Sunday, April 17, 2016
SHORT TEST DRIVE: MERCEDES BENZ W205 C-CLASS C300 AMG LINE & C180 AVANTGARDE and a bit on the W204 in comparison to the W205
C300 AMG Line
There are times when I would start and say that the article will be a short one. It sometimes becomes long winded and therefore long as heck. It happens as I end up having so many things to say about a car. This article is supposed to be a short drive article, but since it includes thoughts on two variants and two generations of car. It will be pretty long actually and it is about the Mercedes Benz W205 C-Class. The C300 and the C180 variants as well as a comparison with the W204 model that preceded it (in terms of ride and handling).
Mercedes Benz Malaysia had recently launched the two W205 variants mentioned above to complement the current lineup which consisted of the C200 and the C250 as well as the rocking AMG C63. The C180 is the new entry level model with a 156hp / 250Nm 1.6liter turbocharged engine. The C300 AMG Line is the new second rank variant that slots in below the C63 and it has a 245hp / 350Nm 2.0liter turbocharged engine. Both run the 7G-Tronic hydraulic torque converter automatic transmission with a whole lot of drive modes from Eco to Sports+ to keep their owners happy.
I tried the C300 AMG Line whilst the ultimate Mercedes Benz serial buyer friend of mine, Adlis K had a go in the C180 with me in the passenger seat.
The C300 AMG Line is what it is. A C-Class packed with a lot of AMG option kit. AMG Body kit, 19inch multi spoke AMG wheels, the flat bottomed Sports Steering wheel, more sporty bucket seats and a C300 Badge, which actually isn't a 3.0liter but the most highly tuned version of the 2.0liter engine that you'd also find in the C200 and C250 variants. So it has 245 horses inside it instead of 184hp and 205hp. Of course, this is the same base engine that ultimately makes more than 355hp in an AMG A45. So it looks promising.
I have to say that the interior of the new C-Class is a scaled down version of the W222 S-Class inside and outside. There is no other compact luxury sedan that actually looks this luxurious on the inside. The looks are very classical. More 1950s sedan with a long bonnet and a short boot. The interior is the best around in my opinion. This includes the Audi A4, the BMW 3 series, the Jaguar XE, the Lexus Whatchamacallit and the Infiniti Whothehellcareswhatsitcalled.
The switchgear is so nice to hold and touch. The materials used so premium that I am surprised that they are only asking for RM228,000 or thereabouts for the C180 or the RM305,000+ that Mercedes Benz Malaysia is asking for the C300. Alright, the figures stated are still expensive, but compared to the other cars, the interior feels light years better.
In terms of interior space, it is still a premium compact car. It may have slightly more legroom than the W204 at the rear but not by much. I think the outgoing B8 Audi A4 is more spacious by a smidgen. But this is more luxurious. I did mentioned that didn't I?
The C300 AMG Line
The C300 is a surprising creature. I actually thought the ride would be harsh with those rubber band 19 inch wheels and tyres. It actually isn't that bad. There is still some suppleness for something supposedly sporty. There is shock absorber damping that actually works with the springs in that it feels cohesive, together instead of either all hard and bouncy like a W204 AMG Line (a lot of reconditioned models) or sitting on its springs like a Mercedes Benz Malaysia specced Avantgarde C180/C200 (the C250 W204 is a different thing with its adjustable dampers).
Turn into a corner and the C300 impresses you even more. You get a firm but still pliant ride but also a front end that grips more than any W204 that came before. There is less vagueness after the initial turn in. Both W204 and W205 feels pretty similar going into a corner BUT the difference is at the apex and upon exit. The W205 C300 is more planted and you actually steer with more confidence than before. The rear is obedient and just follows through. Most likely this is the grip caused by huge 255 section rear tyres that still fails to unstick the 370Nm worth of torque whilst hurtling up the AKLEH (Ampang Elevated Highway) interchange.
The firmish ride pays off as tracks so nicely at around 150kmh (still way softer than a AMG Line W204 BUT feels more stable). So stable and serene at this speed that if you weren't paying attention you'd be hitting 200kmh with ease as the interior is silent without too much wind noise – there is some around the A-pillar, but not as noisy as before. At 100kmh the C300 is nice and quiet, serene with that hint of a firm ride over the expansion of the elevated highway sections. Then again, on the potholed roads around Ampang Hilir it felt composed. It is the right balance of firmness and comfort that a sporty sedan should have. I think Mercedes Benz is on the right track as I feel that they're only a tad bit less sporty than what the Bavarian car company can do. And since you don't really drive like a racecar driver most of the time, the C-Class cabin is actually a nicer place to be 99% of the time. And if you can really drive the nuts out of a car, this C300 would be able to do just fine actually. And you're in more luxury too.
