New C-Class Comes of Age with Hybrid Power

By Lee Pang Seng @ Leeps

THE latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class has come of age in two primary ways; firstly, it is now a mid-size sedan and no longer an entry-level one while its status elevation is matched by its inclusion to the hybrid engine circle. For the former, the new A-Class sedan is now the entry-level model.

As to the latter, the two-engine variants – C 200 1.5 and C 300 2.0 – that were introduced in the previous generation are continued but with new hybrid power now. Other definitive notes of the latest C-Class (W206) include the fresh family look in body design and new interior styling layout.

While the front grille carries the boldness with the large three-prong Mercedes-Benz star complemented by equally glittering large wings, the new family look takes greater prominence lower down. The large barbell styling below encompassing the central upswept curvature to highlight the lower air bib and vents, first featured on the S-Class, is individually styled for the respective models.

That for the C-Class follows rather closely to that of the latest A-Class and GLA models with a more distinct upswept section to reflect a sportier outlook that would be preferred by the younger customers that these respective models appeal to. The C-Class’s new status as a mid-size sedan has also seen to a growth in body dimensions.

For starters, the new C-Class now sits on a 25mm longer wheelbase of 2865mm and the corresponding expansion sees a 65mm longer car at 4751mm and 10mm wider body at 1820mm. However, its overall height is 9mm lower at 1438mm. This growth is matched by a roomier interior that favours mainly the rear passengers in headroom and legroom.

In aerodynamic efficiency, Mercedes-Benz says the new C-Class shares the same slippery profile as the previous model with a Cd factor of 0.24. As it were, the latest model looks smoothly and suitably profiled to spear its way along with the least wind resistance or drag.
We also like the clean lines of the rear with the slim and triangular rear lamp combination lending a contemporary touch. These rear lamp combinations also play their part in the symmetrical balance that includes the two red reflectors and twin chrome tailpipes.

Good looks aside, the big story still lies beneath the engine bonnet. The M 254 petrol engine sees the premiere of a second-generation starter-generator with a higher output of up to 15kW (20hp+) and 200Nm of torque. Another new feature is the segment charger with flow connection that Mercedes says is an advancement of the twin-scroll technology for even more instantaneous response of the forced induction system.

This newly developed segment turbocharger is attributed to the cooperation between Mercedes-Benz turbocharger developers and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team. For short periods, the output of the C 300 could be increased by an up to 20kW (27.2hp) overboost. Yes, you could enjoy some F1 kick when overtaking.

Both models continue to have the 9G-TRONIC transmission with nine speeds that was developed further to adapt to the second-generation ISG (Integrated Starter-Generator). Many changes were made to benefit installation space and weight (lighter by 30 per cent). It also uses a new generation of fully integrated transmission controls with a multi-core processor.
What all these new developments translate to is a better engine output. This is noted particularly in the C 200 with the 1.5-litre engine; it now delivers 150kW (204hp) at 5800 to 6100rpm while the 280Nm torque peaks at a low 1800rpm and holds till 4000rpm. In the previous model with EQ Boost, the 1.5-litre engine’s output is 135kW (184hp) at 5800-6100rpm and torque of 280Nm peaks at a higher 3000rpm and holds till 4000rpm. The EQ Boost delivered an additional 10kW (13hp) and 160Nm.

The C 300’s 2.0-litre engine, which didn’t have the EQ Boost in the previous model, now has better torque, along with the overboost. Its current power figures are 190kW (258hp) at 5800rpm and 400Nm from 2000 to 3200rpm. The additional power from the electric motor should come in handy for quick passing acceleration. The previous model has the same power characteristics but a lower torque output of 370Nm from 1800 to 4000rpm.

In performance, the new C 200 accelerates from standstill to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 240km/h (previous model does the 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds and a 239km/h top speed). The C 300 scoots to 100km/h in 6.0 seconds while the top speed is capped at 250km/h, which was about the same as the previous model (0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds).
We had a sampling of this new C-Class performance in a drive from the Klang Valley to Desaru, Johor and back over two days. We started with the C 300 and got down to familiarising with the new interior dashboard layout before we took off. The big change is the central multi-info display; what used to be an oblong panel sitting on top of the central dashboard is now a 11.9-inch touchscreen tabloid located on the centre console that’s tilted towards the driver.

