Mercedes-Benz C200

Downsized exec gets an upsized helping of powertrain tech

RYAN LEWIS

FROM Stuttgart via the Hollywood Hills, hereís an anti-ageing facelift of which Joan Rivers would be proud. More than 6500 components have been changed, which makes this the most comprehensive mid-life update in C-Class history.

Whatís more, itís now the entrylevel C200 thatís most interesting. It debuts a completely new 1.5litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a twin-scroll turbo and 48v mild hybrid electrification.

The downsized unit is a derivative of the new-gen 2.0-litre in the CLS350 and refreshed C300, and produces the same 135kW as the old C200ís 2.0. Maximum torque is down 20Nm at 280Nm, but those outputs donít include the assistance of its 48v beltdriven starter/generator, which augments tractability at the lower reaches of the rev range by adding up to 10kW and 160Nm on demand (see sidebar far right).

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

Powertrain tech; successful Eco mode; adaptive suspension

PLUS & MINUS

Slight performance trade-off; minimal exterior changes

Model Mercedes-Benz C200

Engine 1497cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo

Max power 135kW @ 5800-6100rpm

Max torque 280Nm @ 3000-4000rpm Transmission 9-speed automatic Weight 1430kg

0-100km/h 7.7 sec (claimed)

Economy 6.0L/100km

Price $63,000 (estimated)

On sale August 2018

And itís all quite good, really. About the biggest compliment you could give is that itís largely unobtrusive. The combustion engineís relatively narrow band of peak torque is not a significant issue on the road thanks to the responsiveness of the nine-speed auto. Thereís no obvious sign of its small displacement, or of the complex 48v system at work, even at its busiest. Eco mode is genuinely useful here, and not ruined by an overly doughy throttle calibration. The drivetrain combo feels mostly harmonious and effective. Itís even fairly friendly to the ears.

The 48v system and dozens of other incremental improvements, including an on-demand water pump and low-friction cylinder bores, means the C200 now sips 6.0L/100km, which is a mild 0.5L improvement over the old one. However, downsizing does have its downsides, namely 0-100km/h performance, which slows by almost half a second to 7.7sec.

In better news, Dynamic Body Control suspension is now available on C200 for the first time. Its ride in Comfort mode is impressively well-mannered on standard 18s, and thereís driver appeal in its two firmer Sport settings. Likely to be around $1500 extra in Oz, initial impressions suggest optioning the variable dampers is sound thinking.

Major changes inside include a new multi-function steering wheel and fully digital 12.3-inch dashboard that will be standard across the local range. A bigger, sharper central screen displays an improved user interface, thereís deeper control of the car via its voice recognition software, and customisable cabin lighting.

In safety terms, an injection of S-Class functionality brings the most polished driver assistance systems on the market to C-Class, including active steering and lane change assists for highway use and route-based speed adjustment with upgraded camera and radar hardware, though the most advanced features will cost extra for C200 buyers. Full specs and local pricing will be confirmed closer to its August arrival.

Buyers stepping onto the entrylevel rung of a premium model range donít often pick up the latest in drivetrain technology, but the C200 changes that, and sets a challenge for the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 to meet.

While the changes here are more than skin deep, this isnít a wholesale transformation of the popular executive car. It has certainly made the C200 more appealing to the eco-minded, but the addition of 48v tech seems to be as much about positioning it for future models to slot around it as it is about tangible benefits to the user. Lucky for us there are some of those to be had anyway.

RYAN LEWIS

01 EYE POD

Redesigned LED lighting is the clearest facelift giveaway. ĎCompound-eyeí headlights are standard for C200, Multibeam units will be optional locally.

02 TOUCH UPS

Multi-function wheel from S-Class brings swipeable thumbpads for enhanced control of the central screen menus and digital gauge cluster functions.

03 COLOUR CODE

Two new paint hues (a silver and a green), new upholstery colours, new trim finishes and new alloy wheel designs mean C-Class is more customisable than before.

Whatís in store

The C-Class range will scale back to four variants in Oz come the faceliftís August arrival. C200 will be joined by C220d with a new 143kW/400Nm diesel, C300 with 190kW/370Nm petrol four and C43 with 287kW/520Nm V6. Updated C63 lands in December. Only C200 has 48v tech.

Its belt-driven starter generator (BSG) recuperates up to 80 percent of braking energy, and uses it to speed up and smooth out gearshifts, and shut down the engine while coasting.

OR TRY THESE...

Audi A4 2.0 TFSI $61,400

Sharp interior is a highlight, though much of its advanced tech is optional. Engine punches slightly harder at 140kW/320Nm, but its dual-clutch íbox is less impressive.

BMW 320i $63,400

On paper, this is almost a like-forlike match-up; a 10Nm advantage to BMW is about all that splits them. Decent value now, but C200ís local spec will challenge it.