For most of the drive I left the car in its sportiest mode, SPORTS+. The biggest and most impressive thing about this mode is the gearchange of the familiar Mercedes 7G-Tronic transmission. Second to Third gear in full throttle is a massive thump felt throughout the cabin. But never have I felt the 7 speeder shift so fast. And brutal at that. You couple that to a A45-esque crackel and pop after each upshift it actually feels like a baby AMG instead of just an AMG Line. Heck, the gearbox is so raw in Sports+ mode that the C300 feels like a WWE wrestler in an expensive suit. And that exhaust bark, so much A45 or CLA45 channeled through it. Same base engine. So aside from the special cylinder head, pistons and crankshaft, the base architecture is the same. Hence the nice bark. But luckily the transmission shunt only makes itself felt from first, second to third. The rest are quite smooth.
Put the C300 in normal mode and everything quietens down with the gearbox going through gears as smooth as possible. But it isn't as smooth as the entry level C180.
The C180 Avantgarde
The C180 is the one to have if you're into comfort and refinement but you don't want to spend it on even an E-Class (yes, its that refined in my opinion). No flat bottom steering wheel here. On the stock 17 inch wheels and tyres the car is quieter than the C300 by a fair bit. It also rides better. Road noise is less as the tyres are narrower. And as it has a taller aspect ratio it has a more pliant ride than the sporty C300. It isn't as stable as the C300 on its 19inch wheels whilst taking a sweeping corner at 150kmh but that is understandable - 225 section tyres all around vs 225 front and 255 rear section tyres would do that to a car. Any car.
With 156hp, it actually feels adequate and is nimble through town where the extra torque and horsepower of the larger engined C300 would not make a difference in traffic (it actually feels similar to the W204 C180 CGI in terms of outright performance). The C180 would also make its exhaust crackle a little in Sports+ mode like the C300 but the 1.6liter lacks the bass effect of the larger 2.0liter 4 cylinder. Still it adds a level of sportiness to something that technically isn't. Added artificial drama is good for the soul. Especially if you are paying so much for a car. Granted, it may not have the looks of the C300, but the car isn't that bad looking even on the given 17 inch wheels.
A conclusion..or something like it
In traffic, the C180 Avantgarde is more comfortable and there is no power advantage that the C300 or the other variants have over it. But if you want that performance factor, the C300 is the one to have. But that being said, even on full acceleration I found it hard to justify the C300 over a C250. Acceleration feels the same more or less even though Mercedes claims a 0-100kmh time of 5.9 secs for the C300 against 6.6seconds for the C250. I couldn't really feel the extra oomph. Maybe on a clear highway the C300 would pull away from the C250 above 180kmh. But not by much actually as both should top out at 250kmh. The only main difference between the C250 and the C300 is the engine tune and the 18 inch wheels and tyres that you'd find on the C250. And the C250 is also an AMG Line car so the extra you're paying for it actually the engine's state of tune and the larger wheels.
So the most comfortable and quietest variant is actually the entry level model – the C180 (Avantgarde spec – which is already quite highly specced). The best all rounder could be the C200 Avantgarde. The best value for money in terms of performance is the C250 AMG Line and not really this high specced C300 which actually looks better than the C250 as it has the W205 C63 aping multi spoke wheels instead of the twin five spoke AMG wheels that the prevous W204 C63 used.
What would I buy personally? I'd go for a C250 AMG Line. I'd like an AMG Line car for the sportiness but since I feel the difference in all out peformance is small, I'd save on the extra and also save on tyres too. 19inch tyres are super pricey in the long run (this is me being cheap). This is even though I think the C300 is the most driving fun that I've had in a C-class aside from the W202 C36 AMG I got ot drive a while ago. But if I had RM307,000 or if I had a fabulous credit rating. I wouldn't mind having it in a jiffy. The hell with what actual reasoning says. Damn I'm confusing.
MERCEDES BENZ W205 C-CLASS RANGE MALAYSIA
C180 AVANTGARDE– RM228,888
C200 AVANTGARDE – RM248,888
C200 EXCLUSIVE (TRADITIONAL GRILLE WITH STAR ON BONNET) – RM252,888
C250 AMG LINE – RM287,888
C300 AMG LINE – RM307,888
C180 – 1.6 CGI – 156HP / 250NM
C200 – 2.0 CGI – 184HP / 300NM
C250 – 2.0 CGI – 211HP / 350NM
C300 – 2.0CGI – 245hp / 370NM
With Thanks to the people at the Cycle & Carriage Bintang Mercedes Benz City Store at TREC KL