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Used Car Review: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C350 Avantgarde Automatic

Did you know that the average age of passenger cars on our roads is 10 years? That’s surprising and incredibly telling: cars built a decade or so ago were fantastic machines on the whole and the appeal to hold onto a good example makes a lot of sense. Think back 10 years and you’re sitting with a bevy of beautiful vehicles from which to choose that would easily stand the test of time, offer high levels of luxury and performance too.

Cars are improving in quality, durability and longevity. This stat just proves that. In the USA, the average age of passenger vehicles is 11 years. We thought that wouldn’t be the case what with the fantastic finance deals, low fuel costs and the many millions of drivers on their roads. Factory Warranties and their benefits are keeping the cars in greater shape and thereby further increasing their longevity.

What does that mean to you and I reading this website? There are bargains a plenty to be had if you look carefully – and read this website more often. Forget scrounging around for an entry-level trolley that is brand-new and yet to lose a quarter of its value in less than 12 months. Forget the age of the vehicles; search for low mileage offerings in your price group. Something under R200,000/less than R4,000 per month on finance? You’ll be in the very tempting grouping of serious German sedans, SUVs and beautiful selection of Japanese 4×4 double cab bakkies. This thinking is most beautifully captured by this used car that’s actually for sale right now: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C350 Avantgarde Automatic.

For a car of this age, it would undoubtedly need to carry a full service history, be meticulously inspected for accident damage or signs of heavy wear and tear to consider taking ownership of it. That aspect aside, you can now begin to be more particular about the details: trim, colours, specifications and mileage.

Isn’t this a better prospect than a Volkswagen Polo Vivo?

And this particular one?

Under the sleek bonnet of this C350 beats a 3.5-litre V6 with 200kW of muscle. That V6 powerplant is sedate when cruising, but stamp on the loud pedal on the freeway and it jumps towards the horizon with eagerness. The excellent seven-speed automatic transmission makes smooth work of transferring that power to the rear wheels, offering a fine balance between cruising and high-speed ability. It is an engine that can best be described as graceful. It isn’t shouty. It isn’t a snorting motor that jerks and janks. It is an engine that’s as refined and solid as you’d expect to find in an S-Class – of which this was fitted into.

As much as this V6 engine defines this model, and as much as it separates it from the lesser-sized engines in the W204-series C-Class line-up, it truly enhances the elegance of this car’s chassis and its luxurious driving nature.

  • 2009 Model Year (W204)
  • C350 Avantgarde Automatic
  • 113,442km
  • Full Service History
  • One Owner
  • Accident- and Damage-Free
  • R189,900

For a 10-year-old car she’s rather beautiful, don’t you agree? From the very first kilometre of my test period, I could feel that this car was properly screwed together in East London back in 2009: not a squeak, rattle or chirrup from the car and the understated thrum from the exhaust made for a teasing and taunting exhaust note.

The appearance and condition of this vehicle is astounding. Walking around the vehicle in daylight, I couldn’t find a blemish, swirl mark nor dent. It is immaculate. I think this one could quite easily park inside a Mercedes museum and no-one would know it has 113,442km on the odometer and lived through countless number to shopping centres, highway travels, and pot-holed roads. And this isn’t some marketing spiel: everyone I visited while testing this car didn’t believe me when I told them of this car’s age and mileage. The leather upholstery’s in perfect condition; not a wrinkle or crease out of place. The dials and knobs are in fantastic working condition and the colour-screen media interface is still as sharp and clear as the day it was first turned on. We cannot impress upon you the near-perfect condition of this vehicle. It is, as the advertisers say, a MUST-SEE.

But it isn’t just in appearance that this car shines. On a lengthy test drive, it was as smooth as the day it left the workshop for its annual service. The previous owner truly loved this vehicle. The steering is light, there’s minimal wind-noise intrusion and it feels perfectly sprung – there’s no worn shocks to be found here. The Advanced Agility Pack adds a degree of pep to this ‘old man’s car’ – and it is rather a ‘sleeper’ of a sexy sedan. Punch the accelerator pedal and it will get up and go.

