DaimlerChrysler Malaysia (soon to be Mercedes-Benz Malaysia), gave the media, and some rubber-necking commuters from Glenmarie to Cameron Highlands, a chance to get acquainted with the new C-Class, set to fill many an upcoming taukeh’s driveway from November onwards.
Competition in the premium C-segment market here sure is hotting up. The 3-series is still sitting pretty on top for now and is the only member of the club with GPS, the A4 is there with quattro whilst its cousins, the Jetta and Octavia are keen to contest in the value buy department.
And then, of course, there’s the C-Class, which, following hot on the heels of the CLS, B and R, takes a significant departure from the staid image of Mercs with the W204 platform.
MB have tried really hard with this car, you can tell. All the emphasis now is on being young and virile and uhh, somewhat Japanese. This all begins with the new look, which depending on whether you pick the Elegance or Avantgarde, is either a quantum leap or a nice game of hopscotch. The Avantgarde takes on the SL radiator grille, with the huge Mercedes tristar ensuring that on our drive up from Simpang Pulai, everyone up to Gua Musang could see us coming.
The Elegance maintains the hood ornament instead and is somewhat more sedate, although still with a more contemporary look with a few cues from the E-Class, namely with the pentagonal grille and also the skirting down the front, where the ‘goatee’ inlet and fog lights give the car a wider look.
Not that it really needs it. The body is already wider by 42mm but the proportions have not been tweaked too much as the overall length has also seen a 55mm extension, resulting in a wheelbase of 2760mm, up 45mm. Comparatively, it feels nearly as spacious as a 5-series in the car, although the 5 has never been known as the car of choice for Shaquille O’Neal.
Despite this, the bodyshell is in fact, 8kg lighter than that of the outgoing W203, keeping true to Mercedes’ commitment to reversing the trend of increasing weight on the backs of our poor roads. This plays an itsy-bitsy role in bringing fuel consumption for the C200 Kompressor down to 8.2l/100km, saving you half a litre over that distance as compared to its predecessor.
This is despite the M271 E18 1,796cc inline-four being beefed up by 21hp to 181hp at 5,500rpm with 250Nm usable from 2,800-5,000rpm. Power is delivered however, via a 5-speed auto ‘box instead of the 7G-Tronic, meaning the C200K checks in at 100km/h at 8.8s, improved by 0.6s and hits a top speed of 230km/h.
If this isn’t good enough for you, you’ll have to wait til next year for the 201hp C230 with the 7-ratio transmission, although that’s only going to get you to 100km/h 0.1s faster and just 3km/h faster at full speed. If this miniscule power premium isn’t all that important to you, then you’ll probably be quite happy with all that Mercedes has tried to do with this car.
The new innovations include Agility Control, which is the catch-all phrase for all their developments in terms of ride and handling. For the W204, this means adaptive shock absorbers which increase damping forces when driving more dynamically, to ensure maximum stability. Obviously, this means ride comfort also changes according to how you drive.
I’m happy to report that even whilst tossing it about with mid-corner braking and being forced over bad surfaces, it’s all pretty comfy in there, with satisfactory electric seats and two zone Thermatic climate control. However, despite the car’s wider track and new, lighter shell, it certainly doesn’t feel that there’s that the grip has more bite to it. A shame since the steering is a bit more direct than in the W203 and it was tempting to push the car hard – harder than one should, perhaps.
Not as much bodyroll for sure, possibly due to the Agility Control, but that hasn’t really improved the handling, and the 3-series can probably rest easy with regards to this. However, there is the optional Advanced Agility package that is set to debut with the C230 and the small issue of the fact that there weren’t enough Avantgardes to go around.
So I couldn’t personally get a feel of a slightly tighter suspension – the product planning guy put his thumb and index finger about an inch away from each other to describe the difference – and what effect the speed-sensitive steering might have had when taking high-speed corners. But overall, nobody came away thinking the Avantgarde was all that different – one even preferred the steering on the Elegance. Moving on to the other innovations of the more elegant sort – so simple, you wished you had thought of it as a Form Four student. When the car is on the move, air is sucked in from the underbody and is conducted behind the tail lights to flow out of the small ventilating slits in the lenses. As the tail lights are hermetically sealed against the vehicle body, the air is only able to escape to the side via the ventilating slits. This avoids turbulence behind the car, thus helping to reduce air resistance to a CD coefficient of just 0.27.
Also, there’s a twin rubber drainage channel which uses a two-piece rubber lip as a transition between the roof and the rear window. Without going into too much detail, it basically channels rainwater away from the rear window and downwards along the window edging, keeping the window clean even at high speeds, so there’s no need for a rear wiper.
Beyond that, other niceties for your quarter million ringgit include Adaptive Brake which gives you ‘hill-hold’ assistance and also primes your brakes when you make a sudden liftoff from the throttle and also applies light contact to dry your brake discs in wet conditions. There’s also Bluetooth telephony which is easily controlled by the driver with steering-wheel mounted buttons and reception and mic pickup was clear enough that people on the other end were genuinely surprised that was not speaking directly into a headset. Otherwise, the passenger uses a central dial – similar to BMW’s iDrive – to control in-car electronics which was only slightly confusing as certain menus had to be accessed via independent buttons.
Overall, it’s certainly not a disappointing car and the only thing that really bugged me about it was the fact that from a side profile, the bonnet looked like it was slapped on last-minute whilst the rest of the car looks so monoform. And the prices haven’t really moved much from the W203, although, given the fact that about 1,000 advance orders had been placed, this hasn’t bothered many people. For the record, it’s RM258,888 for the Avantgarde and 10K less for the Elegance, on-the-road, without insurance.
All that’s left is for you to decide between three exterior (obsidian black, iridium silver and cubanite silver) and interior trims (grey, black and a two-tone beige only for Elegance) although DCM promises to give you any combination in the international brochure if you’re willing to wait a bit and well, pay the price.
Story and photos by Shannon Teoh.