Raise your hand if you are a Mercedes-Benz fan? Well you must be because Mercedes-Benz is the number one car brand in the world, followed by BMW and then Audi. It has also been number one in South Africa since 2014, in terms of sales. That is no small feat. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class remains the brand’s best-selling car and what is super cool to note is that it is made right here in the RS of A. Yup, the Eastern Cape has seen its millionth C-Class roll off the line. Impressed yet? You should be. We are the only market who builds the right-hand C-Class to export to the rest of the world. It is sold in 120 countries and since 1982 (fun fact: the year I was born), 9.5 million sedan and station wagons have been sold. This is a pretty important car for Mercedes-Bens then.
I headed to the heart of Johannesburg CBD to sample the updated Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This is not a place I frequent, but as Merc’s Marketing Director, Selvin Govender, points out, the international C-Class campaign is all about improving, “Never Stop Improving,” to be precise. And the JHB CBD is seeing a bit of a revamp, albeit slowly. But it is ‘improving.’
This is not a completely new C-Class, but it has seen 6 500 parts changed. That is as good as a new car, I’d say. Well not entirely, but it is the biggest and most comprehensive mid-life update this car has ever seen. Basically, it is 50% new car.
With that said, it is quite tricky to spot the differences from the outside. The usual line up of grille, bumper and head and tail lights see a slight revamp. Most of the changes are seen inside the cabin and under the bonnet. The steering wheel has been changed and now sports the cruise control functionality – remember the weird stalk thing behind the wheel that you so often mistook for the indicator? Well that is now gone, thank goodness. The optional 12.3-inch fully-digital instrument cluster is worth the extra bucks and the upgraded infotainment system includes standard smartphone integration which can be accessed from the new steering wheel via touch-sensitive controls. It’s all rather futuristic. Not to mention the host of safety tech added to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class including an improved camera that, with radar, can see up to 500m in front of the car.
The new C-Class sees the launch of a new generation of four-cylinder petrol engines. There is a new 4-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine in the C200, with 9-speed automatic transmission across the range. The 1.5-litre engine is supplemented with a 48-volt on-board network and the EQ Boost integrated starter-generator that produces an additional 10 kW and 160 N.m while accelerating. There’s also a new-generation 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the C300, with outputs of 190kw and 370N.m. The new 1.6-litre variant of the current diesel engine family will celebrate its world premiere in the C-Class. The C 220 d 4MATIC providing a healthy 143 kW and 400 N.m.
But I wanted to drive the range-topping C43 4MATIC, obviously! So I did. Ok I also drove the C180 to balance things out and to not look like a performance-hog. But back to the C43, it boasts a 3,0l V6 biturbo engine with an increased output of 287 kW. As you can imagine, not only is it a blast to drive, but listening to that engine burble and pop is all part of the excitement and it is louder than ever. The C180, although great around town, felt a bit pap on the open road, especially when trying to overtake. But Mercedes-Benz has ensured there is an option for everyone, I just happened to drive one extreme version and then the other.
Overall, the updated Mercedes-Benz C-Class is exactly what you’d expect from this top-selling brand. It’s no longer the bland and boring car it once was, well in my eyes anyway. It probably wouldn’t be my first pick, but only because I love the Audi A4, however, this updated model certainly gives it a run for its money (although the face-lifted A4 is due out this year so time will tell). If you are a Merc fan, I doubt you will be disappointed with this C-Class. And there is no doubt that it will remain the brand’s best seller.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Pricing:
Sedan Coupe Cabriolet
C180 R586 500 C180 R666 000 C200 R793 500
C200 R613 500 C200 R766 000 C300 R884 000
C220d R651 000
C300 R716 000
Mercedes-AMG C43 Pricing:
Sedan Coupe Cabriolet
R948 500 R983 500 R1 100 000