The current W204-chassis C-Class debuted in 2007 and has been Mercedes-Benz's best-selling luxury sedan in the entire history of the German firm. Now approaching its mid-year life cycle, Mercedes-Benz has face-lifted and improved on the current C-Class to deliver a much more efficient, engaging and attractive entry-level luxury sports sedan.
As you approach it, the face-lifted C-Class literally sports a new, more angular and aggressive face taking design cues from its top-model sibling, the C63 AMG. LED day-time driving lights surrounded by chrome accents are now available on all C-Class models, as well as new wheels, new colors and color finishes. New headlights which rise up towards the hood are also a new and prominent feature of the face-lifted model.
Inside, the interior receives Comand APS, Mercedes-Benz's own integrated multi-media control system that handles in-car surround-sound audio system, dual-zone climate control, basic vehicle diagnostics, mobile phone connectivity and other features such as SATNAV/GPS (unfortunately currently unavailable here).
For driving enthusiasts, a new three-spoke steering wheel is available as optional equipment, as well as various interior trim pieces such as piano-wood, carbon-fiber and aluminum accents, among other things. As with previous Mercedes-Benz models, the car's trim levels are available in Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde models in six diesel variants and five petrol-gasoline powered variants, all with direct injection and turbocharged (the diesels featuring VGT turbine technology) meeting upcoming Euro V emissions regulations with the correct fuel quality on hand.
Safety is a Mercedes-Benz strong point so the C-Class features 5-star crash rating at the EURO NCAPUS NHTSA crash testing. Two-stage front driver's and passenger's airbags, plus four other airbags come as standard, with optional rear side airbags available as options. Additionally, a driver's front knee airbag is also standard, bringing the tally to a maximum of 9 airbags. ABS-EBD brakes with Pre-Safe technology as well as Neck-Pro heads restraints help minimize accidents and personal injury should the undesirable occur.
C-Class' new fun-to-drive demeanor with Blue Efficiency. Blue Efficiency aims to minimize the vehicle's overall carbon footprint by using the latest technologies to help reduce fuel consumption, increase engine efficiency, power and torque, use more recyclable materials with a clear end-of-life recycling plan for the car, and the use of high-tech lightweight materials.
It was raining cats and dogs, and a vehicle had overturned at the entry point of the Skyway. Fortunately this didn't dampen the spirits of the participants as we guided the convoy of seven C-Class sedans as quickly as we could, given the conditions. At Nuvali, Georges and Louie Ramirez conducted simple slalom and brake-swerve tests to highlight the C-Class' newfound agility, dexterity and responsiveness.
A few days after, I had the chance to use the C180 Blue Efficiency on my own for an extended period of time and found the car to be far more engaging and indeed enjoyable to drive. The C-Class had a firmer, more direct yet still supple ride. The steering, though still not as sharp as a BMW 3-Series, had improved in both feel and feedback, making it more than ever a true alternative sports-sedan. The C180, despite possessing a modest 155 horsepower, had more than enough grunt to propel the C-Class quickly down the road, thanks to revised gear ratios from the 7G-Tronic automatic transmission and the latest in turbocharging technology, which helps widen the power band and access it better under a greater variety of loads and driving conditions. The seating position was excellent coupled with the reach-and-rake manually adjustable multi-function steering wheel, making the drive even more enjoyable.
Of course no Benz test-drive would be complete without some show stopping. Taking the car to favorite night spots in Bonifacio Global City, Makati and Greenhills elicited more than a few double takes and rubber-necking as people stared to check out the face-lifted C-Class. More than a few friends and acquaintances were impressed by the simple grace and elegance of the face-lifted C-Class.
It's not perfect, but significantly better than before. The throttle feels artificially firm, lacking fluidity; the brakes feel a bit wooden at times, making modulation a bit difficult especially if you keep switching cars and have to relearn to memorize the feel; and the steering, though precise and accurate, could definitely use more organic feel and feedback even with the AGILITY CONTROL adaptive suspension.
Nonetheless, a worthy effort from the three-pointed Star, and the new C-Class will undoubtedly find a lot of new and happy homes, thanks to competitive pricing and generous standard levels of equipment.
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