An awe­some guided mis­sile

RE­STRAINED CHAR­AC­TER HIDES WHAT IS, IN FACT, A MINI-SU­PER­CAR

The Citizen (KZN) - - MOTORING -

When it comes to sta­tus sym­bols, you must ad­mit that MercedesBenz is right up there with the best. Ja­nis Jo­plin sang to the Lord to buy her one be­cause she needed to make amends, as her friends were all driv­ing Porsches. In Africa, the up­per classes and po­lit­i­cal elites have long been known as the “waBenzi” for their taste for the qual­ity Ger­man ve­hi­cles.

And, while the brand is all about lux­ury and in­su­lated el­e­gance, it has a sport­ing his­tory which stretches back into the early years of the last cen­tury.

To­day, the Mercedes-Benz For­mula One cars – headed by soon-to-be World Cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton – have been locked in a ti­tanic bat­tle all sea­son with arch-ri­vals Fer­rari.

That was pretty much as it was back be­fore the Sec­ond World War when Merc’s neme­sis on the rac­ing tracks was Auto Union, the fore­run­ner of Audi.

While there are those who might think Mercedes-Benz is one of the lead­ers in new au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy, the re­al­ity is that it has al­ways been so.

Take the W154 Grand Prix car from the pre-war years (which I speak about on the op­po­site page).

While most cars of the time had ba­sic four-cylin­der, side­valve petrol en­gines, the W154 had an ul­tra-so­phis­ti­cated 3.0-litre V12, with four-valve cylin­der heads run­ning on an ex­otic chem­i­cal com­bi­na­tion, rather than pump fuel.

The W154 was top of mind for me when I sat down to record my thoughts on the newly launched Mercedes-Benz C Class per­for­mance sedan, the C43 AMG. It is at the head of the new C Class range in terms of fire­power, pack­ing a mus­cu­lar 287kW in its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol mo­tor.

Yet it looks noth­ing like the mini-su­per­car it is.

The C43 AMG will hit 100km/h from a stand­still in less than five sec­onds and has a top speed lim­ited to 250km/h. You’ll have to wait for the ex­act fig­ures from my road-test col­leagues Mark Jones and Nt­sako Mthethwa in Ci­ti­zen Mo­tor­ing.

What I can say is that the ac­cel­er­a­tion of this guided mis­sile is awe­some. There is very lit­tle on the streets of Gaut­eng which can se­ri­ously of­fer it a chal­lenge.

Out­side, the C43 main­tains the air of muted el­e­gance which has be­come a Ger­man au­to­mo­tive spe­cial­ity.

There is no need for gar­ish wings, scoops or graph­ics along the flanks to prove you’re fast. That hap­pens on the tar­mac.

That said, I found the al­loy wheels on this edi­tion un­der­whelm­ing and a bit like some­thing you could pick up at Tiger Wheel and Tyre.

The re­strained char­ac­ter of the C43 is in keep­ing with the likely buyer of this R1-mil­lion ma­chine: some­one who has been suc­cess­ful but who shuns the trap­pings of the nou­veau riche and has no need for vul­gar show­ing off.

Such a per­son will wel­come the com­fort­able ride, cour­tesy of ad­justable sus­pen­sion, as well as the host of crea­ture com­forts and the ad­di­tional safety fea­tures.

The feel­ing of smooth progress is helped by a silky nine-speed au­to­matic gear­box.

Lest you feel bore­dom ap­proach­ing be­cause of the clin­i­cally ef­fi­cient way the Merc does its job, there is a “hooli­gan but­ton” on the trans­mis­sion tun­nel.

When ac­ti­vated, this opens a flap in the ex­haust which lib­er­ates the rau­cous sound of the V6.

That noise is ad­dic­tive, if you’re a petrol­head like me … the V6 wail be­gins at just on 3 000rpm and goes all the way to the elec­tronic ig­ni­tion cut-out at beyond 6 000.

On down­shifts or full-throt­tle up­shifts, there is splut­ter­ing and pop­ping, which re­minds you this is, at heart, a ma­chine whose root do go back to the Sil­ver Ar­rows W154 cars.

Of course you can’t com­pare ap­ples with pears, but the cars also share an­other trait if you trash them: they guz­zle fuel.

Even trav­el­ling with a light foot, I strug­gled to keep con­sump­tion be­low 13 litres per 100km in the city and on oc­ca­sion saw it soar past 17 litres per 100km. On the high­way, it gave less than nine litres per 100km at le­gal speeds.

But the best thing about buy­ing a Merc is that you never have to ex­plain why. Ev­ery­body knows.

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