FIRSTROAD TEST DRIVE
Carsguide brings you a first drive of Mercedes-Benz’s most important car
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ANY time a car hits the road with more than 1000 new parts you know it’s more than just an over-easy facelift job.
Ford drilled that deeply for the creation of its vital new Territory. Holden has also dug deep for an impressive job on the comfort and control of its locally made Cruze— and now we have an updated C-Class from Mercedes-Benz.
It’s had a predictable facelift swoosh across the nose, with new lamps and a change to the grille opening, but the update work almost qualifies the 2012 model as a new car. While the basic body has been left alone, everything from a new diesel engine with seven-speed automatic, to the dashboard and suspension, has been tweaked to improve the driving and ownership experience.
Even some of the small switches reflect a stronger focus on luxury-class quality.
It’s the maker’s biggest mid-life overhaul since the mid-sized E-Class was reinvented in 2006, in response to a huge list of customer complaints in Europe. Benz admits that a lot of the latest C-Class work was triggered by feedback from owners.
It intends to use the C-Class to reset the value bar in Australia and, even without full price details, Carsguide predicts the new car will top a lot more shopping lists and make a stronger case against Audi and BMW.
The starting price for the C200 CDI sampler provided for Carsguide is $60,900— which is a $1890 reduction from the previous model.
We’re not sure how the petrol price will play out, or what’s going to happen further
There is more substance to thenew C-Class ... you can see it and feel it
up the C-Class line towards the thumping C63 AMG, but all the prices are likely to be very close to the current numbers.
Benz is also expecting plenty of support for the latest C-Class Estate, which adds only $2000 to the bottom line. The Estate is also going really well. Counting C63 we’ll do around 700 estates this year, which is about 10 per cent of
‘‘ volume,’’ said Mercedes-Benz Australia product manager Gordon Jones.
As usual, the basic C200 does not get all the fruit but buyers are able to pick up (and pay) for plenty of extra stuff.
The car is prepared for equipment that includes Distronic cruise control and more. But the emphasis is on the basics. Said Jones: ‘‘ For a Mercedes-Benz facelift, this is very significant. It even goes further than the changes to the E-Class in 2006 in how it answers customer feedback.’’
It will be interesting to see how BMW, for a start, responds. It’s just slashed prices on its six-cylinder 3 Series cars but the tweaked Benz could force another look at the showroom stickers, particularly with a freshened version of the 3 Series expected here within six weeks.
A new dash is a reflection of the electronic updates in the new C-Class, which picks up many more of Benz’s latest safety systems and such mundane-but-enjoyable stuff as a full-colour display for the multi-function screen.
The central display unit is now finally integrated into the dash and not in a bolted-on separate binnacle.
‘‘ The new dashboard comes with a new telematics platform,’’ Jones said.
On the powerplant front, the updated diesel is still a 2.1-litre but it has a single, variablevane turbo and has been switched to a lower pressure direct fuel delivery to cut noise and the dreaded diesel rattling.
The most significant change, however, is the seven-speed automatic gearbox that has been trickling down through the Benz family. The combination of the sevenspeeder and the new diesel provides some tasty numbers, with 100kW and 330Nm, economy of 5.4L/100km and CO emissions of 143g/km.
Even if the numbers don’t look as strong as some of the C-Class’s opponents, the new automatic provides an impressive multiplier.
‘‘ There is this perception that our engines are behind, but they’re not. The performance they deliver is as good as it gets,’’ Jones said.
There is other new gear under the skin, including changes to the suspension and steering, and even the LEDs used for the parking radar display have been changed to a square look from a circular shape.
The front-end look is the same, but different. The headlamps now lift up into the eyebrows, the shape of the radiator inlet is changed and even the parkradar sensors have been moved and are better integrated, instead of lurking like little pimples on the bumper.
The tail end has also had a tweak but the obvious stuff is in the cabin. The dash is smoother and cleaner and the design team has put a new emphasis on quality.
A five-star rating is carried over to the C-12, with all the usual Benz electronics. Even the basic car gets the reviver- reminder for long-distance runs. You have to pay more for the really tricky electronic stuff but it’s available thanks to the updated telematics.
There is more substance to the new C. You can see it in the dash and feel it through the wheel, which is new and thicker in the rim, right from the first few kilometres.
It’s raining in Melbourne, and the roads are slick, but the C200 CDI gives a solid, comforting feel as we head out for highway fuel-economy trials and into the hills on the