Mercedes recharges its classic brand

Some might say that being able to recognise cars by their manufacturers’ code is a sure sign an anorak is at hand.

To certain people, even being aware of such minutiae is a signs that you can be categorised along with people who like a bit of plane or train spotting.

But for some of us, knowing such stuff is merely a means of immediately and correctly identifying exactly which product and from which manufacturer anyone is talking about at a specific time. Sure it will do nothing for your companions at a dinner party and it is probably wise not to demonstrate such knowledge on these occasions for fear you’ll never be asked again.

But for Mercedes fans, mention of the W201 will immediately bring to their minds the first compact executive made by the Stuttgart giant back in 1982 — the 190 Series.

Mercedes C-Class saloon is a small executive machine which will have across-the-board appeal as a functional, pretty, practical and upmarket mode of transport.
Mercedes C-Class saloon is a small executive machine which will have across-the-board appeal as a functional, pretty, practical and upmarket mode of transport.

Discussing such matters among like-minded aficionados is perfectly acceptable over, say, a quiet pint. But to introduce the subject matter during the course of after dinner conversation is likely to find you being labelled as a whackster.

Confirming as much, I might also tell you that as far back as the W120 of the 1950s, Mercedes was actually making what were readily identifiable small executive cars, although they were not called such until much more recently.

And reflecting on the fact there are plenty of us saddos who do know such matters – although in my own case it is part of the territory that goes with the job, or at least that’s what I maintain in my defence against being labelled a complete whackster — such information is a necessary part of being informed about that of which you speak.

In any event, the W201 — more commonly known as the Mercedes 190E — was one of the most important cars ever made in Sindelfingen and in the run-up to its production Mercedes spent an estimated €600m developing it (nearly as much as the over-run on a children’s hospital), later admitting that it was one of the most over-engineered cars the company ever made.

Even so, it was a huge success and it pointed the way forward towards the modern small, medium and large division of car manufacturing. In 1994, the W201 morphed into the W202 and became the C-Class — nomenclature which still stands intact.

Now while I can see dinner invitations melting away quickly as I pursue this line of thought, it would be prescient to note that subsequent iterations of the car (W203, W204 and W205) came along in 2000, 2007 and 2014 respectively.

The final one of those is still with us although late last year it received pretty hefty make-over, while maintaining its in-house classification.

This week we try two versions of the W205 (or C-Class to those less informed), the saloon and the coupe, both of which are fitted with a new Mercedes engine (at least new to the C-Class) and both of which will appeal to entirely different constituencies.

The saloon is a small executive machine which will have across-the-board appeal as a functional, pretty, practical and upmarket mode of transport. The coupe, while also being very good looking and upmarket, but not so practical, will have a much narrow band of followers.

On the technical side, Mercedes has equipped both cars — both labelled C200s — with a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine which is also fitted with a mild hybrid system which, in this case, is a 48-volt lithium-ion battery package which provides the engine with a 14 bhp boost when asked.

The system is called ‘EQ’ by Mercedes and it heralds a full range of electric models which are coming down the tracks. As well as adding a degree of heft to the power of the engine, it also gets recharged when you are coasting or braking.

For those moving from a diesel engine, the Mercedes rationale for the system is that it adds to the petrol unit some of the low rev torque people might miss from their oil-burners. The end result is a total power output of 184 bhp, 280 Nm of torque between 3,000 and 6,100 rom, a top speed of 239km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 7.7 seconds, all of which is pretty impressive.

It does not do diesel-esque figures on the consumption front, but it will nevertheless return in or around the 6.1 l/100 km (45 mpg) mark and will cost €390 per annum to tax with its 144g/km emission level.

There have been plenty of changes to the exterior of both cars — updates to bumpers, lights and various other bits and bobs — and both also came to our test in AMG Line spec., which adds the titillation of fancier body kit than the norm, including a special ‘Diamond’ grille.

The more obvious changes come on the inside where there is a seven inch infotainment screen and I must say I was disappointed that the truly impressive ‘widescreen’ digital dash as seen on the lesser A-Class and the superior E and S-Classes, was not on offer here. Sure you can upgrade to larger screens, but they don’t have the same impact as what is offered elsewhere.

Certainly the optional 10.25in screen in both the test cars was easy to live with, but this comes as part of the ‘Advantage’ specification package which adds some three-and-a-half grand to the cost of the car which is a tad stiff in my view.

Both C-Classes were lovely to drive and there is an adaptable suspension system on offer in both where you have the choice of ‘comfort’ or ‘sport’ modes. I would recommend, however, that away from billiard table surfaces, stick to the comfort setting as anything firmer (and the sport mode is way firmer) and things get very jiggy on uneven tarmac.

Certainly neither car is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to the driving experience, but the gap between these and, say comparable 3 and 4 Series BMWs is not the chasm some would like you to believe it is.

The bottom line, always an important factor in buying any car, is both of these Mercedes will provide a very enjoyable driving experience and a perfectly acceptable residual value when you go to trade them in. Both cars represent a mild, if significant, reboot for the, um, W205, but you don’t have to let on that you know it is called the W205.

In any normal, socially acceptable circle, calling these simply by their public C-Class designation will do just fine.

COLLEY'S VERDICT

The Cost: From €44,025 (€55,080 as tested) for the saloon; from €44,315 (€55,533 as tested) for the coupe.

The Engine: A new mild hybrid petrol turbo, which is quite good.

The Specification: Decent enough, but Mercedes are getting very BMWlike in their ability to extract lots of extra cash from you for options.

The Overall Verdict: Good improvement all round for these face-lifts.

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