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Mercedes-Benz C200 First Drive Review: Honey, they have shrunk the S-Class

Plush ride, luxurious cabin, loaded with features, is the new C-Class the new segment leader? We find out.

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The C-Class has been one of the most successful luxury sedans in India and since its launch in 2001, Mercedes-Benz has sold more than 37,000 C-Class in India. We have the new avatar with us and it straight away takes on its traditional rivals the Audi A4 and the BMW 3 Series. With a slew of new electric vehicles entering the market or soon to be launched in India, this has thrown a spanner in the wheel of competition as the C-Class has to compete with both the internal combustion engine (ICE) saloons and EVs. Has Mercedes done enough to keep buyers focused on this new sedan with its opulence and pizzaz? We are here to answer that question.

Subtle Styling

Traditionally, the S-Class’ design trickles down to the other sedans in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio. And in the case of the new C-Class, it’s a bit of a mixed bag as it is also influenced by the AMG line-up, especially the front grille. The slim fascia sports a massive three-pointed star in the middle and has a thick chrome bar running across it. The muscular front bumper gives the C-Class quite a road presence along with a chrome lower lip. The headlamps look similar to the S-Class with a single LED strip and pod-shaped all-LED headlamps.

The new-gen C-Class is longer and wider than the older model and its silhouette along with the sweeping C-pillar makes the car look very proportionate. As we are testing the C200 trim, it sports 17-inch alloy wheels, while the other variants get 18-inch alloys. 

The rear has a clean design and will age gracefully like the S-Class. One thing that did stick like a sore thumb was the faux dual-exhaust vents, which are only for optics. On the other hand, with a luggage space of 455 litres, it is marginally less than its ICE competition, though, with the spare wheel and the tyre kit in the boot, the space reduces further. 

Pure opulence

Everything about the cabin resonates with the S-Class. The dashboard is split into two layers. The top part gets a leather finish with switching while the lower portion is wooden. The C-Class receives a new steering wheel that sports capacitive buttons, which take some getting used to. The left side controls the multimedia player and the right switches help you browse the instrument cluster. 

The driver console gets a 12.3-inch display which can be customized to Understated, Sport, Classic, or Navigation themes, but the star of the cabin has to be the 11.9-inch vertically shaped infotainment display. It comes with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice controls and smart features via the Mercedes Me app, which lets you control the cabin temperature, vehicle monitoring, vehicle status and maintenance management. Below the massive display is a band of shortcut buttons for volume control, a biometric scanner that activates your profile saved in the infotainment system and driving modes button. Surprisingly, it doesn’t come with ventilated front seats.

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Driving experience

The driving position is spot on with multiple settings available to adjust the seats and the steering wheel. The front seats offer a lot of supportive bolstering making it comfortable for long drives.

The C200 is powered by a 1.5-litre 4 cylinder with 201bhp and 300 Nm of torque. All the new C-Class variants come standard with a 48-volt electrical system to provide an additional boost in power, around 20bhp or 200 Nm. This takes the load off the engine in slow-moving traffic ensuring it remains fuel-efficient. According to ARAI, the C200 returns a mileage of just above 16 kmpl. Another reason why the C-Class returns a healthy economy is because of the 9-speed automatic gearbox it is mated to.

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While commuting in the city, you will have no complaints with the gearbox as the engine has enough grunt, especially at the low end. It tames start-stop traffic without a fuss. Things take a different direction when you step on the gas as the transmission takes a bit of time to figure out whether to upshift or downshift. The transmission was never the fastest in the business and it becomes evident when you urgently need more power. The 201 horses don’t come rushing in so the other alternative is to rev up the engine and build up the pace. In hindsight when it’s pushed, the engine can sound stressed and noisy.

The C-Class doesn’t come with air suspension and understandably so, but the adaptive suspension offers a smooth ride and doesn’t give you a reason to complain. It coasts over bumps and undulations.

Mercedes-Benz has worked very hard on the chassis and it’s quite evident as the C-Class feels agile and is responsive to the driver’s inputs. Being Mercedes-Benz, the sedan manages to strike a balance between ride and handling without compromising on passenger comfort. With four driving modes — Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual, Sport certainly tightens the suspension set-up and keeps a strict check on the body control, reducing lean while speeding past corners. The C-Class was always rock solid on the straights at high speed and it remains so, giving the person behind the wheel a lot of confidence. A special mention about the steering wheel. Mercedes-Benz has got the weight spot on. It’s not too light or heavy yet it’s communicative. 

The final word

Priced at Rs 55 lakh, ex-showroom India, Mercedes-Benz C200 is expensive, but when you step inside the cabin, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of its competition. Not to mention the bucket load of features it offers. Sure, the boot capacity could have been better and the 1.5-litre powertrain isn’t a scorcher either, but it is fuel-efficient thanks to the 48V electric system. It is also a spacious sedan that offers plenty of legroom for the rear passengers. The new C-Class is certainly very desirable and pushes the envelope to the next level.

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