The C-Class update adds techno-tricks yet sticks with what Benz does best
Amate of mine, Mick, went to England a couple of years ago and asked me to look after his 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, a C250 CDI 2.1-litre turbo diesel. That’s the series superseded in 2014. Even though it was four years old with about 45,000km on the clock, Mick’s C250 was one of the three or four best cars I drove in 2016. It’s still one of the best cars I’ve driven.
Its successor is a good thing, too, winning our Car of the Year and World Car of the Year gongs in 2014. The first update has arrived, with almost 50 per cent of components, including several engines, either new or modified — so it could accurately be described as a new model.
We’re testing the base C200, priced at $63,400. Its completely new 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo engine produces the same 135kW of power as the 2.0-litre turbo it replaces (but at higher revs) and 20Nm less torque (now 280Nm), also produced over a considerably narrower, higher rev range.
The update has also gained 40kg, largely due to its new EQ Boost mild hybrid set-up.
As a consequence, it’s half a second slower from rest to 100km/h, taking 7.7 seconds for the trip. Fuel efficiency and low emissions are priorities now, so performance has suffered.
EQ Boost uses a 48V network, powered by a lithium-ion battery. A starter motor-alternator assembly sits between the engine and the standard nine-speed automatic transmission.
When you put your foot down, the alternator gets a surge of electricity from the battery that assists engine performance, by up to 10kW, and reduces turbo lag.
It’s automatically recharged by regenerative braking, contributes to smoother, quicker automatic stop-start in traffic and decouples the engine at highway speeds, allowing the C200 to coast on a light or trailing throttle with the engine switched off. Pointy end technology extends to the cabin, where an all-digital dash includes configurable instruments and a big infotainment screen, with gesture control via touchpads on the steering wheel and centre console, plus a manual controller.
Navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto are included but the slick Siri- style MBUX voice control in the new A-Class is missing. That’s probably because C-Class buyers are much older…
The Mercedes fake cow upholstery actually feels more luxe and leathery than the real hide used in some other brands. Dual-zone aircon, automatic parking, LED headlights and 18-inch alloys are also standard.