Although we were advised to link our Android phone to the system, we decided to use the navigational system that came standard. We selected the destination and followed the advisory all the way to Desaru, slightly more than 400km away. We could also select the radio stations as well but the music would be muted when a navigational advisory came on.
Our highway drives saw relatively light traffic on both days, allowing us to get a feel of the car’s road performance. Keeping in mind that the C-Class comes from Germany, it would be an autobahn car in all respects and that was how it impressed us to be. We maintained engine speeds mostly between 1500 and 1800rpm for both the C 300 and C 200.

At 1500rpm, both cars were doing road speeds of 110-120km/h. We would let you guess what speed we were doing at 1800rpm. There were a few instances when we had the open road to rev up a little more and enjoy a brief moment of exhilaration. Both cars would oblige with a speedy turn of pace when we put the foot down on the accelerator. While the C 200 might be slightly slower, we could still do quick and safe overtaking manoeuvres on clear stretches on straight B-grade roads.

The new generation of Mercedes-Benz cars are getting good fuel mileages too, especially for long distance drives. When we started with the C 300 from Empire Damansara, the computed fuel mileage available for the full tank was about 530km. When we hit the highway, the computed fuel mileage went up to almost 700km, what with the light accelerator load (thus light engine operation) and flowing traffic.

By the time we reached the fuelling point in Desaru, the fuel level indicator was still above the half-way mark and we could still cover more than 400km. In other words, we could have driven back to KL that day without refuelling. It was the same with the C 200; it was just as fuel miserly and the fuel level indicator was also above the half-way mark when we reached KL and we could drive another 400km plus if we wanted to.

Stability was firmly established as both cars felt planted on the road through the fast sweepers on the highway. Driving at speeds above 120km/h, both cars felt like they were puttering along at 100km/h or lower. This clearly reveals its autobahn breeding. If there were slight misgivings along the way, it was along one fast sweeper with poorly patched surfaces and mild undulations. We could feel a slight wallow but the C 300 regained its stable poise once we cleared that section.

There weren’t many opportunities to check out the C-Class dynamic qualities through winding stretches but we did pass through a slightly twisty B-grade route with the C 200 the following day. It took the few fairly tight corners nicely at good speeds. The latest C-Class comes with a new four-link axle in front while maintaining the multi-link rear that’s mounted to the subframe.

Given this new development, the C-Class suspension is reasonably well sorted out to provide good ride comfort too. We have had our share of speed bumps, badly patched surfaces, rumble strips, potholes, among other poor road surfaces, to gauge that, albeit only from the driver’s perspective. It gets very decent marks here. We got to be a rear seat passenger at the Desaru resort once but that was over a short distance.

Noise intrusion into the passenger cabin was also nicely muted, in particular road roar. The pitch might vary according to the types of road surfaces but for the most part of the highway and B-grade road drives, the decibels were low and we could enjoy our music as well as the navigational advisory.

Needless to say, the new C-Class comes with the latest generation of Driving Assistance package with additional and advanced functions. It is a long list of functions but we would tell you of two. While reversing the C 300 at a petrol kiosk towards the fuel dispenser, the brakes were suddenly activated following a warning light on the instrument panel and we came to a jolting halt. This was because the detection system determined that we were coming too close to the rubbish bin.

In another instance, we were fumbling for something in our pockets and not focusing much on an empty roadway at low speeds of about 90km/h. As such, the C 300 was wandering and not keeping strictly within the lane. The driver monitoring system immediately flashed a warning on the instrument display: “Tired? Take a break”. We continued driving and once it recognised that our driving wasn’t erratic any more, the warning went away.

Family travel should be pretty comfortable with the C-Class given the better interior space in most areas, such better rear leg and head room. The boot capacity remains the same as the previous model at 455 litres but it’s big enough to accommodate a good share of luggage.
The C-Class models that Mercedes-Benz Malaysia provided for the automotive media drive to Desaru were all imported cars. As such, they carried relatively higher prices of about RM290,000 and RM331,000 (on the road without insurance) respectively for the C200 and C300.

We learnt that the imported models were all sold out and locally assembled models are already in the pipeline. When the CKD (complete knock down) versions, based on the same model range, are introduced in the second half of the year, they should still be available at a cheaper price, even without the sales tax exemption. For sure, the new C-Class is definitely worth the wait.

Specification link here