The latest C-Class update might look mild from the outside – and in some ways its new drivetrain is too – but there’s plenty of new technology loaded inside this mid-life cycle update.
A lot of the gear in the new C-Class is attained from the newer and larger E- and S-Class, but the C200 also gets its own brand new shiny toy – a 48-volt mild electric hybrid drivetrain.
Vehicle Style: Premium sedan
Price: $65,000 (estimated)
Engine/trans: 135kW/280Nm 1.5-litre 4cyl turbo petrol 48 volt hybrid | 9spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.0 l/100km
Rather than pump up the existing turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the engine has been downsized to 1.5-litres – and yet the smaller power house produces an identical power output and only 20Nm less torque. Mercedes calls it EQ Boost.
The trick is that the torque is provided earlier on from the electric system that by itself produces 10kW and 170Nm. The 48 volt system has further benefits too – the electric wiring system is simplified and newer technology added, such as an all-new 12.3-inch driver cluster display that runs alongside a 10.25-inch infotainment system. It doesn’t have the absolute latest MBUX twin-display system from the smaller A-Class - that’s coming in the next generation – but it’s otherwise a step forward for in-car connectivity and technology.
Some of Mercedes’ best safety assist technology has also filtered down the line, including the usual automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning, and adds lane steering assist that pre-empts braking for tighter corners. Also available is active lane changing that changes lanes after the indicator stalk has been nudged.
To top it off, Mercedes has thrown in its new Touch Pro steering wheel with touch sensitive input commands across the range and a colour heads-up display that is likely to be optional on most variants.
There are changes elsewhere too – new 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, optional multibeam lamps, a revised 2.0-litre turbo for the C300 and a more powerful 3.0-litre V6 in the AMG C43.
The C200’s diesel equivalent C220d also gets a new 1.6-litre turbo motor, but the efficiency and effortless nature of the C200 is appealing.
Less noticeable in the new model range is compatibility with Mercedes Me connected services that will launch in Australia early to mid-2019. It brings the ability to pair mobile devices with cars and opens up a new layer of connection - you’ll get an alert if someone prangs the car when its parked and can even park a compatible vehicle using your mobile phone.
The new tech and drivetrain will see the C200 likely increase in price from its current $61,900 plus on-roads costs with exact pricing and specification to be announced closer to its launch here in August. For now, we got to drive the new model in Luxembourg before its arrival.
THE INTERIOR | RATING: 4.0/5
- Key standard features: Leather trim, 12.3-inch digital instrument display, power front seats, LED headlamps, power folding wing mirrors, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, speed limiter, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition.
- Infotainment: Sat nav, 10.25-inch LCD display, touchpad controller, AM/FM/DAB+ tuner, 2 USB audio inputs, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming.
- Luggage capacity: 480 litres (seats up)
Inside looks familiar to before, carrying over the curvaceous dash design that can be optioned with new open pore walnut or oak timber panelling and matching brown or grey leather upholstery.
As far as standard kit goes, even the entry-model variant looks far from cheap. Materials are a mixture of woodgrain elements, alloy metal panels, soft touch plastics and soft leather trim. Striking round air vents and Mercedes technology break up the arching dash and the 10.25-inch infotainment system stands out as clear and crisp with high resolution and vibrant colours distinguishing text and maps clearly.
Apple CarPlay is available and a new nine-speaker 225 watt sound system sits between the basic stereo and Burmester system – we were listening to the latter that’s punchy and clear whether sourcing from local radio or streaming over Bluetooth.
A new 12.3-inch driver’s display replaces the old binnacle cluster and adds a vast array of extra information, some of it tied in directly with the model’s intent – the C200 gets a special economy driving tutor while the C43 can bring up lap times and G forces.
It’s clear and absorbs reflections, but it’s not as crisp Audi’s virtual cockpit – a trade-off between eligibility on sunny days and laser bright graphics. However, it’s one of the better systems and doesn’t present any lag for constantly variable dials like the tachometer.
The new Touch Pro steering wheel is the latest item to come out of the three-pointed star’s parts bin and it allows operating nearly every aspect of the new digital binnacle and also the infotainment display. It’s helpful with Mercedes’ own navigation that can partially display directions in the instrument cluster, or on the optional heads-up display.
Room inside remains ample and on par with segment rivals and all occupants travel comfortably surrounded by the calm glow of one of 64 ambient colour settings. Storage is also good underneath the armrest, below the centre console, and inside deep door pockets.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: 4.0/5
- Engine: 1.5-litre 4cyl turbocharged petrol 48-volt electric hybrid, 135kW, 280Nm
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link front and rear
- Brakes: vented front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electromechanical power steering
Where the new and old split apart is underneath the bonnet and the C200’s move to hybrid power is a successful one. Though down 500cc in capacity compared to before the output of the new engine is almost as good – 135kW at 5800rpm and 280Nm of torque from 3000-6100rpm. But the balance of power is where acceleration hardly falters and the electric motor’s addition of torque where the turbo can’t give it low down provides immediacy on throttle for fast take off and effortless city crawling.
Further up the rev range when the petrol motor takes over, the turbo motor huffs with enthusiasm and it is far from the dull expectation of what an entry-level hybrid system might be.
Our test vehicle also benefits from new, optional three-way adaptive dampers that add some extra dynamic ability to the normally passive shock absorbers. Optional air suspension further enhances ride comfort but exhibits some body roll when cornering at speed.
However, with the adaptive suspension set to sport mode, the C200 turns-in quickly and changes direction without feeling unsettled, plus the engine gives a modest but honest growl on throttle that feels energetic.
The adaptive dampers are firm when backed off to comfort but still soak up most road imperfections and bumps.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is an eco-setting with dulled throttle response that acts to preserve and regenerate electric energy while minimising fuel consumption from the traditional 1.5-litre petrol engine. A changing graphic in the driver’s instrument cluster indicates what to do next – on a decline or coming up to a junction it will suggest removing all throttle before automatically turning the engine off in ‘glide mode’, using regenerative braking to come to a stop.
The engine turns on when required and the new 48 volt starter motor is imperceptible when it kicks over, providing a seamless transition. Around traffic and with frequent stopping it’s a boon and removes the niggling annoyance some rougher stop/start systems have.
For all of its fun the engine is also cleaner, drinking 6.0l/100km that’s down from the 2.0-litre’s 6.5-litre thirst. It’s just under a 10 per cent improvement but this hybrid system is mild and motivated by only a small 1kWh battery.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The C200 might be a gateway model in the C-Class range but it offers such a level of refinement and comfort in standard form that it’s hard to want more, and its new engine marks a successful transition into a new era of entry-level Mercedes hybrids.
Add in that it’s more efficient and emissions friendly, and it proves the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
- Interested in buying Mercedes-Benz C-Class? Visit our Mercedes-Benz showroom for more information.