Mercedes-Benz’ All-New Made in SA C Redefines Entry Exec Class
They say that good things come to those who wait. Well, we should have written this story three months ago, but the local launch was delayed at the last minute following that last, pathetic lockdown fiasco. Finally, late last week, we were treated to the pleasure of meeting Mercedes’ latest C-Class saloons. Far fresher in the flesh then it was in those pictures, it’s immediately apparent that this car gives buyers in this neck of the woods a heck of a lot to think about.
YES. IT REALLY IS A BABY S-CLASS
“The new C-Class is a baby S-Class,” Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa president Mark Raine explains. “It’s a sporty interpretation of modern luxury that combines dynamic proportions with accentuated design lines and a modern look. “I’m entirely confident that the new C-Class will excite existing customers and future fans with its wide range of high-tech and superior features derived from the flagship S-Class.”
“The new C-Class will be launched into the South Africa market initially with two four-cylinder derivatives from Mercedes-Benz’ Family of Modular Engines family,” marketing & sales henchman Selvin Govender added. “Both cars are powerful, torquey, quick and economical. “Of course the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class also features a dynamic exterior design and a sumptuous interior that takes inspiration from the flagship S-Class to set new standards in efficiency.”
First introduced as the ‘Baby Benz’ 190 back in 1982, Mercedes has sold more than 10 million C-Classes in over 100 markets around the world. If first impressions are anything to go by, this new one certainly has aced it. They call it the baby S-Class for good reason. Graced with sharp latest E-Class looks and packing latest S-Class onboard tech along with outstanding comfort and quality well beyond its pay grade, the new C gains improved mild-hybrid efficiency and performance too.
BIGGER, BETTER, SEXIER THAN EVER
The two launch models are the petrol C200 and 220d turbodiesel. Considerably larger at 4751 mm long and measuring 1820 mm wide, the new C rides on a 25 mm longer 2865 mm wheelbase to benefit rear passenger room. Design lines are reduced to a minimum, although that shoulder line is further emphasised for a softly aggressive feel. You’ll recognise that sharper taillight look from siblings like CLA and CLS. Its classy looks draw you inside, to where the biggest improvements hide.
Plush materials cobbled together in a business class fit and finish conspire to deliver an more than suitably premium cabin. Splendid finishes and ‘floating’ components like its sizeable centre touchscreen and door grabs take it next level. Especially in this car’s class. You quickly understand why they call it the baby a S-Class — it’s basically a limo inside. Although that cleaner dashboard layout with that freestanding high-resolution jumbo 11.9-inch LCD screen floating in front of the wing profile and trim, may divide opinion.
Some really like a large screen TV rival on the dash. Others wonder why it’s necessary and some were overawed by it. It’s controlled by any of second generation ‘Hey Mercedes’ MBUX voice activation or touching the screen. Or use the left stalk of the chic new multifunction steering wheel. It does keep Mercedes in front of the infotainment interface race. The driver has multi-mode 12.3-inch digital instrumentation at his access. All run by the right steering stalk.
C-CLASS CABIN TO KILL FOR
The cabin can be individualised in Discreet, Sporty and Classic display styles and also and also by three Navigation, Assistance and Service modes. Driver and front passenger space is good and there’s more head and knee room in the back too. Four adults will travel at ease in the new C. A fifth passenger in the back should be happy on a shorter drive. The 455 litre boot may fall short of some rivals, but it’s practical enough for most needs.
The 147 kW and 440 Nm Mercedes-Benz FAME C220d now benefits a 15 kW 200 Nm hybrid electric boost. You notice it when you fire it up. There’s no more stater motor chug. It just burbles to life. Snick it to drive. Pull away. And this mild hybrid model is incredibly smooth drive, torquey and effortless to shift up to higher motorway speeds. It remains quiet and composed enough under harder acceleration to elicit magic carpet comments.
We already tested one to almost exactly match Merc’s 7.3-second 0-100 km/h claims. We also readily managed Benz’s 4.6l/100km. The surprising 1496 cc turbo four-cylinder C 200 is slightly more powerful at 150 kW along with 300 Nm torque, of course also aided and abetted by 15 kW and 200 Nm of EQ Boost. Merc says it matches the diesel to 100 at 7.3 seconds and beats it by a click at a 246 km/h top end. And once again I had no trouble matching that 6.6 l/100 km claim on a mixed launch thrash.
QUICK, ECONOMICAL & LUXURIOUS
Both engines turn the rear axle via Merc’s 9G-Tronic ‘box, while the new C offers five individual driving modes include Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. We fiddled a bit, but went right back to the softer Comfort setting for everyday driving. Sport and Sport+ do bring sharper steering and throttle responses and firmer suspension. Enough to noticeably improve the C-Class’s dynamic performance, although it won’t readily trouble a BMW 3 Series for driving fun.
We found the brakes to lack feel and they even seemed a bit soft when first tramping on them. But that’s because the first few millimetres of brake travel are now designed to activate hybrid charge braking, before the wheel brakes actually clamp. Welcome to the future! That’s still enough to make me pump them once in a while for confidence. And the steering could be more communicative. Even in Sport Plus. I also found those nine rations a bit much while paddle shifting over Franschhoek Pass. But splendid everywhere else.
That offset to BMW hoon ability is for good reason. The new C’s suspension improvements rather further deliver unheard of levels of ride and noise comfort. While still being agile and fun enough to drive. Mercedes knows its market well enough not to meddle with that. But C does also come the option of a continuously adjustably damping sport suspension. Should your personal wan demand a more flamboyant driving response. Horses for courses?
C-CLASS BELLS & WHISTLES. IF YOU WANT THEM
The new C-Class series also adds the latest Driving Assistance Package. It has several additional functions, some of which can become a little overbearing. Aspects like the meddling lane assist can be overridden individually. Or just switch the whole system off via MBUX if it becomes a bit too much. So long as the car is parked when you do that.
Manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in Bremen in Germany, Beijing China and, of course right here in East London, South Africa, where ours was made, the C-Class continues to be a massive success story for the South African industry and economy. The state-of-the-art East London plant benefited a billion dollar expansion and development and will be CO₂ neutral from January 2022.
All in all, the all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class promises to be a win-win-win success. Not only will it take it to the likes of its traditional BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 rivals, the style set from the Alfa Romeo Giulia to Jaguar XE and the rest, but it also brings an overall touch of class that few of those rivals can match. And it isn’t evn all that expensive – Michele Lupini
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Base Pricing C200 R849K C220d R908K