Subtle exterior tweaks hide a sea change – and a shock for Singaporean buyers – for Mercedes-Benz’s most popular sedan
Photos: Mercedes-Benz, Derryn Wong
Luxembourg/Mosele Valley, Germany
In 2014 the W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class burst onto the scene. As we said back then from the car’s international debut in Marseille, France, it’s “bigger, more luxurious and more plush than ever, and raises the bar for accomplishment in the executive sedan segment”.
Not only did it comprehensively worry its rivals the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, it also outdid its predecessor in every single way possible.
Here’s the new one. No we dunno what that guy is doing either…
After the revolution comes evolution, it seems: On the face of it, the C-Class gets a mild update. Easy-to-spot changes include the headlights and front grille/intake section, so the C-Class looks more like its S-Class brother (also recently facelifted) than ever before.
But its appearance is deceiving (de-C-ving? Sorry I’ll let myself out…) as Mercedes dubs this the most extensive update (read:facelift) the C-Class has ever had. On average, across the broad model range, more than 50 percent of the car has been updated, with over 6,500 new parts.
The car tested here is the C 200, one of Singapore’s more popular C-Class variants. It’s now thoroughly in the mid-range: Below it there’s the 156hp C 180, another Singapore mainstay, above it a 258hp C 300, a 333hp C 400.
But there’s now a new addition, in the form of the 129hp C 160 entry-level model. Mercedes Singapore hasn’t confirmed what models we’ll be getting, but CarBuyer bets it’s similar to the current lineup of C 180, C 200, and C 43.
What shakes things up is the addition of a totally new 1.5-litre, inline 4 turbocharged gasoline engine (codenamed M264, which Mercedes says is part of a new engine family – the 2.0-litre powering the C 300 is a sibling.
|The new M264 engine: Powering a new approach
This looks to be destined for the heart of all new Mercedes models in future, everything from an A-Class to plug-in hybrid versions of cars as large as an S-Class, in both 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre versions. Here are some technical highlights:
The transmission also upgrades from seven to nine-speeds, the previous 7G-Tronic Plus making way for the the current 9G-Tronic unit seen in the E-Class and C-Class.
The C 200 is the most interesting of the new C-Class bunch though, as it’s taken a wild step to become a mild hybrid through the addition of a small lithium ion battery pack, belt-driven, 48V motor generator.
Audi has already done this, and made all models of its upper-crust A6 sedan, A7 Sportback, and A8 luxury limousine likewise, but Mercedes is bringing electrification to a less expensive, more widely-adopted segment.
Belt driven starter-generator and 48V tech? Check.
Unlike the A6, which doesn’t have electric boost, the C 200’s motor-generator adds 14hp (for a total of 198hp) and up to 160Nm of torque.
Conservative Merc buyers who fear excessive tech needn’t cross their wires in fear, though. From the cockpit, the C 200’s electrified nature is not at all obvious.
In fact we get the distinct sense Mercedes made it a small deal on purpose, the only way of knowing what’s going on is the driver’s instrument display with a charge/utilisation needle, and hybrid-esque ‘Ready’ indicator.
The engine shuts off for longer at standstill, while lifting off the gas pedal at higher speeds means coasting with the engine totally off for brief periods. But the smoothness of the motor-generator, which also starts the engine, means it’s an almost seamless transition.
Under acceleration and braking the C 200 simply feels like it did before: Utterly competent, turbine-like power, that’s almost remote, but unthreatening, refined and so easy to get to grips with.
The new engine sounds uninspiring and vaguely diesel-esque – but so did the previous one, and this one is less vibey, adding to the already impressive quietness of the car.
Is it really more efficient? Well, we can’t really tell (see box), but despite the lack of quoted figures reflecting that, we’re sure it will make a difference.
|Has the C 200 just gotten slower and thirstier?
A glance at the black-and-white shows the C 200 has the same 184hp – but wait, has it gone backwards?
It’s slower in 0-100km/h, 7.3 seconds rising to 7.7 seconds, less fuel efficient (6.2L/100km vs 5.5L/100km) and emits more CO2 (127g/km up now to 140g/km).
No the engineers at Mercedes have not gone mad and accepted less performance. While the car is slower in acceleration, its top speed is increased (239km/h, 4km/h more), and the efficiency ‘loss’ is due to the new 2017 NEDC reporting system, with the previous model for FC and CO2 reporting being a decade old, and updated post-Dieselgate
Our test car came equipped with adaptive suspension, which is likely to be a cost option in Singapore’s C 200. It provides a wide palette of customisation for the driver’s needs (through the Dynamic Select drive mode system).
While the C 200 hasn’t the outright grunt of the C 300 or C 43, it showed itself perfectly capable over the wide range of roads covered.
In our review of the W205, we said Mercedes had succeeded in making the Baby Benz ape its legendary big brother, the S-Class.
Like the luxury limo’s ‘widescreen cockpit’, you use two touch-sensitive pads to control the driver’s instrument display (12.3-inch, full-colour, customisable) or the infotainment display ( larger now, at 10.25-inches).
The basic setup is still conventional instruments with a colour display or 5.5-inch/7.0-inch basic infotainment screen.
But many of those features are likely to be cost optional on the new C 200. For now, the chief thing to know is that its switch to hybrid-ism isn’t shocking, hard to live, or in any way obtrusive, but keeps the C-Class ahead of the curve without compromising on its 36-years of Baby Benz-ing.
Mercedes-Benz C 200
|Engine||1,497cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||184hp at 5800-6100rpm|
|Torque||280Nm at 3000-6100rpm|
|Top Speed||7.7 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBC / 140g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|