Impressions

We drive the facelifted C-Class

Mercedes Benz C180 Avant-garde.

My son immediately asked ‘how do we make it change colour Daddy?’ when we got in the car. I was confused by his question, so I told him it wasn’t ours so we couldn’t change the colour. The little guy was exasperated and said ‘Nooooo Daddy…then proceeded to yell at the car ‘Hey Mercedes, turn blue’. I caught on and had a laugh. The power of social media.

A few weeks ago, our resident nut job got the ‘heymercedes’ video viral and my boy clearly has been watching it (not on my phone). Interestingly, this voice activated feature isn’t available on the recently facelifted W205 Mercedes Benz C180 C-Class we are driving today.

The test car at our disposal is Avis White (no, that’s not an actual colour code, it’s just rental cars’ default non metallic colour) and C-Class only gets away with that solid white colour when it is wearing an AMG body kit with a panaromic sunroof which this car in base elegance spec isn’t. It is telling how our tastes have changed so much when the standard 17 inch wheels look so small on the car.

It is still clearly a C-Class though and it is I and South Africa’s favourite C segment mid-executive sedan and tops the sales charts with ease on a monthly basis. There’s a freshness to the car as you approach it and you are delighted to start picking out the subtle but strong changes to the car that distinguish it from the launch W205 models. This is a good thing, it already has a winning formula here so new technology is just going to be able to keep it fresh long enough to handle the pending onslaught from the imminent BMW 3 Series launch before we get the new C-CLASS model in a few years time.

The lights have been updated to LED lights in the front whose new shape has introduced new contours to the grille and front bumper on the elegance spec.  I miss the good old days of the 3 Pointed Star perched proudly on the bonnet but pedestrian safety laws have waved bye bye baby to that. The rear receives LED lights as well, reprofiled to give them a nuanced tight line that flows out to both the rear fender and draws attention to the revised boot line. I had to do a side by side with the pre-facelift to decide which rear look I preferred and I can’t really decide on that one.

Finally, Mercedes Benz has a new key. The one they have just replaced has been around for a long time and I mean long. The key however doesn’t feel ornate and elegant and lacks the sense of presence the Mercedes Benz key always had .  It felt cheap and light in my hand. I love the start button’s look and feel though it is awkwardly positioned out of sight to the right behind the wheel. After a few times of starting and driving the C-CLASS, you will intuitively reach for it but in the beginning you will have to turn your head and look for it.

Getting comfortable was very quick and easy. The seat back is electrically adjustable and the seat is easy to slide forwards and backwards to get the optimal seating position and the steering wheel is adjustable for both reach and height. My son asked why a Mercedes Benz didn’t have a sunroof and it is a valid question. There are some things that should be standard at this price point as R 629,618.00 as tested is a lot of money and my expectations as a buyer would be quite high . The updated dash works overall although I am not a fan of the screen mounted on the dash. It just looks like an expensive insurance claim waiting to happen. I also kept touching it to change functions ( No LB, it’s not a touch screen).

It is so nice to drive a serene and cosseting Mercedes Benz motor vehicle (note the old school terminology). There’s a whole generation of motorists that associate Mercedes Benz with its neck breaking and head turning AMG fire breathers but pure elegance and sedate driving is what driving Mercedes Benz has always been because its core value has always been class. This car delivers in class, low noise levels and just enough power and smooth shifts from its 9G-Tronic auto box to make living in it every day a pleasure. Yes. 9 gears. I arrived to collect this car in a 4 speed Mercedes Benz.

The throttle response is immediate and adequate and 115kw in this application suits the car and purpose. The car didn’t want to bite me like the C63S and C43 AMG I recently drove . The brakes on the car took a bit too high on the pedal for my preference but the bite was good and consistent and after I adapted to the car it stopped being a problem. I averaged a healthy 8.8l/100km which Is about decent for hooligan behavior in a 1595cc 4 cylinder turbo petrol engine. I love the new graphics and font on the menus and the updated switchgear is very upmarket and overshadows the King of interiors, the Audi A4 in this class.

I found myself repeatedly frustrated by the wheel mounted gear selector on this particular car. I struggled to select reverse a couple of times. Having driven two other versions of the facelifted C-CLASS I will isolate this problem to this particular test car . It likely needs recalibration. The parking package installed as an option on this car is a cool party trick but the average human can still park faster than the car can park itself.

I noticed that Mercedes Benz has insisted on continuing with the 4” midrange & 1” tweeter front door with a passive crossover speaker set up. It sounds horrible to an audiophile like myself but the average customer might not be bothered by it. I just want a premium car to sound premium Mercedes Benz, kinda like the Audi A4 does for similar money.

This car is still so well put together and now more refined that before. Its competitors need to redefine the C segment mid-executive sedan because Mercedes Benz now owns it.

Mr Low Benz

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