C-Class – now with more S than ever
The W206 generation of MercedesBenz C-Class is here, boasting S-Class-inspired styling and a dis tinct lack of engines with more than four cylinders. We’ve actually already driven it in the Land of Eng, but our roads are notoriously pretty terrible, so let’s see how it goes here.
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
The new C-Class has been thoroughly reworked, aping the design language from the latest S-Class both inside and out, new suspension, fresh electronics and safety gubbins, and two new engines.
Starting from the bottom, and the variant Mercedes NZ reckons it will sell most of, is the C 200. It uses a 1.5-litre turbo-four paired with a bulked-up mild hybrid system, producing 15kW/200Nm (compared to last generation’s 10kW/160Nm), for a total combined output of 150kW/ 300Nm. The engine is paired with a nine-speed automatic, familiar fare for Mercedes fans, sending power to the rear axle.
The next model is the C 300, which gets a larger 2.0-litre engine, producing 190kW/400Nm with mild hybrid assistance and the same transmission.
Both look notably different to last year’s model, sporting new headlights and taillights, shorter overhangs at each end, and a lower roofline, bringing the C into visual line with the A-, S-, and E-Classes.
Interior changes are much more impressive, with the new C-Class genuinely appearing like a mini S-Class. It has basically all of the same tech too, including the huge 11.9-inch portrait screen which dominates the centre console, 12.3-inch driver’s display, second-generation MBUX media system with fingerprint recognition, augmented reality navigation, and a 360-degree camera, among others.
WHERE DID YOU DRIVE IT?
On a little tour of Northland, starting in Auckland in the C 300 and winding our way up SH16, which was a good test for the new suspension. It’s still steel-sprung and does without adaptive damping, but it’s really quite superb at eating up our imperfect roads.
The shocks are the tricky frequency-dependent type, using a valve to reduce damping forces over small bumps, while the passive damping works to smooth out the larger jolts. It’s great too, with only the really nasty divots in 16 giving the C 300 any real grief.
It’s quiet too, this new C-Class, in terms of both road and engine noise. In Eco mode, the engine will shut off while coasting, letting the mild hybrid system take control. Those same electricals also offer a jolt of boost when you ask for it, as well as refining the engine start/ stop process.
The steering is sharp and welltuned, and the standard sports seats are comfortable. I would like if Mercedes was a bit more generous with its standard kit – can’t help but feel optional heated seats and head-up display at the $100k mark is a bit mean. Adding those, plus the cool augmented reality navigation, will plump the price of your C-Class by $4100 on the C 200 or $3800 on the 300.
If you want to spice up the engine, you don’t really have much to play with. There are Sports and Sports Plus modes, but they don’t really add much to the character of the car. The gearbox will hold in seventh rather than ninth at 100kmh, and the steering is a bit sharper, but it doesn’t transform the car into a racer. In fact, Sports Plus mode is largely a waste of time, as the only thing it changes is the fake engine sound, and you can barely hear that anyway.
WHAT’S THE PICK OF THE RANGE?
Mercedes thinks around 80 per cent will stick with the 200, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that turn out accurate. If you’re happy with saving about $17k and missing out on the better driver assistance stuff, the C 200 is the one to get, especially considering you can add all the other packages and still save money over the 300.
Unfortunately there aren’t any wagons for the moment. But plugin hybrids are due this year in the form of the C 350e, ‘‘hopefully by Q3’’, said Mercedes.
And the AMGs? Those will be revealed this year, with arrivals expected around 2023. No V8s, remember, just plug-in hybridified turbo-fours.