Road tested by Hugh Maguire
THE current BMW 3 series (the 2012 new model has just arrived) has really had its own way in the compact executive segment since its launch. I know the Lexus IS range is serious competition in quality terms, indeed it is a car that I highly recommend and truly feel is a real match for a Beemer or Merc. Nevertheless in the public eye Lexus has not yet achieved the perceived status of a Mercedes or BMW, but it is getting there! Other rivals include the excellent Audi new A4, and the new the Volvo S60 to name but a few. However, none of these, except maybe the Audi has managed to really make any great impact on sales of Mercedes and BMW.
Mercedes and BMW therefore remain at the top of most people’s wish list as the “most coveted” executive cars. While Mercedes may now be at a slight disadvantage with the arrival of the superb new 2012 BMW 3 Series the C Class got a freshen up last year and I have been driving the oil burning C200CDI Blue Efficiency to see how it stacks up. My test car comes in the high specification Avantgarde trim with auto transmission. There are three trim/spec levels, Classic Elegance, and Avantgarde.
I must say the style and shape of the car is very nice indeed. It looks elegant and has a real presence on the road. In my opinion this is a more distinctive looking car than the new 3 Series. I do feel it is a pity that they have dropped the bonnet mounted 3-pointed star (on Avantgarde model) in favour of a big one in the front grille, but that’s a minor gripe.
Behind The Wheel
The revised C-Class certainly boasts an air of quality in the interior that is hard to rival. Front and rear head and legroom is very good. The new cabin is very well laid out indeed. I like the way in which they have used the latest technology such as the centrally mounted information screen and rotary control for audio and climate functions as well as any options such as sat-nav and phone without making it over complex and fussy as with BMW’s i-Drive. The build quality is simply excellent.
Standard equipment across the range is improved with all models getting Agility Control, ABS, ESP with ASR, seven airbags, four electric windows, a good quality CD which is MP3 compatible, 2 zone Thermatic climate control, multifunction steering wheel, trip computer, 6-speed manual gearbox, and much more. My test car boasted full leather trim, metallic paint, LED lighting system and a host of other options which you will see quickly pushes up the base price. The options available are too numerous to list here.
The C200 Cdi is powered by a 4-cylinder 2.1 litre turbo diesel. Max power is 134 bhp at just 2,800 rpm to 4,800 rpm and a mighty 360Nm of torque. This unit is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox though my test car had the optional (and excellent) auto box.
Performance is very good reaching 100kph from a standstill in just 9.1 seconds and cruising onto a top speed of 218 kph. In reality this translates to a very useable spread of power with great reserves for safe and swift overtaking. Once on the go it is also quiet and refined but at idle it disappoints with a noticeable diesel clatter. It is a pity really but these 4 cylinder diesels cannot match the refinement of BMW’s 6- cylinder diesels.
On the economy front though it is mighty impressive burning just 6.5 litres per 100km, with low emissions while giving the C200 CDi a range in excess of 850km between refuels! The auto Stop/Start no doubt contributing to this figure.
On The Road
The revised C-Class feels very solid and well put together and refinement levels are high with wind, road and engine noise all well suppressed. It is not as quiet as say the Lexus IS but it’s close.
The ride is a perfect blend between comfort and agility. The car remains composed on even the most challenging roads yet the ride is never firm. In fact it is just about perfect. The handling is more dynamic too making this C-Class a joy to hustle along. Grip is tenacious whether on wet or dry roads and it is fair to say the new C-Class is now actually good fun to drive. In the extreme the BMW 3-Series may be a fraction more dynamic in the handling department, but this C-Class is the best one so far.
The more I drove the car the more I liked it. You begin to appreciate its hidden engineering virtues, but these become more apparent with every kilometre behind the wheel. This is the most tested Mercedes yet with computer aided design helping Mercedes perfect most things before a single part was made while actual production models covered a whopping 24 million kilometres testing across the world.
The result is a very impressive car indeed. Prices start at a competitive €36,350 for the C200 CDI Blue Efficiency, the C200 CDI Avantgard Auto as tested costs €47,456.