I am amazed and confused about your statement indicating that the C240 is down on power and inferior to the previous generation car. I am curious if you were driving an automatic or a stick.
My C240, 6 speed is not real fast, but it FEELS much faster than it is. A friend of mine who drives a Corvette has ridden with me several times going to lunch. He also has ridden in MY Corvette going to lunch. Every time he has ridden in my C240,(a six speed) he asks if it is as fast as my Corvette. There is no way, not even in the same ballpark, but the C FEELS faster than it really is.
The engine is as smooth as an electric motor all the way to the redline. If you really want power, you get it above 3,000 RPM.
As for the solidity, I am also amazed. Comparing a 202 to 203 is absolutely an apples to oranges comparison IMHO.
Also, in the summer of 2000 just before buying my C class that fall, I drove a sport suspensioned A4 several thousand kilometers on the German Autobahn and into Switzerland. It was a decent handling car, but topped out at about 215 or 220 km/hour. But, these are front wheel drive cars with all the quirks that come with front wheel drive. Again, this is comparing oranges to apples.
A coworker who lives in Milan, goes through an A4 every several years. He loves them and thinks they're really reliable, but it seems that they are always in the shop. He drove me from Milan to Switzerland last October in his last A4 and had his new one on order because he was having trouble with the one he was driving. It had electrical problems and was burning oil. It would not start without trying it a dozen times or so. At that point it had 150,000 km! I've never had a Benz, any Benz that was even broken in well at 150,000 km.
As far as comments about brands go, and people buying a C so it is an MB may be true for some, but I buy a Benz because they are solid and last a long time. I drive 60,000 miles per year so my cars MUST last a long time.
I really don't know what is driving your evaluation, but if you will pardon me, it doesn't sound objective to me.
Have a great day,