Mercedes C-class (W204)
Predecessor: C-class (W203)
1982, Mercedes-Benz introduced its first small car, the W201 series, or
more commonly known as 190E. The 190E gave us a very good alternative
to BMW 3-Series, especially those asked for higher quality, solidity
and comfort. Mercedes sold 1.88 million units of 190E before moving to
C-class W202 in 1993 and W203 in 2000, which attracted another 1.85
million and 2 million customers respectively. W203 was especially
successful for bringing in younger customers, thanks to its younger
look and more dynamic chassis, not to mention the image-boosting AMG
C32 and C55 models. These young customers may move to E-class and
S-class in the future, so C-class is very important to Mercedes-Benz.
until now the C-class has yet to beat BMW 3-Series in sales chart. One
of the reasons is that Mercedes sells its coupe version in the name of
CLK-class. Another reason is more people prefer the stronger driver
appeal offered by the 3-Series. That is why Stuttgart decided to inject
more sportiness into the new generation C-class W204. How ? firstly, it
gave the new car a faster ratio steering rack to sharpen its steering
response. Secondly, it added adaptive dampers to improve body control.
Cheap versions employ mechanical adaptive dampers which firm up
automatically under hard use, like those offered optionally in A and
B-class. Higher spec versions are equipped with electronic adaptive
dampers, something its rivals have yet to offer. The electronic damping
provides Comfort and Sport mode for the driver to choose from. They
also alter the response of throttle and automatic transmission.
Thirdly, weight distribution of the chassis has been improved slightly.
For instance, the basic C180K is 52.5:47.5 front to rear instead of the
last generation's 53.2:46.8. Lastly but not least, to lure sportier
buyers from BMW 3-Series without displeasing its traditional customers,
Mercedes set the styling of the sport-biased Avantgarde model further
apart from the luxury-biased Elegance model. The former gets aggressive
AMG bumpers and skirts, plus a grille design previously reserved for
Mercedes coupes. The Elegance continues to employ the traditional
radiator grille. No wonder Mercedes called it "one car, two
problem is, the new C-class doesn't look very Mercedes. If we mask its
grille, it could be just any Japanese cars or even a Hyundai. Why ?
because its slim C-pillars do not deliver a solidity feel like Mercedes
used to, because the black plastic window frames are more mainstream
than unique. On the positive side, the new headlamps are better looking
than the previous peanut-shape ones, the clamshell bonnet more stylish,
the attention to details are better and the body panels fit more
tightly. Overall speaking, W204 is a neat design, if not very Mercedes.
C-class is larger than the last generation. W204 is no exception. It
gets 55mm longer, 42mm wider and the wheelbase is stretched by 45mm,
bringing the total to 2760mm. As a result, the cabin gets 40mm and 20mm
extra shoulder room for front and rear passengers respectively. Sadly,
rear legroom is almost unchanged, but admittedly, the old car was never
short of rear legroom. Take quality into account, the cabin is a
quantum leap from the last generation. While the old car was built to
cost (remark: it was a victim of Jurgen Schrempp's cost cutting
policy), the new cabin has a quality feel due to neat design,
soft-touch materials and solid assembly. It also offers some of the
luxury features from the S-class (provided you can afford), such as the
COMMAND control system with voice recognition and the Pre-Safe system.
Despite of the more angular body, W204 has the same 0.27 drag
coefficient as W203. The chassis boosts 13 percent higher torsional
rigidity thanks to the use of more high-strength steel (some 70% of
total), but the overall weight remains unchanged as it compensated by
converting some parts to aluminum, such as the front cross beam, front
crash boxes, front fenders and door modules. This also explain for its
better weight distribution. Excluding adaptive damping, not much change
is found at the suspension design, i.e., 3-link MacPheson struts up
front and 5-link setup at the rear. Considering their sophisticated
geometry, Mercedes found no need to change.
road, the new C-class handles and rides brilliantly. In particular, its
handling is markedly improved from W203, being better balanced, more
precise and responsive. The steering is light but satisfyingly quick
and accurate. The chassis feels solid. There is plenty of grip on offer
and the car resists understeer and body roll much better than before,
thanks to the adaptive dampers. Its handling is a match for BMW
3-Series until the last two-tenths. Ultimately, it can't match the
BMW's composure and balance at the limit. But then neither can BMW
offer the same level of ride quality and refinement. On the standard
suspensions with mechanical adaptive dampers, the C-class already
provides a quiet and comfortable ride. With electronic dampers, the
ride is even more exceptional. You can't help thinking this is a "mini
S-class". Mercedes made the right decision to equip the C-class with
adaptive damping, despite the extra costs.
