When you have a model that sells so well that it tops its segment year after year, ‘tampering’ with it by making changes can be challenging. It is successful because of what it is and how it is – will changes dilute that success formula? That must the question product planners at Mercedes-Benz ask themselves whenever they have to start refreshing the C-Class.
Unlike a full model change to a new generation where there is a legitimate reason to bring about changes, a midcycle update requires care so as not to diminish the appeal. The easiest way is, of course, to refine the product and try to increase the value for money perception. And this is what they have done with the new range of C-Class sedans launched today.
“The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class now comes with a refined design, a next-generation infotainment system, state-of-the-art safety assistance systems and more dynamic engines making a great car even better,” said Mark Raine, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing Passenger Cars at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.
The new range has three variants – the C200 Avantgarde (priced from RM259,888 without insurance), C300 AMG Line (from RM304,888), and Mercedes-AMG C43 4MATIC (from RM421,888). All are locally-assembled at the Mercedes-Benz facility within the DRB-HICOM Manufacturing Complex in Pekan, Pahang which began operations in 2004. Assembling a wide range of models locally – right up to the S-Class – has enabled the company to offer its models at attractive prices, contributing to its leadership in the premium luxury segment.
One of the highlights of the new range is the introduction of the new M264 engine series in the C200. This is a 4-cylinder unit with a displacement of 1.5 litres and besides a turbocharger, it also has an EQ Boost system in the form of a 48-volt integrated starter/generator (ISG). This is a sort of hybrid powertrain though the ISG does not actually propel the car but helps enhance output by 13 ps/160 Nm. Between 5,800 and 6,100 rpm, the peak output available from the all-aluminium engine is 184 ps while maximum torque of 280 Nm is available between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm.
Given the output figures, it’s not surprising that the C200 can get to 100 km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 239 km/h. When such performance levels are considered, the displacement would be irrelevant and certainly, anyone driving the car would not imagine there’s a 1.5-litre unit under the bonnet.
Downsizing, an industry trend, has not meant sacrifice in performance and in fact, has seen even better performance, thanks to boosters like the turbocharger, direct fuel injection, the ISG and other advanced technologies. The smaller displacement helps to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and in the developed western countries, this is already accepted. However, in Malaysia, the downsizing trend still presents some challenge to salespeople because many customers still wonder if these smaller engines have enough power to provide good performance. But it will probably be a brief period and as more and more people use this new generation of engines and speak positively of their experiences, the issue should fade away.
The C 300 AMG Line now has a 2-litre engine, also 4 cylinders, with a maximum power output of 258 ps/370 Nm with a 9G-TRONIC transmission. It will go from standstill to 100 km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds and when pushed to the limit, top out at 250 km/h. Yet, if you can resist enjoying all the performance all the time, you could travel up to 15.3 kms/litre.
The flagship of the C-Class range in Malaysia is the Mercedes-AMG C43 and while the C300 is an ‘AMG variant’, it is essentially a bodykit variant. The C43 is the ‘real’ AMG product as it has been developed by AMG, the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz. The engineers at AMG took the standard 3-litre V6 biturbo engine and squeezed another 23 ps out of it to get maximum output of 390 ps, while generating 520 Nm from 2,500 rpm.
Appearance-wise, the new range gets cosmetic changes that imbue a more high-tech character. Of note is the new LED headlight system for the C200 which has exquisitely crafted details. The C300 and C43 get MultiBeam LED Headlights which respond faster to changes in the surroundings as the car travels along the road. For example, the intensity of the lights can change within 10 milliseconds as 4 control units calculate the ideal light pattern 100 times every second. This mean a constantly bright and expansive illumination of the road and the sides without dazzling other drivers.
Inside, it’s all about refining the product and high-quality materials which enhance the premium ambience. The overall layout, with the 12.3-inch digital cockpit, remains the same but there is improved connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay linking the infotainment system with compatible smartphones.
The keyless entry system known as KEYLESS-GO makes getting in and out convenient as there is no need to even press a button; all that is needed is a touch on the doorhandle to unlock the doors. Starting the engine is also just as easy with a pushstart ignition system.
Mercedes-Benz has always been a pioneer in safety systems and as soon as possible, it has trickled down systems to the lower range of models. With the C200, there is now Blind Spot Assist (BSA) which supplements what can be seen in the door mirrors. The system monitors the area which cannot be seen in the mirrors using sensors in the rear bumper. When another vehicle is detected, the driver will be alerted by a visual indicator in the mirror, so a collision can be avoided in the event a lane-change is about to be executed.
We haven’t seen it mentioned in similar systems on some other cars but Mercedes-Benz says that their BSA remains active for up to 3 minutes after the engine has been switched off. This is useful because the car may be parked on the side of the road and the driver can be alerted just before opening the door if there is another car or motorcycle approaching. That could prevent as nasty accident and an expensive repair job on the door.
For the C300 and C43, Active Lane Keeping has been added and this system (shown above) not only alerts the driver when the car starts to wander off its lane, which may mean the driver is drowsy, but can also bring the car back into the centre of the lane. It is active between 60 and 200 km/h and also takes into consideration oncoming traffic, acting accordingly to prevent a collision. The system relies on the cameras recognising lines on the road so it may not work 100% of the time but at least it’s present. If the driver finds it too irritating, it can also be switched off.
It’s been another busy year for the German brand in Malaysia and Mark Raine says that they’re not finished yet. “No, this is not our last product event for 2018… we still have something else to introduce before the year is over,” he said before flagging off a group of motoring media from the C&C BIntang showroom for their drive to Cameron Highlands to experience the new C-Class range.