Mercedes-Benz C-Class first drive: More than a facelift
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Mercedes-Benz New Zealand has a lot to gloat about when it comes to the C-Class range. Not only is it the best-seller for the brand but it’s been this country’s top-selling luxury car for four years.
Since 1982, 9.5 million C-Class models have been sold worldwide, with the latest generation revealed in 2014.
Now comes time for a major facelift for the C-Class range that includes 6500 new parts, plus some serious new developments.
Mercedes-Benz Australasia’s CEO, Horst van Sanden, was questioned at the media launch this week about the classification of the C-Class, considering the major additions to the vehicle.
“It’s not a brand new car. It’s a massive facelift if you wish. But we could sell it as a new C-Class,” said van Sanden.
On sale in New Zealand since the beginning of the month, the range currently in the showrooms include the C200 petrol sedan (from $73,900) and wagon ($3000 more), plus the coupe ($78,900) and cabriolet at $91,400.
Added to the line-up are AMG models including the C43 sedan ($122,800), wagon ($125,700), coupe ($126,500) and cabrio ($140,600).
Next in the showrooms will be the C220 diesel ($75,400) and C300 petrol ($88,400), and the wagon versions with the C220d at $78,400 and the C300 at $90,900.
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For Mercedes-Benz NZ, the C-Class range makes up 20 to 25 per cent of sales each month.
“The launch of any new C-Class is always an exciting transition for Mercedes-Benz, as it has been our best-selling model in New Zealand for more than 10 years,” said Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager, Ben Giffin.
“Since the launch of the 205 series in 2014, the C-Class has been the best-selling luxury passenger car in New Zealand.
“With all new engines, and more than 6500 changes being made to the facelift, we are confident buyers will be impressed by the new technology, and will continue to place their trust in the new C-Class.”
All C-Class vehicles get a 12.3in digital instrument cluster and 10.2in media display as standard, with new grilles and headlights across the group.
From the C300 upwards, a driver assistance package comes standard, including Mercedes-Benz’s ‘co-pilot’ system that allows you to set speed and distance, plus lane keep assist, a sort of semi-autonomous project that means you can have your hands off the steering wheel for up to a minute.
The big player for Mercedes-Benz NZ has always been the C200, but things are different when it comes to the ‘facelift’.
The C200 gets an all-new 1.497-litre, four-valve petrol engine producing 135kW of power and 280Nm of torque with the addition of a 48-volt mild hybrid ‘EQ’ boost that adds 10kW on top of the power.
That replaces the 2-litre turbo petrol, producing 135kW and 300Nm.
While there’s an advantage in performance and benefits in technological advances with the new engine and EQ boost, the only downside is a slight decrease in fuel economy: it’s down 0.1 to 6.5l/100km.
The EQ system offers recuperation energy, the ability to coast and the superb coast to a stop.
The media launch had a fleet of C-Class models including the C200 and C43 sedan, coupe and wagons.
The C43 has a 3-litre V6 petrol engine producing 287kW of power and 520Nm of torque combined with a 9-speed transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive.
Now logic would say pick the C200 on day one, then the enthralling C43 with its pop and crackle exhaust on day two.
But the Aussie motoring journos got in first, so I was ‘stuck’ with the C43 wagon. What a hardship!
Leaving Melbourne Airport in the C43 wagon (or estate as Mercedes calls it), we drove 114km northeast to Mansfield near the ski field of Mt Buller, taking on the motorway first, then open roads with speed limits of 80- to 100km/h – and unlike New Zealand, they are strictly adhered to as there is a zero tolerance in the state.
Thankfully, the C43 had Mercedes’ driver assistance plus package with a heads-up display that included traffic sign recognition. It is a great addition to setting your speed and distance between you and the car in front, and as it sees a traffic sign you can tap the ‘set’ button and it decreases or increases speed to suit. When entering a town with a 80km/h then 60km/h limit you don’t need to brake; the car does the work for you.
The trip took on a iconic turn when we drove past Bonnie Doon, the famous holiday location of Australia film The Castle.
With water levels alarmingly low, you couldn’t ‘feel the serenity’– and the crackle of the C43’s exhaust on the up-change in gears really ruined the tranquility, but the noise should have delighted the locals.
Heading from Mansfield to Milawa, we entered a state park with superb roads. Here the C43 came to the fore when I moved through comfort, sport to sport+ driving and engine modes.
Swapping to change gears through steering wheel-mounted paddles, the mountain roads on incline and decline, tight corners and no other traffic made the C-Class estate feel like a sports car, rather than family wagon.
Sure, SUVs dominate new vehicle sales – and there is no slowing down the demand — but the C43 estate could be classed as the perfect family vehicle: enough room for the kids or plenty of sports gear, but the added benefit of amazing performance engine and delightful soundtrack.
The next day, we were into the C200 sedan, doing a more sedate drive from Milawa to Mansfield along straight country roads, before heading back to the airport.
It’s easy to realise why the C200 is a best-seller for Mercedes-Benz and with the inclusion of the EQ boost it will gain more fans. The system shows how much you can save in fuel economy by using the coast to a stop function. It also acts as an advanced cruise control by using the radar system to adjust your driving.
So if the car in front slows, the C200 will use the regenerative braking system to decrease speed, and then boost you when the car moves forward.
With competition from Audi’s A4, Jaguar’s XE and BMW’s 3 Series, the C-Class will prove its worth when it comes to premium sedans.