engines do not live up the standard of the chassis. Mercedes' engine
programs always lag behind vehicle programs. That means the new C-class
uses the same engines from the last generation. New engines are not
expected until its mid-life makeover. At the bottom of the range is a
pair of M271 supercharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder, tuned to 156hp for
C180K and 184hp for C200K. Supercharger gives them good torque, but
both refinement and fuel consumption fail to match BMW's 2-liter
Valvetronic or direct injection four. Climb up the range will see three
V6 engines - 204hp 2.5-liter for C230, 231hp 3.0-liter for C280 and
272hp 3.5-liter for C350. How to describe them? well, competitive by
world standard, but probably not enough to compete with its rival in
Munich. BMW's 2.5-liter and 3.0-liter straight-6 produce 14hp and 41hp
more horsepower respectively, while the twin-turbo 335i is even in a
different performance league from C350. Worse still, the BMW engines
drink less fuel and they have to cope with dozens of less kilograms
than in the case of C-class !
engine in C-class is actually the 3.0-liter common-rail turbo diesel V6
serving C320CDI. Well, it is no match with BMW 335d in performance, but
it is smooth and much more quieter than the BMW engine. With 224
horsepower and an astonishing 376 lbft of torque (matching a
Lamborghini Gallardo) from only 1600 rpm, performance is obtained in
the most effortless way. The strong torque also reduces the shifts from
the 7G-Tronic transmission, which is rather busy in C350, thus boosts
overall refinement. The C320CDI returns 37.6mpg fuel consumption
against 29.1mpg of C350, another good reason to choose the diesel.
Three kinds of people will buy the C-class instead of 3-Series: 1) The
traditional admirers of Mercedes-Benz; 2) Those who hate the ugly look
and plain interior of the 3er; 3) Those prefer the superior quality,
luxury and ride comfort of the C-class. While the new C-class is no
ground breaker, it should be a satisfying purchase for those who can
above report was last updated on 21 Apr
2007. All Rights Reserved.
|As the new BMW M3 is no longer oriented
to hardcore drivers (sadly), all our hope is put on the new Mercedes
C63 AMG. Derived from the much improved chassis of W204 C-class and
installed with the wonderful AMG 6.2-liter V8, can it rise to the top
of sports saloon segment finally ? This is a question every car
enthusiast wants to know. Before answering it, let us go through its
technical specifications first...
The core of C63 is the 6208 cc DOHC 32-valve V8. It is not derived from
any production engines of Mercedes-Benz, but designed and developed
entirely by the AMG division. This engine has been used in various AMG
models, namely E63, CLS63, CLK63, S63, ML63 and CL63. The baby C63 is
the last one to call its service. Naturally, installed in the tighter
engine compartment resulted in somewhat compromised exhaust routing.
This mean some 57 horsepower has been lost compare with the larger E63
AMG. Still, the C63 cranks out 457 horsepower at 6800 rpm, some 37
horses more than the new M3. Moreover, its maximum torque of 443 lb-ft
is a massive 148 lb-ft more than the BMW !
The tremendous torque means even a compulsory automatic
gearbox could propel the car from rest to 62 mph (100 km/h) in merely
4.5 seconds. That's a decisive 0.3 seconds quicker than the M3 with
manual gearbox ! Admittedly, AMG's version of the 7G-Tronic
transmission is a very best one. It provides 3 modes for different
driving styles. In Comfort mode, it shifts as seamless as any
traditional Mercedes. In Sport mode, the gearshift takes 30 percent
less time. It also actuates throttle blip automatically to match rev
during downshift. In Manual mode, the shift time is 50 percent less. It
obeys only the instructions from the driver, so you can rev the engine
right to the 7200 rpm redline and enjoy the metallic soundtrack of the
V8. With such a great automatic transmission, who still want that
slightly clonky manual gearshift of M3 ?
On the road, the biggest difference between C63 and M3 lies in their
power delivery - M3 is typically peaky, C63 is stronger all the time.
The AMG 6.2 V8 is definitely one of the world's best performance
engines, even better than BMW's V8 and V10. On the one hand it produces
plenty of bottom end and mid-range torque to enable instant overtaking,
on the other hand it loves to rev to 7000-plus rpm. Like any high
performance engines should, its power delivery is linear across a wide
band. In other words, the higher the rev, the more punch and better
sound it produces. This explain why the C63 delivers real world
performance and enthusiasm simultaneously.
