MERCEDES’ NEW C REDEFINES ENTRY EXEC SEDAN CLASS

C220d

Slicker, Smarter, Cleaner & Quicker, All-New C-Class Proves a Pleasant Surprise

With the all-important local launch delayed at the last minute following this latest lockdown fiasco, we were pleasantly surprised when Mercedes unexpectedly delivered one of its all-new latest C-Class saloons for a quick evaluation late last week. Pleasantly fresh in the flesh, it’s immediately apparent that this car has given buyers in this neck of the woods plenty to think about.

Comfort & Quality Beyond C-Class Pay Grade

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. And if first impressions are anything to go by, this new one certainly has aced it. Graced with sharp latest E-Class looks and packing newest S-Class onboard tech along with outstanding comfort and quality well beyond its pay grade, it gains improved mild-hybrid efficiency and performance too.

The 220d is one of two launch models alongside the petrol C200. 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 many seemingly floating components take it to a new level. Especially in C’s class. It’s basically a junior S-Class limo inside. Although that cleaner dashboard layout with freestanding high-resolution jumbo 11.9-inch LCD infotainment screen floating in front of the wing profile and trim, did divide opinion.

Jumbo Screen Dazzles, Can Confuse

Some really liked having 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.

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.

This 147 kW and 440 Nm Mercedes-Benz Family of Modular Engines 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.

C-Class Does Precisely What Benz Promises

Driving the rear axle via Merc’s 9G-Tronic ‘box, our tester almost exactly matched Merc’s 7.3-second 0-100 km/h claims and we also readily managed Benz’s 4.6l/100km. 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, even though it won’t readily trouble a BMW 3 Series for driving fun. We found the brakes to lack feel and even seemed a bit soft when first tramping on them. Enough to make us pump them once in a while for confidence. And the steering could be more communicative. Even in Sport Plus..

The new car’s suspension improvements however 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.

Has All the Nannies. 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 entire 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 at East London in 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.

So 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. – Michele Lupini

Images & data: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Mercedes-Benz C220d
Engine: 150 kW 440Nm Nm 2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 9-speed automatic RWD
TESTED:
0-60 km/h         3.20 sec
0-100 km/h:       7.29 sec
0-120 km/h:       9.71 sec
0-160 km/h:       19.38 sec
400m:             15.1 sec @ 115 km/h
80-120 km/h:      4.64 sec
120-160 km/h:     8.13 sec
CLAIMED:
VMax:             245 km/h
Fuel:             4.6 l/100 km
CO2:              116 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 100K/2y unl.
LIST PRICE:       R908K
RATED:            8
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