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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - 180E sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Solid and secure with all the usual traditional Mercedes-Benz virtues
Room for improvement
Shockingly low-equipped and barely adequately endowed power-wise

Mercedes-Benz logo18 Jun 2003

By MALCOLM LIVERMORE

IN Australia Mercedes-Benz cars are generally perceived as being way out of reach of mere mortals with a mortgage and three kids to put through school.

But in 1991 the company was forced to respond to strong marketing pressures from BMW with its cheaper entry level 318i and Audi with its 80 Series. The result was the introduction of a unique and very affordable Mercedes model.

The 180E Limited Edition four-door sedan was priced to come in under the luxury tax threshold, at that time set around $45,000.

The market responded enthusiastically. Suddenly the legendary quality, engineering excellence and safety of the marque became available to the middle-class market. People could proudly display the three-pointed star emblem in their driveway without owing the bank an arm and a leg.

The 180E Limited Edition is, to be frank, a basic Mercedes. To bring the price into line with its competitors, the company was forced to delete features such as anti-lock brakes, power windows, climate control, electric seats, heated mirrors, cruise control and multi-speaker sound system. But power steering, air- conditioning and central locking remained standard.

The powerplant for the 180E Limited Edition is a 1.8-litre four- cylinder with a single overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder and fuel-injection, delivering 82kW at 5500rpm.

The standard transmission is a four-speed automatic with a five- speed manual optional.

With a 1220kg kerb weight, acceleration is slow but the car can cruise comfortably and economically.

Suspension is by shock absorber/strut and independent coil springs with triangular links and anti-dive control at front, and coil spring multi-link rear suspension with anti-dive and anti- squat control. Gas-filled shock absorbers are fitted all round.

As with all Mercedes-Benz models, the ride and handling are outstanding.

The body construction has the usual Mercedes features of passenger compartment safety cell and deformable front construction, designed to absorb offset frontal impacts.

The styling is low and distinctive - the neighbours will not mistake the profile.

Interior design of the Mercedes-Benz is unique with a simple but ergonomically efficient dash design and the traditional gated gearshift. The ignition key is on the dash to the left of the steering column and the indicator stalk, unlike many European cars, is on the right side.

Mercedes-Benz cars are built to a standard of quality and durability envied by other makers. Any Benz is an investment in many years of quality motoring and the 180E Limited Edition, despite the measures taken to reduce the price to match its rivals, is no exception.

Because Mercedes Benz cars have many unique technical features, they should only be serviced by an authorised dealer or a specialist in the marque.

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