Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets internal 'massive facelift'
THE Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been Australia's best-selling luxury car for more than a decade. Intent on keeping it that way in the face of ever-present BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 competition, Benz has re-worked its golden child to the tune of 6500 new or modified parts.
"We could sell it as a new C-Class, but we'll call it a massive facelift if you like," says Mercedes-Benz Australia chief Horst von Sanden.
Massive it may be, with over 50 per cent of the car altered, but the bulk of the changes are under the skin. Visually this fourth-generation C-Class, introduced in 2014, has subtly evolved with new bumpers, grille, lights and alloys across the range.
There was no need for revolution; the C-Class looks like a mini S-Class and its aesthetics have been key to its success.
The freshened C-Class has arrived en masse with all body styles covered. The new sedan, wagon, coupe and convertibles are on sale now with your choice of petrol, diesel (sedan and wagon only) or, from AMG, the C43 bi-turbo V6. The monstrous bi-turbo V8 C63 S versions land in January.
Most interesting are the C200 models, with Benz downsizing the motor for its strong-selling entry-level model from a 2.0-litre turbo four to an all-new 1.5-litre version with what it calls EQ Boost, a 48V mild hybrid set-up.
Its belt-drive starter/generator takes care of the engine start-up and kicks in an extra 10kW/160Nm at low revs until the turbo comes on boost.
The 1.5-litre's power output, 135kW, matches that of the outgoing 2.0 but it produces 20Nm less torque. The mild hybrid's helping hand means power delivery is smooth, if a little underwhelming.
In the 0-100km/h sprint, the previous C200 clocked 7.3 seconds while the new car takes 7.7. Claimed thirst is 6.4L/100km, down by just 0.1L though calculated under a more "real-world" economy regimen.
C-Class shoppers shouldn't be put off. There are faster pickings further up the range, with the C300's 2.0-litre turbo (190kW/370Nm) expected to be the Australian volume seller. In sedan form the C300 is $71,400, a premium of $8000 over the C200.
Those seeking value and a more genteel C-Class experience shouldn't look past the C200. What it lacks in urge it makes up for with unflustered and classy pace, concealing the engine's capacity.
Only when asked to hustle does the engine sound out of its comfort zone and run out of urge. Keep things smooth - a common trait among C200 drivers - and the nine-speed auto helps deliver polished progress.
The C200s tested featured optional ($1400) Dynamic Body Control, with Comfort, Sport or Sport+ modes of damping control. The changes in character are marked enough to warrant the outlay.
Stay in Comfort and the bump-absorbing velvety ride quality is up there with larger Benzes. The sportier settings tighten things enough to ramp up the enjoyment through turns, though the steering doesn't have much feedback.
C-Class prices are up $1500 range-wide, justified by new cabin features. Standard on all are a customisable 12.3-inch digital cockpit plus a 10.25-inch media display, now with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring. There's no giant dual-screen as in posher Mercs or even the new A-Class.
The interior remains a high point for comfort and build quality, however. There are the regulation man-made leather trim and new touches such as steering-wheel swipe pads to control the infotainment control and the choice of 64 ambient light colours.
Those finding modern active safety kit too intrusive may appreciate the C200's lack of active lane keep found in other C-Classes. The absence of active cruise control - even as an option - is a convenience mark-down for this entry-level car.
The breadth of the C-Class range means you tailor your choice to suit. There's plenty of theatre to be had in the C-Class range, as illustrated by a turn in the new AMG C43 - from $107,900 with bi-turbo V6 (287kW/520Nm), it remains a relative bargain, made even better with the new higher-tech cabin.
The C43's mighty power delivery comes complete with infectious crackles and pops on gear changes, adding to its appeal for those seeking a precision performance tool without the $160K price or mad-dog nature of the AMG C63 S.
Welcome tech updates and sharpened style boost the appeal of the ever-impressive C-Class. The mild-hybrid C200 is a slick item, though it may be dull for some, but the range is deep to ensure there's a C to match all personalities.
PRICE Entry up $1500 for all body types, justified by higher spec and mild hybrid boost for new 1.5-litre.
TECHNOLOGY Standard 12.3-inch digital cockpit and 10.25-inch media display with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, with touch-sensitive swipe controls on steering wheel. Active Parking Assist for parallel or right-angle.
PERFORMANCE On-board 48V generator, called EQ Boost, kicks in turbo lag-busting 10kW/160Nm at low revs. Time for 0-100km/h rises from 7.3 seconds to 7.7 but it's thriftier, from 6.5L/100km to 6.4L.
DRIVING On all grades, suspension options are Dynamic Body Control with three-stage adjustable damping ($1400) or S-Class-style Air Body Control ($2400).
DESIGN About 6500 new or modified parts, with minor changes to the LED headlights, tail-lights, bumpers and alloys. In the cabin, centre console has new flowing trim and there are 64 ambient light colours.
PRICE From $63,400 (sedan)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/u'ltd km, $1980 for 3 years
ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo, 135kW/280Nm plus mild hybrid boost
SAFETY 5 stars, 9 airbags, rear camera, blind spot assist, active brake assist, pre-safe accident anticipation, attention assist
SPARE Repair kit