It's been some four years since the current-generation C-Class (W204) was launched, so Mercedes-Benz has given its most popular model a sprucing up. The most noticeable exterior changes are the new headlight designs, LED driving lights and tail-lights, and redesigned front and rear bumpers.
Classier steering wheel designs, a completely reworked dashboard top with integrated audio/navigation display (the old pop-up display has been given the boot) and instrument cluster are the notable differences on the inside.
Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and seven-speed automatic transmission. The 1.8-litre turbocharged engine produces 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque. Other petrol engines include the 150kW/310Nm twin-turbo version (the C250 CGI) and 185kW/340Nm 3.5-litre V6 (C300). All diesel engine options — the 100kW/330Nm C200 CDI, 150kW/500Nm C250 CDI and 195kW/620Nm C350 CDI — have automatic start-stop to improve fuel economy.
Entertainment and tech gear
The Audio 20 sound system is standard on this base model and features digital connectivity for iPods/iPhones and USB sticks, as well as an auxiliary jack and Bluetooth for hands-free and music streaming. There's also a 5.8-inch 400x240 display and six-disc CD stacker.
More lustily engined models come with the Comand APS system that has a 7-inch 800x480 display, Bluetooth, SD card slot, USB port, iPod/iPhone connectivity, 10GB of hard-disk music storage and navigation. For the first time locally, Comand can connect to the internet via any phone that supports the Bluetooth dial-up networking standard. This lets you surf the web and perform Google destination searches, as well as import routes and itineraries from Google Maps.
Also available are a range of safety and convenience features, including reversing camera, automatic high beams, xenon headlights, driver drowsiness warning and radar-guided cruise control. Active Lane Keeping Assist uses windscreen-mounted cameras to monitor lane markings and your course relative to them. If it detects that you're drifting towards another lane or the edge of the road, it will subtly pulse the steering wheel and if you don't respond it will brake the outside wheels to bring you back into the lane.
Active Blind Spot Assistance uses a suite of radars at the rear of the car to monitor the driver's blindspots. Whenever a car is in that region, a red marker will light up on the appropriate wing mirror. Should the driver begin straying into a lane where another car is in the blindspot, the system can brake the outside wheels to keep the car in its current lane.
On the roads around the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria the various face-lifted C-Class models that we drove felt composed at speed and fun to drive on the twisty stuff. As far as the engines go, the C250 CGI (petrol) and C250 CDI (diesel) were smooth, quiet and sufficiently powerful, but the C200 CDI is best suited to those who feel unhurried by modern life.
The heavily revised interior is a necessary improvement, but the most eye-catching feature is the new high resolution screen located in the middle of the speedo. Capable of displaying everything from next turn instructions and trip computer readouts to safety displays, it's a delight to behold. The various Harman Kardon sound systems we sampled weren't on the same level of wow and this may be related to the tyre rumble we experienced over our prescribed routes. As usual, we'll reserve final judgement until we complete a review.
Pricing and availability
The revised four-cylinder C-Class models are available now through Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Prices begin at AU$58,900 for the C200 CGI, AU$60,900 for the C200 CDI and AU$67,900 for both the C250 CGI and CDI. Wagon versions, where available, will add AU$2K to the price.
The C350 V6 models will retail for AU$84,900 (petrol) and AU$94,900 (diesel) when they become available in Q3 2011. The new coupe variant and ballistic C63 sports model will also be available later in 2011.