Discreet makeover for C-Class star
Mercedes-Benz has taken the knife to its bread and butter C-Class range
Evolution is something that is a constant, a progressive phenomenon which is as necessary as it might sound superfluous.
The automotive industry remains a prime example of evolution — where many cars go through what is deemed a midlife update — in which the model goes through a phase of enhancing what was already good with the product and ironing out any bugbears that could have been there.
As a result, you can rest assured that buying an updated variant of any vehicle gives you the best version of that model.
Mercedes-Benz has done just that with its perennial C-Class, the staple of the brand and a bastion of the local production plant in East London, which has been churning out the model for a number of years.
Meet the evolved version of the 2015 model and, while it might not seem obvious, there are a few cosmetic updates done on the outside.
For starters, the headlight innards now feature LED technology across the range, while the rear lights also receive the technology to create a more vivid and distinct road presence.
Meanwhile, the AMG Line package now features a diamond-like grille, a more aggressive lower valance and 18-inch wheels lifted wholesale from the pre-facelift AMG C43 model.
The cabin has pretty much been left unaltered, save for the new and larger infotainment screen and the optional digital instrument cluster similar to that employed in the S-Class.
To be frank, there was little wrong with the cabin’s architecture as it remains one of the best in the class, even beating the Audi A4 to some degree.
As was the case when the model was launched three years ago, the C-Class still comes with a wide range of derivatives spanning from the C180 right up to the foam-at-mouth AMG C63 variants; the latter you will have read about in a previous issue of Motor News.
At the Gauteng launch of the evolved C-Class, we managed to spend some time in the C200 and AMG C43 variants and it is the latter that I will spend time on as it has the most updates — including extra poke from its 3.0l twin-turbo V6 power plant, which now kicks out 287kW (a 17kW increase from the previous model) and 520Nm through a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The updated model also features a new grille similar to that of the AMG C63 with the twin-blade horizontal slats, while new 19-inch alloys have also been introduced.
At the rear, the model can now be distinguished by a quad exhaust system, which looks slightly aftermarket, but nonetheless gives the model an even more distinct look.
Driving the model on some varying Gauteng roads, the AMG C43 is perhaps all the power you need for most people as it is decidedly quick and the all-wheel drive means you can take even more liberties with the throttle without fearing being jettisoned into the hedgerow rear first. Power delivery is strong, incisive and effective at clearing slower moving traffic.
Then there is the glorious bark of the thing that makes you fall in love with the V6 engine layout. It is a distinct, fruity sound that is punctuated by belches between gear changes.
Ride quality was particularly good as the model is firm for the most part, but not once did it feel as though it was about to rattle loose any tooth fillings.
It remains a steady thing at speed, too, although for the true enthusiast the vehicle can quickly feel almost anodyne as it manages to go about its thing with little drama and in an almost nonchalant manner.
The bludgeoning, full-fat AMG C63 will soon join the line-up locally and, much like the rest of the range, it will also be built at the firm’s East London plant, which has just received a further investment of R10bn.
This bodes well for the company’s commitment to the country. I also have it on good authority that the local plant has secured a deal to build the next generation C-Class.
"This investment represents Mercedes-Benz confidence in SA and its labour force for our popular C-Class range," said Johannes Fritz, co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz SA and also executive director of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
According to Selvin Govender, director of marketing at the company, the C-Class remains its most successful model and sold 415,000 units worldwide in 2017 alone.
Of course, one of the successes of this is that the model is available in various body forms — from the sedan, coupé and cabriolet to the estate (station wagon) for other markets.
The model now comes with a host of new technology and engines, including a 1.5l engine (in the case of the C200) supplemented with a 48V on-board network and the electric integrated starter-generator that produces an additional 10kW and 160Nm while accelerating.
There is also a new-generation 2.0l turbo petrol engine in the C300 pushing out 190kW and 370Nm.
Meanwhile, the new 1.6l variant of the current diesel engine family debuts in the C-Class and the C220d 4Matic now makes 143kW and 400Nm.
While BMW is readying to reveal its new 3 Series later in 2018 and the A4 will receive some minor cosmetic updates, the C-Class’s latest updates should give it another gust of air to last it for another two years before the next generation model debuts.
It’s not difficult to see why it is so popular.