Last autumn the Mercedes C Class underwent a massive overhaul, both aesthetically and beneath the skin. The Stuttgart-based outfit say that somewhere in the region of 2000 components were either redesigned or re-engineered with the aim of revitalising its most successful model, which was first introduced way back in 2007.
The changes may appear subtle, however do go a long way in refreshing what was a dated looking car. More curvaceous headlights, a slightly more contoured bonnet and remodelled bumpers are the most noticeable tweaks – but this is definitely one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore I think Merecedes has gone a long way in catching the eye of a younger audience, which I say because I’d be perfectly happy to park one in my driveway. Something I would never have said ten years ago.
Mercedes say that a main focus of the design work in the interior was the restyling of the dashboard, with the aim of creating a powerful, sporty and high-quality look. It’s definitely noticeable. The surfaces of the control elements are more finely detailed and galvanised, showing that they’re paying greater attention to detail over in Stuttgart. It’s just a generally nice place to be, with plenty of room in both the front and back, along with exceptionally comfortable seats. Audi used to be miles ahead when it came to interiors, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Mercedes has matched their fellow countrymen, if not surpassed them with this one.
The biggest changes come under the bonnet. Every engine in the line up has been upgraded and combined with a range of so-called BlueEfficiency features, including start/stop. My test model bore a 1.8 litre turbo charged petrol motor, good for 150kW and 310Nm, linked to an incredibly smooth seven speed automatic gearbox. The impressive figures lead to decent real life performance, with a 7.2 second sprint from 0-100km/h and a top speed of 240km/h, but that’s not really the point of BlueEfficiency.
The point is to be frugal, and with a claimed combined cycle of 6.9 litres/100km it definitely appears frugal. On the highway it is indeed efficient, matching targets at a gentle cruise over longer distances. Town driving was less impressive however, with heavy stop/start traffic leading to figures as high at 17.2 litres/100km on my daily commute.
Changes to the C Class’s chassis and suspension have made it more engaging, without ruining its traditionally comfortable ride. This improvement is thanks to a new active damping system that is standard across the range. In essence the system reduces damping forces at lower speeds, maintaining the silky smooth ride one would expect from a Mercerdes. What one wouldn’t expect is the manner in which you can attack swooping bends with confidence, as the damping firms up under load to prevent body roll. Unfortunately the steering doesn’t quite match up to the potential offered by the suspension – it’s just a bit slow, leaving the C Class feeling happier as a long distance cruiser.
At the end of the day the new C Class is still a Mercedes Benz, meaning it retains its sophisticated, stately nature. It’s not too flashy and doesn’t provide the same driver-focussed-ness one would find in the BMW 3 Series; however the changes make it a better all-rounder than ever before.
Price: R 482,500
Engine: 1796cc four cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 150 kW
Torque: 320 Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.2
Top speed (km/h): 240
First published in Autodealer KZN