Vince Pornelos / Dean Ang | October 23, 2012 18:35
Still in top form
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W204) has come a long way since its original launch back in 2007, with Audi coming out with the A4 in 2008 while BMW rolled out the all new 3-Series earlier this year. Could this mean that W204 is reaching the end of its term in showrooms?
Judging by how well this Mercedes C250 CGI Avantgarde AMG Sport (yes, it's quite a mouthful) performed, I don't think so.
For one, there's the new look of the W204, starting with a prouder front end. Since it's an Avantgarde model, it gets the 3-bar grille with the big Mercedes tri-star in the middle, as well as LED running lights on the more aggressively sculpted front bumper. The rear end also gets some new lights, but that's about the extent of the exterior changes.
The AMG Sport package on this model, however, significantly ups the ante, giving the C250 a more aggressive set of 18” AMG wheels. Take a peek at the spokes, however, you'll also notice the bigger, cross-drilled and slotted brake rotors. The ride is also lower and stiffer courtesy of a sport tuned suspension system. Quite cool, though I wish they added the power bulge hood you would find on the C 63.
Inside, the difference over the original version of the W204 is apparent: the dashboard has changed completely. The gauge cluster and central COMAND screen are house into a single receptacle, while the A/C vents have been redone, along with new trim bits and better buttons. The updated interior brings the C-Class in line with the newer W212 E-Class.
The steering wheel is now the three spoke wheel, rimmed in premium leather and a rather thick grip for sportier cornering. Mercedes have added a set of paddle shifters for this version, though you can also shift manually through the 7 gears via the stick; tap right to shift up, tap left to shift down. The seats feel a bit firm though, but this is still a “sport model”, so touches like this are expected. As it's a facelifted model, interior space hasn't changed, as well as rear legroom.
For features, it's pretty much the same from the C 200 Kompressor (supercharged) and C200 CGI (turbocharged) models that we drove years before. The controller for the COMAND APS system is conveniently on the center console as before, and runs through all of the functions for the stereo, Bluetooth, settings, and many other things. The steering wheel directional buttons also double as controls for these functions.
Under the hood is the same 1.8 liter engine found in the C 200 CGI, complete with direct injection and a turbo instead of the now discontinued Kompressor (supercharger) in the C 200 K models. However, unlike the 184 horsepower in the C 200 CGI we drove earlier, the 250 CGI gets an extra 20, bringing total power to 204 PS as well as 310 Newton meters of torque.
Taking it out on the road, the power is definitely better than the 200 CGI; 20 extra horses are always welcome in my book... and for my foot. 0-100 km/h acceleration is pegged at 7.2 seconds, though based on a quick stopwatch test I was getting 7.9-8.1 seconds consistently; must be the weight then.
The noticeable change in the C 250 CGI AMG Sport is the ride and handling. The lower, stiffer suspension gives it much better reflexes than before, unless you're used to the handling of, say, the C 63 AMG. It's properly sharp without being overly so, and feedback is quite good through the thicker rimmed steering wheel.
On the open road, it's so easy to stretch the C 250's legs. The transmission's 7 speeds does give better ratios for the engine to play with, and, I must say, it's fun to rifle through all seven via the paddle shifters. Stability and high speed lane changes are better than the Agility Control-equipped (the sport suspension eliminates this function) models from a few years back. The larger brakes bite better from what I remember about the previous models.
Fuel economy, as expected, is very good both in the city and on the highway. If driven with a semi-frugal (it's just fun to spool up the turbo), it delivered 10.5 km/l in light to moderate traffic. On the highway with a cruise at an average of 100 km/h, it does 16.5 km/l. That's BlueEfficiency at work.
It's definitely more fun than before and certainly delivers on the drive part. The only real drawback: a firmer ride on our city streets which, coupled with the rather firm seats, it might not be comfortable enough for some.As for pricing, well, it's depends on the specification and equipment level you want.
The BMW 3-Series may be back (we have yet to drive the 328i Sport Model, hailed as the best of the line) but still, in this C 250 CGI Avantgarde AMG Sport trim, Mercedes-Benz's W204 C-Class is still in top form.