Wheels Car of the Year 2022 3rd place
HThe ops don’t come much higher than for the new fifth-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class W206 which, after several delays, might have jumped ship and straight to our Car of the Year tests.
Its timing was such that we didn’t get a chance to consider which variant would best represent the range, so we’ve included the two currently available – the C200 and C300, powered by four-cylinder turbo engines. It should be discovered as time goes by.
And the bookmakers would be right to place narrow odds for this car. As the most popular Mercedes-Benz model of the last decade, nearly 60,000 copies of the previous generation W205 C-Class were sold in Australia alone. So no pressure.
Right off the bat, after circling the judges, ogling the muscular power domes on the hood, the more set-back cabin design and the standard-fitted AMG Line package, there was an initial sense that this car would be a contender. . The interior is radically different from its predecessor, with all major and minor controls being relegated to touchscreens, the main of which is an 11.9-inch (diagonal) unit mounted right in the middle of the dash.
Tilted six degrees towards the driver, it runs Merc’s excellent MBUX infotainment software, while a 12.3-inch cluster display behind the steering wheel can provide a classic vibe with its analog graphics. But overall, from an interior point of view, we like it.
“As you’d expect, beautifully executed inside and out,” Richard said, adding of the clever packaging, “you could be forgiven for thinking you’re sitting in a more great Merc.” And you are, really, because the W206 is now 65mm longer than the W205 – 25mm of it into the wheelbase, helping to provide an extra 35mm of knee room in the rear – helping to bridge the gap between C and E.
As we progressed through the rounds of the Anglesea Proving Ground loop (in the C200), even in the whirlwind of cars that is the COTY test, it took most of the judges around 500 yards to mentally preselect the new C-Class as a finalist. With a seating position that’s fitted like a tailor-stitched glove, the W206 immediately impresses with its ride quality, a well-judged combination of spring rate and damping intelligence – in the C200’s passive setup, at least. More on the C300’s adaptive dampers later.
On the dirt – which didn’t feel quite as nasty as in the S-Class, thankfully – the C-Class displayed the most advanced ESC this road tester had seen, spookily preemptive and efficient but still minimally intrusive.
Thanks to the lane change, the C-Class was one of the tidier and faster cars in the bunch. The dry braking was so hard you were almost groping around the floorboards for your eyeballs. Never before, too, has the base C200 felt more recommendable, its 150kW/300Nm delivering strong, characterful performance and even decent sound (mostly boosted, but very realistically done).
“Finally – a good base model engine for the C-Class,” Jez said, echoing the sentiment of all the judges. “Respectable weeds wondering if you really need that C300.”
While the C200 wasn’t as special as we’d hoped on the twisty five-percent-gradient section of road – based on its shape through the earlier stages of the proving ground – it had done enough. to get him through to the next round of grueling roads. Evaluation.
After leaving the coastal roads around Anglesea and Torquay, things took a turn for the W206 as judges jumped aboard the C300 expecting it to build on the impressive performance of the C200 in PG. Instead, they were left scratching their heads at a ride quality in Comfort mode, on adaptive dampers, which felt, frankly, a bit unfinished. We almost wanted to go back in the C200 with its softer passive setup.
Some judges also failed to gel with the new rear steering (available as a $3400 option on both variants, along with the adaptive dampers). Rear steering can frustrate rear-wheel-drive dynamics somewhat; it would be nice if you could turn it off. But its benefits such as a tighter turning radius and greater low-speed agility are hard to overlook.
“Too bad there aren’t separate adaptive damper and rear steering options,” Dan said, “because the latter is a game-changer while the former adds unnecessary complexity.”
More cracks began to show on the W206’s initially unflappable fascia as the judges shared minor build quality issues – a subtle but obvious rattle coming from behind the central infotainment screens of both cars. The one that would disappear if you applied some pressure to the screen. If you just bought the car, the judges agreed, you’d be a little miffed. “The biggest question mark is about the interior quality,” Alex said. “The materials and the finish.”
“The appeal of the S-Class Junior with a distinct family resemblance and smart styling inside and out” – Daniel Gardner
To function as a high-tech luxury vehicle, the W206 performs very well. For safety, you can’t argue with some of the smartest active systems we’ve ever tested, let alone 10 airbags including, for the first time, an in-dash central. For Efficiency, Mercedes claims 6.9L/100km for the 200 and 7.3L for the 300.
On a drive to Melbourne and back at night, we felt like fingering the fuel display on the digital cluster as it seemed to not move. In fact, the C200, on the highway, could cover 1000 km with its 66-litre tank.
That’s partly thanks to the technology in the C-Class, in particular its 48-volt mild-hybrid setup. An integrated starter-generator (ISG) allows for an incredibly smooth and fast, if not completely imperceptible, start-stop system. Cabotage, electric motor boost and of course energy recovery are also on the agenda.
It would have had to remove the internal combustion engines and go straight to electric motors and a big battery to get better results for the technology.
Alas, it would have cost more – as it stands, the price has already gone up from $12,000 to $15,000, hurting the value proposition. As mentioned during our first drive last month, it remains to be seen whether buyers can justify $78,900 and $90,400 respectively for a four-cylinder luxury sedan. Our guess would be yes.
But viewed through the all-important lens of the COTY criteria, it became clear that the runner-up would be as high as the W206 would rise. There would be no fifth COTY win for Mercedes-Benz in 2022. While the judges agreed the C-Class is an outstanding overall package, too many minor and unusual missteps ultimately added up to put the winner’s trophy COTY just out of range of the W206.
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Specifications
|Engine||1496cc 4cyl turbo petrol|
|Able||190 kW at 5,800 rpm|
|Couple||400 Nm at 1800 rpm|
|Transmission||9-speed automatic, RWD|
|Length Width Height||4751/1820/1437mm|
|Weight (heavier than expected)||4kg|
|Noise at 100km/h||67.1db|