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Since its inception in the early 90’s, the C-Class was always meant to be a representation or a smaller version of Mercedes-Benz prized creation: the S-Class. Luxury, safety, comfort and technological innovation are the pillars by which the brand creates its vehicles. It is the best-selling range in the Mercedes-Benz range. The range is vast – comprising of a sedan, estate, coupe and cabriolet in an array of engines. This has opened the C-Class brand’s appeal to a broad audience. The current model sold over a whopping 415 000 units in 2017 alone.
Four and a half generations on, the newly face-lifted C-Class is now genuinely a smaller version of its bigger siblings, the E-Class and S-Class. Now safer and more technologically advanced, the new C-Class is the best version of itself. The radio campaign for the car bragged of its 6000 changes and improvements. Most of which aren’t visual but rather under the car’s skin.
Good news for us South Africans - the (W206) C-Class is produced in East London. Mercedes-Benz is investing a further R10 billion to significantly expand the production plant in the Eastern Cape, equipping it for the future.
Aesthetically, the C-Class has had minor tweaks: new-look headlamps and tail lamps. The changes are subtle yet effective. They are most noticeable when the car’s lights are turned on in the evening. The sedan features the diamond grille as standard in combination with AMG Line, with front bumpers redesigned for all lines and rear bumpers varying according to the selected equipment and engine variant.
The interior is beautiful. The car’s sloping dashboard is now offered with the option of new materials: open-pore brown walnut or open-pore anthracite oak, in addition to the standard piano black finish. There is a sporty new steering wheel. The operation of DISTRONIC and cruise control are now directly on the steering wheel. Additionally, there is an optional new Multicontour Seat package that features a massage function.
Infotainment systems are the future. Mercedes-Benz is leading in this front with fully horizontal display screens as standard on the A-Class and S-Class. Meanwhile, in the C-Class, the car’s new display concept includes an optional, fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and the upgraded infotainment system includes standard smartphone integration that can be accessed through touch-sensitive controls in the steering wheel, which respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone. In practice, the touch-sensitive controls are effective but take time to get used to.
Overall, the cabin is beautifully put together. High-quality materials combined with a high standard of workmanship impress in the C-Class.
The electronics are completely new, with safety and driver assistance systems now at the level of the flagship S‑Class series.
A proper facelift wouldn’t be complete without a set of new engines. There is a new 4-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine in the C200, with 9-speed automatic transmission across the range. The 1.5-litre engine is supplemented with a 48-volt onboard network and the EQ Boost integrated starter-generator produces an additional 10 kW and 160 Nm while accelerating. There’s also a new-generation 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the C300, with outputs of 190kw and 370Nm.
The new 1.6-litre variant of the current diesel engine family will celebrate its premiere in the C-Class; the C 220 d 4MATIC providing a healthy 143 kW and 400 Nm.
There’s also more performance for the mighty range-topping C43 4MATIC, which boasts a V6 bi-turbo engine that combines powerful output with low consumption and emissions. For the new C-Class, the AMG development engineers have increased the output of the 3.0-litre V6 engine by 17 kW to 287 kW. The peak torque of 520 Nm is available from 2500 to 5000 rpm.
This package allows impressive performance figures: the new C 43 4MATIC Sedan accelerates from a standstill to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 250 km/h.
I reviewed the C180, a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol. This is a carry-over motor. The output figures are 115 kW to 250 Nm. Similarly, the C180 also features a 9-speed automatic gearbox. A week spent with the C180 leaves me feeling that this engine and gearbox combination is best suited to either a relaxed economical drive or normal acceleration patterns. Spirited sprints and the engine becomes vocal, exposing a rough engine note that takes away from a very refined package. The gearbox is better left to operate in a harmonious manner. Otherwise, the poor thing holds on to the incorrect gear for far too long.
Improved and better than ever. The C-Class is a very good car. Not perfect but perfectly suited to those who wanted a sophisticated vehicle that offers a refined and relaxed drive.
The Alfa Giulia, BMW 3 Series and 4 Series, Audi A4 and A5, Lexus IS and RC, Jaguar XE, Volvo S60 and Ford Mustang,
Mercedes-AMG C43 Vehicle Pricing:
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