8.1.2009 Mercedez-Benz C180K BlueEfficiency review
If you are someone who equates eco-friendly transport with tiny motorcars, clockwork engines, disproportionately high prices and severe compromises, then, says Iain Robertson, look again at the Mercedes-Benz C180K BlueEfficiency.
While Mercedes-Benz's fortunes have been bouncing from pillar-to-post in recent years, from its snaffling-up of Chrysler Corp, to its unproductive partnership with Mitsubishi, to then dispensing with both, the firm seems to have returned to its core values somewhat chastened and one hell of a lot wiser.
The first fruits of its 'alone again, naturally' stance occurred less than a couple of years ago, with the introduction of the vital new C-Class line-up. Of course, Merc recognised that in order for it to compete globally, it had to compete on the domestic front, where its long-time rival BMW had its sights on exceeding expectations on the CO2 emissions front. Yet, motoring scribes recognised excitedly that the all-new C-Class was not only a strong contender but also presented the first time that Merc had managed to muscle alongside its key Bavarian competitor. We liked the C-Class. A lot.
Understandably, you will be wondering just how Merc, having more recently donned its trainers and shorts, can hope to contend with its trim, body-suited rival. This is where I remind you of BlueEfficiency, the result of Merc's undisputed excellence in engineering and dedication to detail that has, over the decades, underpinned its activities in advancing safety, comfort and high performance. While BlueEfficiency has been slow to arrive in the UK, it is apposite that the C-Class is the next model line to benefit from its inclusion in Blighty.
Up to now, the bottom-line for most carmakers has been that their eco-products have carried a premium that has been difficult to amortise alongside the 'standard' offerings. Well, here's a hearty Hip-Hip-Hooray to one of Germany’s premium brands, because the BlueEfficiency models are actually £50 (saloon) and £35 (estate) LESS costly than the C180K models that they replace (note the word 'replace') in the line-up. However, the changes, while largely beneath the skin, are major, no driver or passenger will feel in anyway disadvantaged by the new variants, a factor that I happen to think is essential in creating 'normality' for the future of the low emission car market.
Firstly, the all-new engine is downsized from its former 1.8-litres capacity to 1.6-litres (1597cc), while retaining its supercharger that ensures its power output of 154 bhp remains unsullied. Interestingly, the torque figure of 170 lbs ft that is developed across a 3,000-4,500 rpm band also remains intact, ergo, zero performance loss. Merc’s honour remains intact but there is more, and this is where the company bolsters its price reduction exemplar. Skinnier, more rigid and lower rolling resistance tyres are fitted, which actually introduce less road noise to the cabin’s interior and their on-road behaviour is no different to those of any other C-Class.
Ingenious electronic management switches off the power steering when assistance is not needed, and the only additional aerodynamic tweak lies in the marginally smaller door mirrors, which also remove the minor rustle alongside the front side windows. And here is the bottom-line: the CO2 figure tumbles from 165 g/km to a more acceptable 149 g/km and a drop of 5% in the Benefit-in-Kind rating for business car users (from 22% to 17%). The fuel consumption figure also takes a useful dive from a previous official combined of 40.9 mpg to a useful 44.8 mpg.
It is not my intention to criticise Mercedes-Benz given their already substantial efforts in bringing the BlueEfficiency range to market, but I do wonder what 'stop-start' technology would have done to the figures. As it happens, the only remaining clue of its green (nay, 'blue') credentials, for the driver, is the green gearshift and economy mode light, because the largely academic top speed is raised from 137 to 143mph, while the 0-60 mph acceleration benchmark remains at 9.7 seconds. Driveability of the C-Class BlueEfficiency is unaltered, comfort is still top-drawer and the classical lure of the 'Three-Pointed-Star' remains as prominent as ever, even on this entry-level model.
Model tested: Mercedes-Benz C180K BlueEfficiency
Body-styles: 4-door saloon, 5-door estate car
Engines: 1.6 (SP4)
Trim grades: SE, Elegance, Sport
Prices: from £22,861 to £25,718
In the showroom: Now
Review star rating: 5 STARS
Warranty: Three years, unlimited miles
Next Green Car data: Mercedes-Benz C180K BlueEfficiency
Iain Robertson © Next Green Car.com 2008
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