New Mercedes-Benz C-Class shows off fancy moves

By Liz Dobson

Mercedes-Benz is expecting the 2015 C200 petrol model to be its top seller, offering the type of speed and safety features found in the previous version of its C250. Photos / Ted Baghurst
Mercedes-Benz is expecting the 2015 C200 petrol model to be its top seller, offering the type of speed and safety features found in the previous version of its C250. Photos / Ted Baghurst

Every fashion show has a theme song for models to stomp down the catwalk to, so with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class making its NZ Fashion Week debut there's a tune that would sum it up - Iggy Azalea's Fancy.

Okay, so the song from the Aussie rapper may be so last month, but the chorus "I'm so fancy you already know, I'm in the fast lane, from LA to Tokyo" is apt for this luxury medium-sized sedan.

This week was the Australasian media launch in Melbourne plus some of the cars have been shown to potential Kiwi customers at New Zealand dealerships. But the major showcasing of the car is at NZ Fashion Week, starting Monday, as Mercedes-Benz NZ is taking over as the event's major car sponsor.

A fleet of 12 C-Class sedans will be used to chauffeur global and local buyers, VIPs and models to and from Fashion Week's Auckland Event Centre location plus display models will be on show for the non-VIP attendees.

Away from the show, there will be five models launched over the coming months: C200 petrol and BlueTec diesel; C250 petrol and diesel, and a C300 diesel hybrid that's engine is found in the current E-Class version.

In the NZ dealerships first will be the C200 and C250 petrol and C250 diesel, with the C200 diesel early next year and the hybrid in March.

In November, an array of C-Class wagons (or estates in Mercedes speak) join the range and by mid-2015 the C-Class line-up will be joined by the sports sedan C63, that has its public reveal at October's Paris motor show.

The C200 has a $2000 increase over the outgoing version and is priced at $71,900, with the BlueTec diesel at $73,400. The C250 petrol has an $86,900 price tag (add $1500 for the diesel version) and the C300 diesel-hybrid will cost $94,900.

Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager Ben Giffin reckons the C200 petrol will be the big seller for the company, taking 40 to 50 per cent of sales.

"It's such a fantastic package it's hard to go past - it's such a well put together car ... it is nearly as quick as the C250 previous model," he said.

What impressed Giffin most was the safety technology that is standard in the C-Class and that gives it the nickname of being the "Baby S-Class" due to the level of standard specifications and safety features.

"That's the most amazing thing - seeing the transition from the top of the range S-Class with the technology flowing down in our range making it affordable," said Giffin.

The C200 gets Collision Prevention Assist Plus (that brakes for you if you don't stop in time) and blind spot monitoring.

The C250 has as standard Drive Assistance Package Plus that includes lane monitoring (warning you if you cross the white lines) and semi-automatic driving - where you just need a finger tip on the steering wheel for the car to work.

But "pushing" the cars at the Australasian launch were a 2-litre, four-cylinder direct injection engine in the C200 petrol that produces 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque and is paired with Mercedes' seven-speed Tronic plus transmission. The C250 petrol's 2-litre engine produces 155kW and 350Nm while the 250 diesel has a 2.1-litre engine that produces 150kW and 500Nm.

The visual differences are 18in, five twin-spoke alloys on the C200 and 19in 10 spoke on the C250.

The new C-Class has an 80mm increase in the wheelbase (now 2840mm) and is 4686mm long (a 95mm increase) plus gains 40mm in width at 1810mm. Due to a 48 per cent use of aluminium in the vehicle, it is 40kg lighter.

It is being produced in four factories worldwide, including Germany and South Africa, where we'll get our C-Class from, so supply for the right-hand-drive won't be an issue for Mercedes-Benz NZ.

Giffin expects to sell 50 C-Class per month - the outgoing C-Class sold 25-30 units a month.

To entice Kiwi buyers, there are a series of extras available - including the Vision Package that includes panoramic glass sunroof; heads-up display in the Command Package and AMG Line packages.

But an extra I love is the $2490 Airmatic suspension I first experienced at the C-Class international launch in France in March. All my test models in Europe were on the agile system so in Melbourne this week I was keen to see if there was such a notable difference between this and the standard suspension.

So it was into the base model C200 petrol for a blat around the launch's Yarra Valley base. The route included pot-holed narrow country roads mixed with double-lane 80 to 100km/h firm bitumen surfaces and 40km of around town driving.

The C200 engine has the instant response you'd expect and notched up to top gear to provide optimum fuel efficiency.

The C200 drive comes in different performance modes - comfort, eco, sport and sport plus.

There was a smooth driving quality and time to have a play with the different driving "modes": comfort, eco, sport and sport plus, as well as individual.

While eco is suited for city driving, comfort explains itself and individual allows you pick you requirement, sport and sport plus are ideal for driving at speed with my pick for winding, 100km-plus driving is the sport plus selection.

It makes the suspension firmer, cancels eco start-start and lets the engine become extra responsive.

This came to the fore when I swapped out of the C200 into the C250 with the Airmatic suspension system aligned with it.

The C200 drive was accomplished but with Airmatic the ride was smooth and the extra performance from the C250 engine it was my pick of the lineup.

But the look of the all-new C-Class line-up is impressive - a narrow boot, sculptured side panels, and avant-guard front grille gives it a sophisticated appearance.

Inside, the dash has clean lines and a simple centre stack with a new touchpad that was easy to use once it was explained to me: swipe for next track on Bluetooth soundtrack; pinch to zoom and write on the top destination.

There were a few niggles in the interior for me: The driver's foot well is too narrow and the rear seat is suitable only if you have average-height passengers - I tried it out on a 1.98m test subject whose head touched the panoramic sunroof.

Hmm, let's hope next week that none of the models being chauffeured in the C-Class are rocking beehive hair dos.

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- NZ Herald

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