New Mercedes-Benz C200: First Drive

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The new Mercedes C-Class is finally here, we take it for a quick spin to tell you what to expect!

Mercedes' recent history has been of promiscuous action in every segment it can. Be it SUV's, sedans, coupes, a new front wheel drive platform or its trendy new Crossovers. And now it has finally turned its attention to its very important and bread and butter C-Class.

The new W205 model not only aims to surpass its predecessor on all counts but also hopes to be the king of its segment.

The first thing you wonder if one whizzes past you is whether that was a S-Class or has the S-Class shrunken in proportions. I wouldn't blame anyone who would be in that dilemma because the new C, indeed looks like a scaled down S-Class.

The long bonnet area, the dynamic headlights and that typically large twin slatted grille make up a striking front while a well set back passenger compartment and short overhangs define the C-Class's side. Its only the rear that some might have a problem with. Its seems to end a little abruptly considering the otherwise flowing design.

In details, its a fine looking rear thanks to those brilliant LED tail lights, the wide stance and those faux twin exhaust outlets. There is plenty of chrome strips thrown in and they look quite nice. Apart from the stunning new design, the new C is also 95 mm longer and 40 mm wider than the earlier car. All in all, the new is quite a looker and Mercedes have definitely got it right as far as the design is concerned.

The dynamic exteriors have been carried onto the insides as well. The cabin is a fine blend of elegance and sportiness. Quality of materials is top notch as well and is leagues ahead of its predecessor. A large one-piece centre console panel performs an elegant sweep from the centre air vents to the armrest. These seamless, clear-cut lines create a sense of open space giving the interiors an airy feel.

A centrally positioned free-standing central display is the main eye-catching feature across the centre console and at 7 inches it had adequate viewing area. The large screen also helps to give a better clearer picture when the reverse camera is activated.

Five round air vents lend the instrument panel a sporty touch. With their metallic cool-touch effect they create a tangible contrast to the warm look of the other materials - such as the wood in the centre console or the Artico man-made leather on the instrument panel.

The thing that grabs most attention is the touchpad unit. As on a smartphone, this provides for very simple and intuitive operation of all the head-unit functions using finger gestures. The touchpad also permits letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting in any language.

In the short spin that we took, the driver and the co-passenger seats felt brilliant offering more than adequate support for long driving hours. For the chauffeur driven, there is adequate legroom at the back, but we felt that the under-thigh support was a bit lacking. While space at the rear is better than its predecessor, you still have a lot of cars in this segment that are far more spacious.

The boot has grown too and at 480 litres can swallow quite some amount of luggage, however, the space-saver isn't flush mounted and kept straight in the luggage area because of which the luggage space gets a little compromised.

Twist the key and the new C200 settles to a smooth refined idle. This is the petrol motor that the C-Class will be equipped with at launch, with a diesel following soon. The turbocharged 1991cc four cylinder motor pushes out 183.PS @ 5500 rpm and a meaty 300 Nm of torque from as early as 1200 rpm. The power delivery is extremely linear and smooth. Engine refinement is typically Mercedes which putting it simply is as refined as it can get. While its no scorcher, it has more than adequate performance for the job intended. A downshift or two using the paddles will get you past that lumbering truck quickly.

What further aids performance is the Agility Select button on the centre console. Sport and Sport Plus, as suggested by their names sharpens the C-Class' sense to make it more dynamic. Apart from the gear shifts, these modes also alter the car's engine and steering dynamics, and disengage the Start/Stop system. Using the modes makes up for the slightly laggy 7G-Tronic Plus gearbox, which is smooth overall but does not prefer aggressive shifts. The ECO mode clearly enhances efficiency only and even alters the aircon setting to get the best efficiency. Comfort mode is pretty much the best compromise for efficiency comfort and performance.

Mercedes have always been known for their magic carpet ride quality and this was a very important parameter as far as the Indian market is concerned. And you will be happy to hear that the new C boasts an excellent ride and handling package. Even with the 50 profile tyres, the new car glides over most bumps and ridges and its only the sharp bumps that really filter in. Its an extremely pliant ride and C just glides over most surfaces.

Handling has gone up a few notches as well. The new electric steering is quite direct and does not feel too light either. Push the car though and there is some amount of body roll. Going around corners will initiate massive doses of understeer which the electronics fight hard to keep in check. Its no corner-carver the new C, but then its not meant to be one either.

The new C-Class is a massive change from the earlier W204 model. Its quicker, promises to be more efficient, has more space and a bucket load of features to boot as well. Not to miss out, its quite a looker as well. However since its much more car now, expect a bump in the price as well. We expect it to be in the region of about 40 lakh, however the launch which is due soon will confirm that. Watch this space for a comprehensive road test coming up soon!

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