The new C-Class when it arrived, wowed us and how. Mercedes managed to get almost everything right giving the buyer a car that possessed a multitude of abilities which constantly managed to keep a smile on the owner face. Off-late however, we thought that Mercedes was churning out better petrol engines than diesels. Case in point were the A, GLA and CLA-Class where most of us preferred the peppy and raucous sounding petrol variants of the same. Even when we drove the new C, which was then only available in petrol, we were pretty sure that the petrol was going to be the motor of choice should you demand a little fun from this sleek German. And now they have finally brought in the C 220 CDI.
We loved the new C-Class when it was revealed here in India. While it looked fantastic on its own too, the bonus was that it looks just like the new S-Class, only scaled down. There are barely any changes compared to the petrol variant. You still get the swept back full LED head lamps, the strong muscular bonnet complimenting that bold twin slatted grill. The front bumper looks like a complex intrusion of various shapes, but its this bionic design that helps in making the new C, one of the most aerodynamic cars in its class.
The sleek side profile is further accentuated by those prominent character lines and those gorgeous 17-inch alloy wheels. The rear grabs eyeballs thanks to a muscular shoulder line and those irresistible LED tail lamps shaped like an emerald necklace structure. An integrated spoiler along with a black diffuser gives the design a sporty touch.
Stepping inside the cabin, the C-Class cabin looks and feels brilliant. What hits you immediately is the awesome ambient lighting which is available in 3 colour settings and gets a dimmer control as well for the dashboard and wood/aluminium strip. Then you come to the seats. The new cobra look seats hold you in place exceptionally.
There is plenty of support and getting the right position is just a matter of pressing a few buttons and saving it in any of the 3 provided memory stations. The dashboard is a touch of class with a mixture of beige, gloss wood finish and plenty of aluminium inserts.
The new C is an ergonomic haven with all the controls falling at hand with ease. The meaty steering wheel feels good, while the twin tube instrument binnacle is a nice blend of sporty and elegant offering a vast amount of information. There is plenty of storage around as well with a luggage net on the side in the boot, on the right of the side panel, net on the boot floor, folding box beneath load compartment floor, compartment on the centre console tensioning strap in the stowage and then some.
Like in the petrol, the diesel also gets a free standing 7-inch display screen that highlights all the information from the multimedia unit, the navigation system and the reverse cameras.
Another cool feature is the touchpad unit on the centre console. Not only does it look cool but works brilliantly as well without any complications.
Around the touchpad is the agility select button, the button for the electric sunblind, the Auto Start/Stop switch and the volume control.
The Burmester sound system will probably need a story of its own to describe but in one short word, its “Fantastic”. And unlike most German cars its got a range of connectivity options as well. You get a CD player, radio with twin tuner, 2 USB ports for external audio devices which thankfully worked with android and Apple interfaces and if thats not enough, there is Bluetooth streaming as well.
Coming to the seating in the rear bench, there is no change in space, with the C being better than before but still not the best in its class. The seats lack a little under-thigh support but other than that are quite comfortable for two and manageable for three. The boot is good for 480 litres as well, but again, the space saver tied right on top in the luggage area will eat some luggage space.
All in all the diesel variant additionally gets illuminated front door sill panels with ‘Mercedes-Benz’ lettering, high-gloss brown line structure trim in the centre console and navigation with Garmin Map Pilot which works quite well to find places. Rest of the equipment like keyless go starting function, reversing camera, adaptive brakes with hill start assist, Panoramic sliding sunroof, 7 airbags and the two zone thermatic climate control are retained.
Engine and Performance
Like I mentioned before, we had suddenly started preferring the new petrol's from Mercedes compared to their re-known diesels and I was hoping for something similar before driving the C 220 CDI. But a press of the start key and putting the car in D moment later, I was simply blown away. Burying the throttle, the C flew off the line with the rear wheels chirping away with the electronics trying hard to control the wheelspin.
Under the hood is the widely used 2.2 litre oil burner pushing out 170PS between 3000 - 4200 rpm and a very impressive 400 Nm of torque as early as 1400 rpm. What Mercedes seem to also have worked on is the 7G-tronic Plus gearbox. Suddenly the gearbox with this diesel unit seems to work brilliantly. Minimal lag, maximum output. While 170 PS is not much when you pit it against it direct rival the 3 Series which makes 180 odd PS, theC manages to use all its horses quite well when summoned.
Like in the petrol, the diesel gets the Agility Select as well. What this button does is enable the driver to choose between comfortable, sporty, particularly sporty and efficient driving styles, or their own individually defined style. Parameters such as the engine, transmission and steering characteristics are adjusted according to the selected transmission mode. Confirmation of the selection made is displayed in both the instrument cluster and the head unit.
Slapping on the Performance Box and shifting the agility select to sport Plus, the C220 CDI hit 100 km/h in 8 seconds flat. In gear acceleration is blistering as well. Flooring the pedal at 40 km/h the Merc hit 120 km/h in 9.2 seconds flat, which speaks volumes about the engines awesome drivability. Overtaking is a breeze and its just a matter of spotting a gap and punching the throttle. Mercedes diesels are back and how!
Braking is quite sharp too and we felt at times a little too sharp especially at parking speeds where just lightly dabbing it would make the car stop abruptly. But then that's also about getting used to the car. Standing on the brakes the C-Class scrubbed speed quickly. 100 - 0 km/h took just 3.4 seconds with the 1655 kg car traversing 47 meters before coming to a halt.
The Merc was pretty fuell efficient too. In the worst traffic conditions, the C 220 CDI gave a decent 9.9 kmpl while out on the highways the figure rose to 14.2 kmpl which are very good numbers. We are sure that on a longer trip the C diesel will be able to give out even better economy.
Ride and Handling
The C-Class comes with quite a tricked out suspension and steering. For starters it gets the Agility Control suspension with selective damping system and a Comfort Direct steer system with speed sensitive power assistance and variable steering ratio. What all that mumbo-jumbo translates to is that the suspension on the C has been tuned to handle the best and the worst conditions and for the Indian market it gets additional ground clearance which really works wonders. We managed to get the car over the biggest speed breakers without scraping anything at all. Ride quality though felt a tad bit stiff, even when compared to the petrol variant. The heavier diesel engine in the front might have made Merc to adjust the damping which might have led to the extra stiffness. But overall, the ride quality is plenty acceptable and still better than its immediate rivals.
Handling has gone up quite a few notches over its predecessor so. The C holds its line beautifully with that variable assist steering changing resistance according to the speeds. Its not as communicative as a BMW 3 Series is, but feels quite direct. Push the car harderthough and the C exhibits quite a bit of body roll and with that you get complimentary understeer as well with the electronics interrupting audibly.
The C then has a good balance of good ride quality and handling, but just don’t expect it to put some hot laps around your favorite ghat.
With the new C-Class, Mercedes-Benz has raised the bar for the competition. Now the 3 Series with which the C has been battling for ages is a fantastic product on its own, but with the now fantastic new design, excellent power-train options and an endless list of features like 7-airbags, PRE-SAFE, Attention Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, hill assist and then some. While that is good news, the bad news is that prices for the new C have gone up as well and that’s manly because the new Diesel engine powered C220 CDI is imported in to India as CBU (Completely Built Units) for now as compared to the petrol which is now being assembled here. At Rs. 39.90 lakh for the Style and Rs. 42.9 lakh for the Avantgarde variant, the C 220 CDI is expensive, but then its pretty much on par with the competition and apart from not being too spacious, there aren’t too many reasons to not choose this S-Class lookalike. So if your are in the market for a diesel car in this segment, the new C 220 CDI comes very highly recommended indeed!