By Declan Colley
This week at Irish Examiner Motors we have a veritable cornucopia of things Mercedes-Benz. We’ve driven a few cars from the company recently and here we tie them into a very neat bundle for your delectation.
The cars we’ve driven include an E-Class, a C-Class and an A-Class, all of which impressed us via their unique charms and abilities.
We’ll start with the E-Class which we all know to be pretty close to being top of the pile in the medium executive segment right now since the fifth generation was unveiled in late 2016.
Having taken something of a pummelling from such as the 5 Series BMW and, to a lesser extent, the Audi A6, prior to this car seeing the light of day, this latest incarnation has put the E-Class back where it belongs.
However, other than thinking that the car is back on the Mercedes E-Class press fleet for no other reason than the company are anxious to keep it to the fore of punters’ minds by keeping it generating column inches, I can come up with few other reasons why it is on the press fleet right now.
That being said, the company is right to try and extract the maximum from a car which is so undoubtedly at the top of its game and to parlay its abilities into hard sales. The version we tried this time was once more the AMG Line model, which is not necessarily the one we would pick, but is a quality piece of kit.
Powered by the E220d engine (a 1950cc turbocharged four pot diesel with 194 bhp, a 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds and a 240km/h top speed, as well as a 4.3 l/100km consumption rate, a 112g/km emission figure and a €200 annual. tax bill), the car leads the field not by dint of engine performance, but by the style, quality and distinctiveness of overall product.
The engine can be a little crude under pressure, but with the sophistication of the chassis and the excellence of the design and build, little of that noise or harshness transports itself into the cabin, where the passengers will enjoy an interior that has raised the bar in the segment. All told then, a top-line performer — but you already knew that.
Things are slightly different with the C-Class, which has just undergone a serious overhaul, and although the look of the latest version is fundamentally the same as before, Mercedes say that the revisions to it are the most comprehensive in the model’s history, with something like 6,500 components being changed or modified.
It is also worth noting that the recent furore surrounding Mercedes’ decision to use Renault/Nissan diesel engines in various models (A, B and CLA class largely), does not apply here as the car utilises Merc’s own C200d unit, a 136 bhp, 1.6 litre turbodiesel with a 10.2-second 0-100km/h time and a top speed of 216km/h. It will return a 4.6 l/100 km consumption rate (+60 mpg) and has emissions of 119g/km for an annual tax bill of €200.
Not by any stretch a wildly exciting performer, this is nevertheless a very workmanlike engine and one which will undoubtedly serve well over a long period of time, although time and government budget changes may affect its relative tax-friendliness.
The exterior look has not been tricked around with too much — revised grille on certain models, bumpers and lights are the headlines — but the interior has got a whole lot more sophisticated; more E-Class in fact. That, of course, is a good thing and it certainly widens the appeal of the car to people who might have otherwise looked elsewhere.
And, if the interior is now a lot more special than it used to be, then the driving experience certainly isn’t. That’s because it was already special and made the C-Class a wonderful driving companion. Mercedes has wisely kept it that way.
So, with the E and C-Classes out of the way, that leads us neatly on to the new A-Class which is, of course, brand new, and a whole lot different to the cute-as-a-button-but-failed-the-elk-test original A-Class of 1997, which was the first ever compact Mercedes.
The second generation (2004) of the car was similar but appeared to be favoured by older buyers rather than the ‘yoof’ market Mercedes was so earnestly trying to lure. It is for that reason, I suspect, that the third generation (2013) and this newest one are very much aimed at younger buyers who want a bit of three-pointed starriness in their lives.
This is obvious from the moment you open the door and enter the low driving seat. You need to have youth on your side to do this on a regular basis because you have to lower yourself into the A-Class and for older types with a touch of, say, lumbago, this is not going to be a good fit.
Once more, however, the word sophistication comes into the equation and it is immediately obvious from the excellent dash and MBUX (whatever that stands for) multimedia system that Mercedes has done an excellent job here. The long rectangular screen can be used either by touching it or by utilising the excellent touch pad interface, which is the best of its kind I have seen, apart from some of the things Volvo are doing.
It is intuitive and easy to navigate – whichever way you engage with it – and it comes as standard, which will be a welcome relief to buyers used to getting monetarily flayed for add-ons by some manufacturers.
On the road the A-Class is a vigorous drive thanks to the 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine which outputs some 163 bhp and 250 Nm. Top speed is 225km/h and the 0-100km/h dash is achieved in eight seconds dead. Petrol consumption is an impressive 5.6 l/100km (50mpg) and the emissions are 123g/km for a €270 annual tax bill.
It was mated, in the case of the tester, with a seven speed dual clutch automatic, but I felt that hard acceleration in lower gears led to a lot of unnecessary shouting going on under the hood. An easier application of the loud pedal, however, shows up a lovely smooth drivetrain, but with decent mid-range punch.
It is a roomy enough car, although lanky types will find it tight in the back, and there is a decent boot. What is not under the floor of that boot, however, is a spare tyre. Instead, Mercedes supply a less-than-useless ‘Tirefit’ fix-it-yourself system. Bear this in mind, particularly if you live in rural Ireland.
In the overall picture, however, the new A-Class is a very accomplished beast and the best of the four
generations we have seen thus far. It drives really well and is going to compete against such as the 1 Series and the A3 than anything Mercedes have made heretofore.
Three good cars then — as you might expect from the Stuttgart behemoth — and the smallest one has finally achieved the sort of refinement and elegance the other two have been beacons of for so long.