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Mercedes-Benz updates its most popular car: The refreshed locally-built C-Class is a blast to drive in Mzansi

Wheels 24 2018-08-07 11:16:06

Mercedes-Benz has launched a refreshed version of its world-renown C-Class in the heart of Johannesburg. Why choose the major trendy SA city? Jozi, much like the C-Class, ‘never stops improving’ claims the German automaker.

The most popular Benz, launched in 1982, has grown up and started its own big family which has all been refreshed in the form of the latest version - namely the sedan, cabriolet, coupe and the estate, albeit we don’t have the latter in SA since there's hardly any demand for it.

Given its biggest and most comprehensive update, the facelifted C-Class can almost be considered as new as it has a total of 6500 components which have been modified or changed.

More than 50% of all the components have been tweaked which include 80% of its electronics architecture, the new digital cockpit and performance of its driver assistance programmes. 

READ: Mercedes-Benz debuts latest locally-built C-Class - Will Mzansi continue its love affair with the best-selling Merc yet?

In a nutshell, there's so much new tech and goodies fitted to the new C-Class to keep in line with Mercedes' tagline - 'Never stop improving', it's no wonder that the C-Class continues to be the automaker's best-selling vehicle.

In 2017, the automaker sold 415 000 C-Class units globally, and since 1982, it has sold 9.5-million units.

South Africa is one of four factories in the world producing the C-Class, and responsible for building all right-hand-drive models for the global market.

With its R10-billion investment in its East-London factory, SA's 100 000 unit per year target will increase to about 125 000 units. 

New-generation engines

The new C-Class sees the introduction of a new generation of four-cylinder petrol engines. These include a new 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine in the C200, with 9-speed automatic transmission across the range. Mercedes says the 1.5-litre engine is supplemented with a 48-volt onboard network and the EQ Boost integrated starter-generator that delivers an additional 10kW and 160Nm. 

There’s also a new 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the C300, with figures of 190kW and 370Nm.

The new 1.6-litre variant of the current diesel engine family now finds a place in the C-Class in the form of the C 220d 4MATIC good for 143kW and 400Nm.

Mercedes also says the range-topping C43 AMG boasts more power with its 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo engine. The automaker boasts that the more powerful engine has a lower consumption rate and lower carbon emissions. Power has increased by 17kW to now deliver 287kW with 520Nm available from 2500 to 5000rpm.

It sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, with a claimed top speed electronically limited to 250km/h.

READ: Next-gen, locally-built C-Class - President Cyril Ramaphosa applauds nearly R10-billion investment by Mercedes-Benz SA

So what else is new?

Mercedes reckons the refreshed version has a younger and sportier look.

There are still three trim lines: Standard, Avantegarde and AMG.

The front of the car now features a sportier A-shape apron with a diamond grille, new LED headlights and optional high-beam range. There are also 19" AMG rims, redesigned rear bumper and diffuser along with LED cluster redesign.

There are also three new paint colours: silver, emerald green (sedan only) and graphite grey (cabriolet and coupe only).

Mercedes says another new feature is the automatic notification if the vehicle suffers an impact caused by another vehicle when parked, is towed away or there is a break-in attempt: "The highly sensitive sensors of the standard "Anti-theft alarm system (ATA)" can detect such situations and immediately send a "push notification" message to the Mercedes me App. The optional feature includes the new sensors and the corresponding software."

There's also a new-generation steering wheel, a new digital cockpit and a 10" infotainment display.

Safety systems have been improved, along with improved cameras and radar systems to help the vehicle drive semi-automatically. 

What's it like to drive?

My driving partner and I jumped at the chance to drive the C43 AMG version first. The C-Class is Mercedes' golden child and with updated tech to enhance the driving experience, there is very little to fault.

The new 3.0-litre V6 is a blast to drive. It's extremely comfortable and could come across as subdued when you're crawling through the urban jungle's traffic but give it some quiet, open roads along the highveld and the beast that lurks beneath the bonnet comes to life, pouncing with all its 287kW/520Nm engine can muster.

It's blisteringly quick and gear changes are ridiculously smooth. And, let's not forget the burbly growl from the exhaust when you're blipping down gears on the paddles, or when you're doing some heavy-foot driving.

While I really wanted to drive the C180 and C200 just to get a feel of the entry-level versions, they were all scooped up before we could get to it. We managed to sample the C300 a bit too and it it's just as thrilling to drive, albeit fewer niceties as the C43 and a few hundred thousand more affordable than the more aggressive version, it still ticks all the bells and whistles you'd expect in an R700k plus vehicle.