A trip to the UK included a hectic work schedule – which presented the chance to spend a week behind the wheel of a Mercedes Staple.
- Option list quickly ramps up prices
- Perhaps not as dynamic as BMW counterparts
- A few engine choice and gearbox choices have faded away
The C class has been a staple of mid sized luxury for as long as I can remember.
A direct rival to the 3-series, there has always been an indulgence associated with the three-pointed emblem that the c class embodied. They sit in a rather curious sector at the moment. Once upon a time, a Mercedes-Benz was reserved for the affluent whereas brand-diversity dictates that they are now somewhat more accessible. The CLA sitting below the C class however still gives it a status of endearment for the corporate crowd that wants to look and feel the part. With the 2019 model upping the pace again, we figured it was a great time to have a look at the run-out 2018 models.
The 2018 C class is no exception and builds and tweaks on the core competencies of the namesake. The exterior is adorned with LED lights front and back giving a sharp appearance crisp illumination. The body takes it styling cues from the S-Class giving it a large appearance parked up on the road. All of the elegant lines swoop towards the rear and it all comes together rather handsomely. With the right spec, this elegance can be directly substituted for aggression when you start dipping into the Pseudo AMG models. Much like the haloed M badge, it has however been diluted to somewhat of a spec level in many cases.
What’s the inside like?
Enclosed in the sleek German Auto-Body of this relatively base-spec C200 that sits in front of us today, is a well-rounded package. The manual-slide, electronic bolster and height controlled seats dominate the interior landscape. They are immediately comfortable falling into what feels like an optimum seating position.
Mercedes switched a while back – around the time of the C63’s debut – to a BMW-esque interface which resembles the i-drive. This was subject of mixed emotions when it replaced Mercedes’ older platform and I’m still of the opinion that they haven’t quite nailed it. The dial awkwardly tilts on its axis as if it doesn’t sit far enough from its pivot point. The dial clicks rather loudly rather akin to an old rotary telephone. That’s not to say it isn’t an effective interface, it just lacks a little finesse.
The interior is ever so slightly more cramped than it’s curvaceous exterior might suggest – I had two lets say – larger occupants in the kerb-side front and rear seat – and was surprised to see the person riding shotgun with his knees jammed up against the front dash.
Granted that’s not to say the vehicle won’t be more than apt for average sized
occupants; nor is it to suggest that it has any less payload than the equivalent 3-series, but it was unexpected. It’s testament to the scaled down S Class body. The interior does a fantastic job of feeling like a premium product. Leather and metal-finish controls adorn most angles of the interior. The interior is designed to cocoon the driver, with hard corners minimised by the curvaceous, elegant design of the interior finishes. A large piano black fascia sweeps down towards the centre console.
This example comes laden with the standard C class niceties. Satnav is available, assuming your car has its memory card installed. Mercedes’ dynamic mode selection allows steering and suspension to be setup for comfort, economy or sports and sports plus. But does it work?
What about kit and safety?
9 airbags, reversing camera, parking sensors, autonomous braking and not to mention auto headlights and wipers means that the C Class, hybrid excepted, achieves a 5 star ANCAP rating. There are also refinements such as fatigue monitoring.
What’s it like on the road?
The ride around town is cushioned and well damped giving smooth, enjoyable progress. The C class manages to be one of the quieter cruises out there, whilst the adjustable dynamics means that whilst it always feels more at home on the freeway rather than country roads it never feels completely out of water.
The C200 picks up surprisingly quickly. It retains the performance of the previous, larger, 2.0 litre unit whilst rewarding superior fuel economy (it is also less weighty that its angular predecessor). Flick the adaptive air suspension to Sport + (if optioned) and the car’s handling will be tilted towards performance driving. It’s a magical system, literally like riding on air; however the standard steel suspension is also very good. The standard comfort level leaves a little body roll introduced in excange for a ride that irons out bumps in the road.
The steering however is not as sharp as that of the 3 series. It is nicely weighted giving good manoeuvrability at low speeds and around town; however lacks precise feedback. You therefore loose a little confidence at faster speeds which reduces the level of engagement that you would otherwise feel.
How Economical is it?
Whilst the 2019 face lift might not be significant on the surface, it introduced more engine ranges and removed others.
There’s a versatile selection of engines available, petrol and diesel. At the time of writing, C200, C200d, C250 and C250d. And lets not forget the C250e which, as you’ve probably guessed – is a hybrid. Both 250s deliver 155kw which is dragged along by 350Nm of torque but with the hybrid delivering an extremely frugal 2.2L/100km if driven with the right intent. The Oil Burning 250d delivers 155kw with a truckload of torque – 500Nm in fact, while returning 4.6L/100km. The “entry level” 200 which I took for a jaunt delivers 135kW along with 300Nm of torque delivered by a 1.5 Turbo Charged motor. It still achieves 6.5L/100km whilst retaining a good level of drivability both around town and in the twistier stuff. There are of course the C43 and 64 models but they deserve their own attention rather than being diluted here.
With the 18 C Class, Mercedes appear to have been trying to extend the reach of the model, shaking off some of the dull, stern-ness of models of old for an attractive exterior and polished interior. And it’s been somewhat successful. In my mind it’s more attractive than the equivalent 3 series or A4 – even though it might not quite drive quite as rewardingly.
The C200 is simply great value, feeling like a much more accomplished, exclusive vehicle than its circa $60k price tag when new might suggest. The end result is a well built, well paced bit of executive engineering. As always the spec list is a sprawling list of desires which will not only impact residuals, but also effect your enjoyment of the car from up-rated audio to additional comfort tweaks.
Lined up next to a 3 series, it not only is a viable alternative but a preferred one.