This being the Avantgarde Package model, it features a list of extras that make it bang up to date with even today’s vehicles: daytime driving lights; cruise control; pop-up media interface; multifunction steering wheel controls; audio with AUX input; and, climate control too. It does luxury like only a Mercedes can: it is understated, charming and incredibly comfortable. The space for each passenger is perfect; the smooth driving style is simply luxurious. That’s Mercedes’ calling card.

It is sporty in design and in nature. It shrugs off its ‘old man’s car’ stiffness with shocking conviction: it is a sprinter in a tailored suit.

What to look out for on Mercedes-Benz C-Class models in general?

With a premium compact sedan from Germany, what can go wrong? Well, rather a lot if the myths are to be believed. However, this model series launched Mercedes’ return to form. After the reliability and build quality issues of the preceding model series (the W203), Mercedes did much in the way of engineering this vehicle to E-Class levels of build quality and refinement. And, it paid off handsomely. Their reputation for manufacturing strong, solid and reliable compact sedans did much to boost the brand identity of the Three-Pointed Star with this generation of C-Class.

However, with age, any and every vehicle suffers from wear and tear. Aside from those, this model – the pre-facelift version – was prone to power steering fluid leaks onto the pump (easily rectified by the dealer) and the headlamps attracted moisture after extended periods of rainy weather. This never affected the performance of the headlights; it just didn’t look the part.

The Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor needs to be replaced every 75,000km to 90,000km or so to avoid the engine lacking performance under load. This is also easy to remedy and it is something workshops are familiar with. Another aspect to consider is a steering lock issue that cropped up on a few vehicles. The Electronic Steering Lock (ESL) system presented owners with a headache when this problem struck: due to low voltage in the system, the steering lock wouldn’t release even when turning the ignition. The dashboard would remain off and panicked owners. Once again, a workshop will solve that matter by either re-programming the keys or changing the car’s battery.

Speaking to a number of independent Mercedes-Benz specialists and franchise dealers’ workshop managers, this model and this engine is reliable on the whole and owners reported high levels of satisfaction. And, we can’t argue with that after spending a few days in behind this car’s steering wheel.

What should I be paying for this Mercedes-Benz C350?

This is tricky. To find one with less than 100,000km on the odometer will see you hunting far above R240,000 mark. With mileage around the 100,000km point and in excellent condition, you’ll need to set your budget between R170,000 to R200,000. This one sits in the middle with a price tag of R189,900 and is worth that price. Venturing above 120,000km and even further past 150,000km you’ll find C350s for around R150,000. That shows this car’s resale value is strong. Another good sign for you, Mr Prospective Buyer.

Which other C-Class models should I consider?

In the W204 series, the diesel derivates offered outstanding frugal fuel consumption figures. But, they are noisy and clunky. It doesn’t sit as well with the smooth, sonorous sound of a silky V6 petrol engine… The C220 CDI offered strong performance and reasonably high levels of reliability too. Having driven just such a vehicle recently, that would be my second choice for a used C-Class in this price point.

What are the alternative choices?

BMW, Audi and Lexus produced fantastic motor cars in their 3-Series, A4 and IS models. Each one is vastly different in nature and attitude, and it must be said that you’d be rather satisfied in any of these. However, this isn’t a mundane 3-cylinder or 4-cylinder city commuter with luxury added. This is a compact executive sedan that takes luxury and comfort to new heights with the added appeal of that V6…

Conclusion

For the money, Volkswagen Polo Vivo prices, this 2009 Mercedes-Benz C350 Avantgarde Automatic cannot be beat for style, build quality, refinement, luxury and performance. And, this particular one is in MUST-SEE condition. It makes that deal all the more sweeter. Having put it through its paces, researched it from top to bottom and inspected by the Mercedes-Benz specialists, this one gets our stamp of approval. A luxury and performance bargain that can’t be missed.

This vehicle is currently available for sale from Prestige Auto Sales in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. You can contact me directly at 083 452 6892 (also on WhatsApp) or evanrothman@gmail.com to arrange to test drive and purchase this vehicle, or by contacting them directly at 041 484 6841. You may also contact their salesperson Karen (who helped facilitate the test of this beautiful vehicle) at 066 231 5242 (also on WhatsApp) and karen@prestigeautosales.co.za.

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