However, don't think this AMG is all
about engine. In the recent CLK63 Black, we have seen AMG taking
handling really seriously. In fact, the braindrain from BMW's
Motorsport division to AMG in recent years started reverting the
fortune of both companies - the M3 goes civilized while the C63 goes
driver-oriented. The effect of one plus and one minus means AMG is
actually taking the edge now.
The C63 is based on the new generation W204 chassis, which is much
sportier than any previous C-class. But that is only the beginning. AMG
re-engineered the front chassis with entirely new suspension and
steering geometry, basically comes from CLK63 Black. It got wider
tracks (35mm front and 12mm rear) and stiffer suspension setup,
although the C-class' electronic adaptive damping has been ditched.
Standard 18-inch alloy wheels are shod with 235/40ZR and 255/35ZR tires
front and rear, while 19-inch wheels wrapping 235/35ZR and 255/30ZR
tires are optional.
Braking is a strength of C63. It employs Brembo's new steel-aluminum
compound disc brakes with 360 mm disc and 6-pot calipers up front,
330mm disc with 4-pot calipers at the rear. The ESP stability control
now offers 3-stage setting with different level of intervention,
including fully switch off. The latter is a first for AMG. It implies
AMG is confident that the fundamental chassis dynamics is good enough
to handle abuse.
So, how good does it go on road ? One word: impressive. No
previous AMGs (bar the CLK63 Black and DTM) had ever delivered such a
driver-focused handling. This car turns into corners sharply and
precisely. Its steering provides streams of information to the driver's
hands, while the stiff suspensions keeps body roll to minimum and the
grippy tires keep the car on rails. The brakes feel powerful and
fade-free for extended use. Most impressive, its chassis is highly
communicative through steering and throttle. Switch off the stability
control, you will discover how well balanced the chassis is. This seems
unbelievable from the static weight distribution of 54:46, but the
chassis tuning makes wonder to deliver a neutral attitude. Deep into
the bend, it understeers gently to stabilize the car. By applying
throttle, you can finely control the car from understeer to mild
oversteer. C63 proves that nothing compares to a rear-drive chassis for
pure driving fun.
Then how does it compare to M3 ? The AMG now offers better steering
feel than its Munich rival. Its chassis is more throttle adjustable.
Both advantages let the driver feels more entertaining. Besides, it has
stronger engine and braking as usual. The only disadvantage is a
stiffer ride from the passive suspensions, but it is totally acceptable
for car nuts. Maybe one day AMG will add adaptive damping to the car,
but even before that the C63 AMG is already our new King of sports
sedans. Congratulation to AMG !
above report was last updated on 1 Sep 2007. All
C-class facelift (2011)
After nearly four years on the market, Mercedes C-class W204 gets a
mid-life facelift. The most obvious changes are the reshaped headlamps
and front bumper, which gives the car enough refreshment to my eyes. At
the back, the taillights are smartened with LED graphics. Mercedes said
the bonnet and alloy wheels have also been modified, although they are
harder to spot.
However, the biggest improvement is not exterior, but the interior.
Very rare for a facelift, Mercedes reworked the interior completely,
giving it an all-new dashboard and steering wheel. It is far more
stylish and higher quality than the old one. Following the industrial
trend, navigation screen becomes an integral part of the dashboard.
Relatively few changes can be found on the mechanical side, and all of
them are made for the benefit of greenness. All engines get automatic
stop-start, no wonder their names get the "BlueEfficiency" moniker. The
four-cylinder models used to get an outdated 5-speed automatic, now
7G-Tronic serves across the range to enhance fuel economy. A slightly
reduced drag coefficient - dropped from 0.27 to 0.26 for models with
narrowest tires - also help in this respect.
The C-class already got engine upgrade last year, so this time around
most engines are carried over:
- C180: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder DI turbo, 136hp;
- C200: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder DI turbo, 184hp;
- C250: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder DI turbo, 204hp;
- C350: 3.5-liter V6 DI, 306hp;
- C180CDI: 2.1-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 120hp;
- C200CDI: 2.1-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 136hp;
- C220CDI: 2.1-liter 4-cylinder turbo diesel, 170hp;
- C250CDI: 2.1-liter 4-cylinder twin-turbo diesel, 204hp;
- C300CDI: 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel, 231hp;
The only new engine is the 60-degree DVVT petrol V6, which is being
used in the new CLS. Compare with the old 90-degree VVT unit, output
has been increased by 14hp (or 34hp compared with the non-CGI engine in
some markets). Fuel consumption is reduced by 18 percent, not bad for a
above report was last updated on 25 Mar