The state flag of New Hampshire features a portrait of the USS Raleigh, one of 13 warships built for the newly minted Continental Congress in 1776, in Portsmouth. I’m heading inland away from the coast in a new 2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 coupe, though, and as far as I’m concerned, the state flag should be a pair of yellow lines on a field of grey. It’s slow-going on two-lane roads with a perpetual speed limit of 30 miles per hour and no place to pass even slower moving traffic. It’s all a little frustrating in a car that looks like it’s built for speed.
Still, life in the slow lane gives me plenty of time to appreciate the car’s finer points as I navigate through small villages whose main attractions appear to be ancient, road-side cemeteries filled, I reckon, with names of the country’s earliest immigrants. The car’s styling is very sporty with a long hood line and a muscular haunch near the rear wheels. The 2017 C300 is longer and wider than prior models, which means there is more elbow and legroom for passengers.
The C300 also comes with a plethora of safeguards like a steering assist feature that lets the car automatically adjust its speed relative to the car ahead. A braking assist feature automatically detects crossing traffic and will apply the brakes if the driver fails to do so. There’s even a rear collision warning system that automatically flashes the hazard lights if a car gets too close from behind.
At last I reach a highway and the speed limit jumps to 70. I cruise through the Franconia Notch, a gorgeous eight-mile stretch of road that cuts through the scenic White Mountains in the northwestern part of the state. The 241-horsepower, turbo-charged four-cylinder engine purrs nicely and I can believe that the C300 lives up to its billing of a zero-to-60 sprint in 5.9 seconds.
Yet, among all C300’s attributes, there is one feature that seals the deal: an Airmatic suspension system that electronically takes the measure of road conditions and the driving situation to adjust the suspension on each wheel as necessary. The result is better handling, less vibration, and a quieter, more enjoyable ride overall. The Airmatic suspension is optional, but I wouldn’t buy the car without it.
I’m heading east now, returning to where I started the day: the Press Hotel in Portland, Maine (119 Exchange St.; 207-808-8800; thepresshotel.com), designed as a delightful homage to the building’s former occupants, the Portland Press Herald, as its journalistic inspired decor will attest. There’s a typewriter with paper in every room—a stark contrast to the iPad-style touchscreen that, mounted over the C300’s center console, controls all the features of the car. I wonder if my fingers are fit enough to pound the keys on an old-school manual. Unlike the C300, the typewriter will require more than a light touch to operate.
$56,175 as driven; mbusa.com.