New models - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class - C200K Estate
Benz offers Euro wagon lovers a new choice
Mercedes-Benz has presisted with an estate version of the C-Class
25 Jul 2001
FAMILIES with a penchant for compact prestige motoring rejoice: Mercedes-Benz has persisted with the traditionally slow selling European wagon segment in Australia by adding an Estate model to its burgeoning C-class range.
Launched yesterday in conjunction with the Sports Coupe and also due to go on sale during August, the C-class Estate completes the new three-car C-class range and builds on the tradition of the very first Mercedes-Benz Estate of 1977.
Designed at the same time as the W203 C-class sedan, the new Estate replaces the outgoing W202 version launched locally in October 1996. Of the 250,000 units sold worldwide, just 560 C-class Estates arrived here, some 84 per cent of which were 2.0-litre models.
Hence Mercedes-Benz's decision to release the latest generation C-class Estate in C200 Kompressor form only. Available from $66,800 in Classic specification level - representing a $3500 premium over the equivalent C200K sedan - the manual-only Estate will also be offered in $72,300 Avantgarde and $72,800 Elegance guises.
Unlike the base sedans, the C-class Estate includes a split-folding rear seat and some 470 litres of luggage space as standard equipment (versus the sedan's 455-litre capacity). The rear bench folds right away to reveal 1.5 square metres of level floor and some 1384 litres of cargo area. The largest box it can accommodate has a volume of 783 litres - 11 more than the outgoing C-class Estate, which is 25mm shorter overall.
Wagon-specific features include an integral safety net and luggage hooks to aid cargo stowage, a 12-volt power outlet, handy recessed side compartments and useful horizontal and vertical cargo blinds, but otherwise the C200K Estate lacks the innovation of some of its rivals and is little more than an extended sedan.
Which is far from being a bad thing, when the Estate offers a similar driving experience and all of the four-door's benchmark safety features as standard, like adaptive front airbags, four side airbags, windowbags, ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Program, five lap-sash seat belts and five head restraints.
The standard equipment list is similar to that of its sedan opposite number, and includes automatic climate control, remote central locking, power windows and (heated) mirrors, fog lights, a fully adjustable multi-function steering wheel, trip computer, cruise control and power front seat height and recline functions. Estate-specific standard equipment includes roof rails, a rear windscreen wiper and interior woodgrain trim.
Mercedes-Benz expects to sell a maximum of just 200 C-class Estates per annum, and in the absence of a direct competitor from its fiercest luxury passenger car rival, BMW, that seems feasible.
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:Obviously the deletion of a boot does little to alter the already impressive handling characteristics of the W203 C-class. In fact, without looking in the rear-view mirror from the identically proportioned front half of the Estate's glasshouse, there's little to differentiate it from the C200K sedan.
With a kerb weight of 1540kg, the Estate does carry a 95kg weight penalty over its C200K sedan sibling - a disadvantage that tends to become apparent more during hard cornering than acceleration.
There is a greater level of bodyroll during ambitious cornering thanks to the extra weight and higher centre of gravity (its roof is almost 40mm taller), but it's a small price to pay for the wagon bodyshell's vastly improved practicality.
But there's very little in it in terms of performance. Claimed figures show the Estate reaches the same 210km/h top speed and is less than half a second slower to reach 100km/h than the C200K sedan (10.1 versus 9.7 seconds), but it certainly doesn't feel that much slower.
Moreover, the W203 sedan's vastly improved steering, grip and handling dynamics make the C-class Estate a huge advance on the model it replaces and, though there is now only one choice of engine in the slimmed-down C-class Estate range, the asking price remains surprisingly competitive for such a low-volume vehicle.
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