As we neared the end of 2021, I found myself behind the wheel of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class in my home town of Swindon, England. Now although I often refer to the Wiltshire town as ‘the New York of the South’, I have to say that the unkempt roads and 30mph speed limits did very little justice to what is the German brand’s most significant nameplate – well now, thanks to Mercedes-Benz NZ’s recent swanky local launch, the natural order of things has been resumed.
Here’s why I say the C-Class Sedan is significant. The ‘C-Class’ nameplate was introduced in May 1993 and quite frankly has never looked back. It has been the highest-volume Mercedes-Benz model of the past decade, with more than 2.5 million sold globally since the introduction of the current generation in 2014 (over 4,000 of those were in New Zealand). And what’s more, this number rises to 10.5 million if you add in the Mercedes-Benz 190 (cited as the original C-Class) in 1982.
So now that I have your attention. Sure there has been a big shift towards SUVs, and let’s face it Mercedes-Benz have all those bases covered, but there remains a steady demand for this upmarket Sedan – and so there should be.
The local launch began in Newmarket, where we were introduced to the two models we would be driving for the next two days, the 1.5L powered C200 and gruntier 2L C300 – we loaded up with coffee and each claimed a driver’s seat for our first leg to Waipu.
My first C was the C300 with virtually all the trimmings. Dressed in a deep onyx black, the new C-Class is noticeably bigger than before with a length of 4.79m length and 1.82m width plus the friendly folks at Mercedes-Benz NZ have thrown in the AMG Line body kit as standard.
The A-shape grille is unmistakably part of the Mercedes-Benz family but it’s been spiced up with individual stars that support the main four-pointer in the grille’s centre (which lots of tech hides behind).
This 6th generation C-Class remains sedan/coupe like in silhouette with a lower roofline and a more athletic stance and in the sunlight its shoulderline is more pronounced. The rear comes with an electric boot (you can use your foot to open) and the tail lights are now part of, freshly designed bumper and chrome exhaust tips.
The new C-Class sits on a reworked version of the MRA platform and as such, has 25mm of extra wheelbase, this means that the cabin is bigger than ever offering space for driver and passengers alike. The additional space is not the first thing you notice though, that would be its opulence.
You see the new C is essentially a miniature S-Class in terms of cabin layout, fixture and fittings. Leather as far as the eye can see and intermingled with polished alloys and gloss blacks, you really get a sense of ‘making it’.
Then there’s the technology. Taking up centre stage in the dash is a portrait style 11.9-inch central media display, that showcases such treats as 360° camera views (with Augmented reality SatNav), Online Music, as this new Benz fully integrates major music streaming services into MBUX, the latest MBUX ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control and Apps for Africa – you name it, this new C-Class has got it.
Below the central display, is a fingerprint scanner which allows you to log into your own MBUX profile, so the new C-Class becomes yours as soon as it identifies you – giving quick access to your personal settings and data such as favourites, most recent destinations and behaviour-based predictions.
On the SH1 part of the drive North, I engaged the highly-advanced adaptive cruise control and let the C300 do the work, while I fiddled around with the digital instrument cluster. Again inspired by the S-Class, you can get all the data you want and on a variety of different display screens, from traditional two dials, to a futuristic 3D – and everything in between.
Breaking right off the highway, it was time to engage Sport mode and drive with a little more pace and vigour, the C300 was up for the task. Under its bonnet is an F1 developed twin-scroll 2L assisted by a 48V (mild-hybrid) electrical system, that gives you 190kW of power, 400Nm of torque and a 0-100km/h time of 6 seconds. PLUS 15 more kW and 200 more newton under boost (when you stamp down on the accelerator).
Not only is there plenty of acceleration but the handling and steering has a racing car feel (and that’s without having the optional rear-axle steering fitted). It grips the corners with mountain goat severity and drops through the 9-G box for immediate pick up when exiting. All backed up with a positive feel to the wheel.
Behind the scenes, the new C-Class is fitted with the latest generation 48v ISG (Integrated Starter Generator) for functions such as gliding, boosting or energy recovery, and makes significant fuel savings possible, so the C300 boasts 7.3 L/100 km.
Lunch was devoured quickly and we were back on the road, again heading North to Kauri Cliffs Resorts in Northland. In terms of driving pleasure, it was more of the same for me in the C300. Overtaking when required but also utilising the ACC and comfort modes to arrive relaxed for an overnight stay.
To say that the Kauri Cliffs resort is swanky is an understatement, the staff are ultra-attentive and the food/accommodation is out of this world – it’s a bonus if you’re into golf too. I will add another review of the place soon. All you need to know right now is that even with the temptation of the new C-Class to drive back to Auckland, I would have liked to have stayed another day or seven.
Anyway, my ride for the return trip was the C200 and just quietly, I thought it would be a bit of a let down after the 300 – it wasn’t. Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre version of the M 254 petrol engine married to a 9G-TRONIC auto. On its own, it produces 150kW of power and 300Nm of torque but as with the C300 it has 48v mild hybrid assistance. 0-100 comes in at 7.3 seconds and fuel economy is 6.9 L/100 km (ADR combined).
The route back was mainly SH1 biased with a stop at Whangarei for lunch (a journalist has got to eat) and a venture through some twists and turns around Orewa, and I have to say that although I come from the school of ‘more power the better’ the C200 was a joy to drive. Yes it lacks a few knobs and switches in the cabin (and some behind the scenes driver aids), I would go as far as saying that pound for pound the C200 was the better investment – but if you have the money, go large.
The Mercedes-Benz C 200 Sedan is priced at $86,000 (MRRP), while the Mercedes-Benz C 300 Sedan is priced at $102,900 (MRRP). This includes GST and any LCT applicable to the base / standard specification model but EXCLUDES ALL ON ROAD COSTS.