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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - sedan range

Launch Story

Mercedes-Benz logo26 Jul 2007

By CHRIS HARRIS

MERCEDES-BENZ has released its fourth-generation C-class in Australia.

Larger, longer, wider and significantly more spacious than before, the W204-series C-class is all new, with crisper styling that borrows heavily from the current S-class sedan launched early last year.

With a choice of supercharged petrol, or turbo-charged diesel, four-cylinder engines, as well as a naturally aspirated V6 petrol unit, the rear-wheel drive German sedan is also a much sharper driving tool than before – a fact Mercedes is keen to promote.

Significantly cheaper prices – that brings the C-class closer to its German, Italian, Japanese and Swedish competition – round out the C change. The volume-selling C200K auto now costs $1500 less than the previous base car, the C180K, and $7500 less than the W203 C200K.

The upper-end sports/luxury grade Avantgarde boasts a large three-pointed star centrally placed in the grille, marking the first time Mercedes is delineating its variants within a model range in this way, as well as the first Benz sedan to officially have it there.

The base Classic and luxury-focussed Elegance will continue the traditional smaller badge upon the radiator grille-only look.

BMW’s evergreen 3 Series’ enviable reputation for being a driver’s car has helped prompt Mercedes in making the C-class sportier.

On the suspension front, all C-class models adopt adaptive damper control, as part of the three-link MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear axle design that is a thorough redevelopment of the original W201 190E pioneered in production cars in 1983.

Dubbed ‘Agility Control Suspension,’ it automatically softens or firms up the damper pressure according to how the vehicle is being driven – softer when the car is being driven sedately and firmer for when pressing on.

Meanwhile, ‘Agility Control Steering’ sees the W204’s speed-sensitive powered rack-and-pinion steering ratio decrease to 14.5 – making it six per cent more direct than its W203 predecessor’s.

Shorter and more precise gearshifts for six-speed manual gearbox models are the upshot of ‘Agility Control Gearshift’.

The S-class also lends its ‘Adaptive Brake’ technology to Mercedes’ smallest sedan for the first time, that brings benefits such as a hill-start function called ‘Start-Off Assist’ and a gentle wiping of the brake discs if damp conditions prevail to increase their effectiveness.

Engine outputs also increase markedly.

The smallest is a variation of the supercharged 1.8-litre twin-cam four-cylinder unit found in the outgoing vehicle.

Again misleadingly named C200K (for Kompressor), its 1796cc engine produces 135kW of power at 5500rpm and 250Nm of torque from 2800rpm.

This a 15kW and 10Nm more than before respectively, yet the C200K sedan is 0.5 seconds quicker from standstill to 100km/h, recording a time of 8.6 seconds (auto: 8.8s) on the way to a 235km/h V-max, as well 0.5 litre per 100km more frugal, returning a 7.9L/100km combined average (auto).

Carbon dioxide emissions figures are 180 grams per kilometre, and 187g/km for the auto.

A less powerful 115kW/230Nm version of this engine that resurrects the C180 Kompressor moniker is believed to be on the way, probably sometime next year.

The W204 C220 CDI, kicking off from $60,274, uses a 2148cc 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine to generate 125kW at 3800rpm (up from 110kW) and 400Nm from 2000rpm (before it was 340Nm). Its European Driving Cycle average for the auto is 6.7L/100km, while the C02 figure is 173g/km. Top speed is 210km/h, while 8.4s is the zero to 100km/h dash time.

Both engines offer a five-speed automatic with a sequential shift function. The C200K is also available with a six-speed manual model, but there is no price drop for shifting gears yourself.

For maximum power, the 250km/h C280 employs a 2996cc 3.0-litre V6 delivering 170kW at 6000rpm and 300Nm from between 2500 and 5000rpm. It retails from $84,974, takes 7.3s to reach 100km/h, uses 9.6L/100km of fuel in the combined cycle and spews out 219g/km of CO2.

Only the C280 has Mercedes’ 7GTronic seven-speed automatic gearbox.

Mercedes says that the W204 successfully passed over 100 crash tests, some which exceed current legal requirements.

No less than 70 per cent of the body panels are made from high-strength steel, with 20 per cent being of ultra high-strength steels. Special attention has also been paid to having a thicker firewall, a stronger floor structure, reinforced B-pillars and a more robust rear end.

The upshot is an increase (of 13 per cent) in torsional rigidity, while Mercedes reveals that, during a frontal, rear-end or lateral collision, or a rollover scenario, the passenger cell remains a “… practically undeformable structure” so as to provide an intact survival space, even at high impact speeds.

Pre-Safe – the company’s preventative occupant protection system that ‘recognises’ critical driving manoeuvres at an early stage by priming the vehicles safety systems – such as the ESP stability control and Brake Assist function – for a possible collision.

With the outgoing W203’ cabin being criticised for lagging behind in quality feel and execution, the W204’s interior is the outcome of a complete overhaul, with softer and more expensive-feeling materials abounding.

There is also more space inside, partly due to the 2760mm wheelbase being 45mm longer than before. At 4581 and 1770mm, the body’s length and width are 55 and 42mm larger respectively, while the tracks (front: 1549mm rear: 1552mm) are 44 and 76mm wider than before.

The W204 sedan’s Cd aerodynamic value is class leading.

Mercedes also introduces two new infotainment units called Audio 20 and COMAND APS – bringing a keypad telephone feature and Bluetooth connectivity. The latter, which is optional, also includes a trick new satellite-navigation system, a four gigabyte memory music server, DVD video and audio, and Linguatronic voice-activation control.

All models include ESP, Agility Control Suspension/Steering and (on manual cars) Gearshift, eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side and curtain) and Mercedes’ Pre-Safe anticipatory occupant protection system and Agility Control Suspension.

The C200K and C220 CDI sedans also feature anti-whiplash head restraints, 16-inch alloy wheels, Artico leather-like upholstery, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and transmission knob, a multi-function steering wheel with cruise control, and six-stack CD audio with a mobile telephone interface facility.

The C280 adds the COMAND APS system, leather upholstery, 17-inch alloy wheels and a memory function for front electric seats.

Standard on the C280 and a $3500 option on C200K and C220 CDI, the Elegance model adds different 16-inch alloys, Burr Walnut timber trim, auto-dimming rear-vision and powered folding external mirrors.

As a no-cost option on the C280 and a $5700 option on C200K and C220 CDI, the Avantgarde switches to yet another 17-inch alloy, darker timber trim, as well as the fancy mirrors mentioned above.

An AMG Sports Package is also available for $12,000 and includes the $5700 Avantgarde model line, while a Vision Package (that features active bi-Xenon headlights, a sunroof and Harmon Kardon Logic7 surround sound system among other things), will cost $4500 on all variants.

Other options include a full-length panoramic glass roof/sunroof, an active headlight system and a keyless go set-up.

Mercedes is aiming to crack the 5000 annual sales barrier next year, as the as-yet-unveiled wagon will have come on stream by the end of 2008. Beating the previous best of 4997 units achieved in 2002, this should give the model in excess of 30 per cent share of its segment.

Over 1.4 million W203 C-class sedans have been sold globally since 2000, or two million-plus if you include the wagon and Sports Coupe models, with Germany taking about 30 per cent of all volume. Australia, meanwhile, managed to consume over 32,000 units.

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