong sort of attention, this Mercedes-Benz comes highly recommended.

The Specs

Price Dh229,000

Engine 3.5L V6

Gearbox seven-speed automatic

Power 306hp @ 6,500rpm

Torque 370Nm @ 3,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 7.1L / 100km

aalkhoori@thenational.ae

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