Just last week I was in the middle lane of the A1M when a couple of youngish blokes in an “old-style” C-Class cruised past in the outside lane.
The driver actually braked to fall back alongside and have a good look.
His passenger grinned as he stuck up his thumb and I grinned too as they inched ahead again. That doesn’t happen in your typical rep mobile.
And it’s not only Mercedes-Benz aficionados, either.
Just last night, when I went to pick up my nine-year-old daughter Katy from after-school club, she said, “You see that boy on the table. He thinks your car’s wicked.”
My first month with the C-Class has been good for my image, then.
At first I thought the treatment of the front spoiler, which is part of the Sport specification, was a little chunky but that feeling has softened with familiarity.
And initially I missed the three-pointed star, absent from the bonnet of the Sport model but in place on lesser versions.
It reminded me of how I used to wish there was a leaping Jaguar mascot on the bonnet of my 1972 XJ6, before I saw one with a mascot added and realised how “wrong” it was.
No mascot is just one less thing to worry about when parked in the less salubrious parts of town, too.
Still on the looks, another friend approved of the fact that I’m driving one of the few Mercedes-Benz saloons not painted silver.
She’s right, there are just too many silver cars on the road.
Dark metallic grey has always been my favourite colour for a car, ever since I looked after Dennis Norbury’s BMW 6 Series as my first holiday job in 1976.
Norbury, or MISTER Norbury to you, owned a big dealership in North Yorkshire and it was my job to keep his big Beemer in Anthracite metallic grey looking immaculate and I’ve always had a car, motorcycle or crash helmet in that colour ever since.
Wide approval for the looks, then. What about the interior?
I hadn’t driven the old C-Class but I’ve had a good look inside one and the new car is streets ahead.
Mine has the brushed metal finish you want in a car like this. The Sport is no place for polished wood these days.
The seats are fantastic, with their door-mounted adjustment controls.
Heights and angles are simple to set and the memory settings will end the aggravation of getting into the car after “shorty”. The weather forecast is predicting the first widespread frost of the season, so the heated seats will soon come in their own.
And while we’re on the subject of weather, why does every hatchback and estate get a rear screen wiper, but drivers of expensive saloons like this have to do without? There must be a reason.
I have to reverse on to a busy street every morning and each time I bump gently into a pedestrian I think, “Oops! I must use that rubber blade to clear the rear screen tomorrow.”
I’m getting the hang of the COMAND control.
Some functions are replicated in controls on the steering wheel which makes it confusing at first, but ultimately safer.
I still think the system allows the driver to do far too much when the car is moving, though.
I could, if I wanted, spend my six-mile commute switching CDs, calling girlfriends and studying maps of Europe without looking at the road at all.
I would crash, of course, but I would be able to blame Mercedes-Benz for putting all these tempting distractions in front of me.
Sport specification is extremely popular for the fleet-friendly C220 CDI and although the high-performance AMG references don’t really extend beyond cosmetics, the car feels fast enough.
The gearbox features paddleshifts behind the steering wheel and the handling feels well-balanced and predictable.
For a detailed driving impression, however, you’ll have to come back next month or check my blog at www.fleetnews.co.uk.
The manufacturer’s view
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has even more appeal to fleet customers than its predecessor. There are three individual lines to suit every taste and every C-Class has superior safety elements and state-of-the-art technology.
The Sport model goes head-to-head with BMW and Audi for driver involvement and dynamism and is already proving popular with user-choosers.
The car is also extremely cost effective in terms of residual values – an important element of our fleet offering.
Colin Niklas, national corporate sales manager, Mercedes-Benz
Price (OTR): £28,002 (£36,762 as tested)
Company car tax bill (2007) 40% tax-payer: £204 per month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 47.9
Test mpg: N/A
CAP Monitor RV: £11,500/41%
Contract hire rate: £531
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles
Equipment and options
Price (OTR): £28,002
Price as tested: £36,762