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MC Drives: Mercedes-Benz C-Class C200 – Moneycontrol

It’s hard to pigeonhole the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. What started as the stepping stone to the seemingly unattainable three-pointed star club, a car that brought the power of the Tristar to a larger audience worldwide turned out to secretly whet aspirations of upward mobility.

In the 21 years since it made its debut in the country (where it has gone on to sell 37,000 units) the C-Class has gone from being the baby of the brand to being a bona fide luxury car. Having come of age, it has fashioned itself after its grandparent, the S-Class, at least in appearance. Exhibit A: The all-new, fifth-generation C-Class. Now even closer in profile to the mighty S-Class, Mercedes-Benz’s former bestseller has returned with renewed vigour, a new petrol engine and a whole lot of kit.

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In the last few years the C-Class has relinquished its bestseller spot to the likes of the E-Class, the GLE and, more recently, the GLC. It even served as the basis for the first luxury EV to debut in the country, the EQC. The proliferation of C-Class sub-brands makes perfect sense, given that it opened the gateway to Teutonic luxury in India. But it looks like the OG C-Class is ready to reclaim the spotlight. Can it do it with ease?

All grown up

Dimensionally, the new C-Class is longer, taller and wider. In modern parlance, this automatically translates as better, but the C-Class now comes with a greater set of expectations (and a steeper price tag, no doubt). Merc has added 7mm to its overall ground clearance and 21mm to the rear legroom. But its silhouette is more unabashedly sporty and muscular than its tweed-clad predecessor. The lines are much cleaner and tauter, in line with Stuttgart’s new design language, with an upswept shoulder line and tapering head and tail lamps giving it a more aggressive stance.

The grille design is also new, with a large vertical chrome bar running across the breadth of the grille with horizontal slats in the background. The more expensive C300d—presently the most powerful car in the range—gets the AMG line body kit, with a mesh grille comprising a constellation of small plastic stars. Both cars featured blacked-out air dams and faux exhaust tips, a design feature that couldn’t disappear soon enough. But a few design faux pas aside, this is arguably the best that the C-Class has ever looked.

This is especially true for the interiors. Gone is the dash-mounted, free-floating screen. Instead, you have a flowing, 11.9-inch vertically placed infotainment touchscreen blending seamlessly into the cup holder and storage section covering the transmission tunnel. Everything inside is clean and minimalistic, with the lower half of the fascia featuring a faux wooden trim, that while feeling a tad hollow, is draped in pinstripes that go nicely with the tan leather seats (optional). Ambient lighting pours out of every corner from above the door handle and across the dash.

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Merc has also added a new 3D map, a connected-app function and a car-to-car communication feature which allows the C-Class to warn other Mercedes-Benz cars within the immediate vicinity of any hazards on the route. The digital instrument cluster also features an easy-to-cycle variety of display functions, including a much-needed Satnav function. Wireless charging and Apple CarPlay finally make their way to the C-Class’s cabin, but what doesn’t, surprisingly enough, are ventilated seats (god-sent during a heat wave) and a six-speaker standard sound system. Tut-tut.

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Having only driven the C200 (likely to be the big seller along with the C220d), I can’t opine on the more powerful twin-stage turbo-powered C300d yet. But there are plenty of talking points that make the C200 the most interesting engine option out there. For starters, it has been downsized. If historic precedent is anything to go by, plonking a smaller engine in the subsequent generation of a popular luxury car, the C-Class included, has proven unpopular in the past. However, these are unprecedented times and Merc believes that fuel-efficiency woes have finally knocked on the oak-panelled doors of the C-Class owner.

And so you have a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol which makes a considerable 201bhp of peak power and 300Nm of torque. To make up for any perceived power deficit and to adhere to its policy of offering hybrid powertrains, Mercedes has fitted all three variants with a 48V integrated starter generator which produces an additional 20bhp of power, taking the horsepower to a total of 221. Not modest by any stretch of the imagination.

Merc also claims that this is the most efficient petrol engine they’ve ever produced (30 percent more than the outgoing model) so it’s clear that efficiency is touted as one of the main differentiators when going up against the competition. Still, 221bhp and 300Nm of torque (with a few extra Nm delivered via that starter generator, although there’s no telling how much of additional torque makes itself apparent in the C200). Right off the bat, this isn’t an engine that likes to be rushed.

The nine-speed gearbox goes a long way in smoothening out the acceleration. Once you find the meat of the power band which lies right beyond a pronounced turbo lag, you discover that the power levels are more than sufficient. Enough to make this a comfort-oriented car which is an absolute blast around the bends. I just wish it had a bit more low-end grunt and felt more refined at the top end. Pushing it forces it to emit a high-pitched whine instead of a satisfactory grunt so you have to be mindful of staying within the power band to make the most of the power on offer. It might be low on cubic capacity, but let’s not forget, it is higher on power and efficiency, and that’s a pretty neat tightrope act. Suspension manages to be supple enough, even in ‘Sport’ mode, while still being able to tackle corners without inducing body roll. Let no one tell you this is a car for chauffeurs only.


It’s quite a challenge finding fault with the likes of a C-Class. The new one gets full points for its sensible approach to driving and ticking most of the boxes on comfort and efficiency. With a resurgent Audi and a sport BMW 3-Series constituting a pincer attack, the C-Class faces stiff competition from Ingolstadt and Munich itself, forget outside Germany. What works for it, though, is the winsome combination of efficiency, comfort and fistfuls of style. This really is a beautiful car. It’s an evolutionary step in a sensible direction and for now, that’ll have to do.

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