2005 Mercedes C220 CDI
Author: Wilmer Muller
The battle in the medium size luxury car segment is heating up and the C-Class doesn't have an easy task.
Although the C-Class underwent a minor nip and tuck in 2004 it faces tough competition from the revised Audi A4 and the all-new BMW 3 Series is almost here too. Then there is off course there is the award-winning Volvo S40 too.
The 2004 C-Class is everything you expect from a modern day Mercedes: it offers class, style and even a sporty feel.
When the current C-Class was launched in 2000 it hinted at DaimlerChrysler's new design direction for Mercedes. It was sleeker and more modern looking than its predecessor.
For the first time Mercedes had a real competitor to the popular BMW 3 Series. And one just has to look at the large number of C-Class models on our roads to know the range is a big hit for Mercedes.
The C-Class is also an important model for DaimlerChrysler South Africa because it is the only Mercedes-Benz passenger car being produced locally. Furthermore its production is also aimed at export, making quality levels an important focus.
In its current form the C-Class has about two years to go before it will be replaced by an all-new model. Mercedes also says the recent upgrade was the last serious change to the car before the end of its life cycle.
For the untrained eye it could be difficult to spot the changes on the exterior of the C-Class. So we will just have to point them out to you.
All C-Class models now come with clear-lens headlights as standard, giving the car a more modern stance.
There is also a redesigned front bumper with a prominent lower air intake which gives this Benz a sportier look. Mercedes also redesigned the car's grille, featuring only three slats.
At the rear there are only changes to the taillights which have a more crystal-like look. The 2004 C-Class also has newly designed alloy wheels.
Yes, it all may sound like insignificant updates, but we can tell you the enhancements give the car a more dynamic, fresh and smoothed-off look.
Despite all these changes the most interesting upgrade to the C-Class is its high-tech scratch-resistant paint, which gives it the edge over its rivals. This revolutionary paint is clearcoat based on nano-particle technology, providing greater scratch resistance.
The most obvious improvements on the C-Class are reserved for its interior, with a complete new fascia and dials.
It now boasts a more modern look and feel, giving the car a more distinctive appeal. However, the S40 and A4's fascias appear more fresh and of better quality too.
But the C's overall fit and finish are still good, and with the revisions Mercedes introduced higher-quality leather upholstery as well. Furthermore Mercedes also improved on ergonomics with new controls, bringing the interior look and feel of the C-Class in line with that of the E-Class.
Another improvement is the enhancement of the climate control module giving it a better visual appeal, and it is also much more user-friendly than before.
Three trim levels are available on the C-Class: The CLASSIC model comes with new fine-wood trim that improves the appearance of the centre dome and centre console. The ELEGANCE interior finish is Laurel select-wood trim, while the AVANTGARDE line has an attractive aluminium trim.
Our test C220 CDI was in ELEGANCE trim, but we found it to look dull and old-fashioned, especially on a Benz. The AVANTGARDE aluminium trim gives a cleaner and sportier flair and it works really well on the C-Class.
Typical of German luxury cars there is no shortage of either standard or optional equipment on the C.
You can equip your C-Class with all the bells and whistles, but it doesn't come cheap if you look at the extensive list of options.
There are the usual standard features such as climate control, electric windows, leather upholstery and an audio system. Electrical adjustable seats and satellite controls for the audio system are also standard features.
Of course there are also quite a few standard safety items such as the usual number of airbags.
The C-Class is also now available with COMAND, which is already available on other Mercedes model ranges. COMAND include the DVD navigation, the audio system and other useful features.
Optional on all C-Class models are bi-xenon headlamps that Mercedes-Benz combines with a special cornering lights function that literally enables the car to "see around corners".
Other optional extras include features such as park distance control and seat heating.
Under the skin
The C220 CDI has a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with a power output of 110kW at 4 200 r/min and 340 Nm of torque at 2 000 r/min. Our test car was a six-speed manual.
To improve the driving dynamics the C-Class chassis, steering and manual transmission have all been modified.
The raft of measures implemented - collectively referred to as DIRECT CONTROL - includes newly developed bearings on the front and rear axles, which allow better cornering without impairing comfort; more direct steering for quicker steering inputs and improved feedback; and a reinforced anti-roll bar at the rear.
The C220 CDI comes with a three-link suspension at the front and a multi-link rear setup. The car's braking system includes gizmos such as ABS, brake assist and ESP.
Buyers can also specify the C-Class with a sport package which include a specially tuned suspension incorporating stiffer springs and revised damper rates lower the front of the car by 25mm and at the rear by 15mm. This lowers the centre of gravity.
With the sport package road holding and cornering grip is further enhanced by the fitment of wider, lower profile tyres on bigger 17 inch rims: 225/45 R 17 on the front and size 245/40 R 17 on the rear.
The past few years have seen a big shift in the driving dynamics of Mercedes-Benz sedans, and the C-Class is proof of this. Gone are the days of sluggish and bulky Mercs.
Now terms such as agile handling, sporty dynamics and good road manners are part of the C's vocabulary.
It is an effortless car to drive in town and easy to get comfortable in, with an excellent driving position and good all-round visibility.
Furthermore its crisp steering, tighter body control and better agility gives the C-Class a sporty ride.
In diesel guise it still offers the legendary great long distance cruising pleasure and suppleness of a Mercedes.
The C-Class also feels solid and low noise levels complement its smoothness on the road.
This diesel Benz has the typical diesel clatter, especially at lower revs, but overall we found it to be quite refined. In general the power delivery is smooth and the six-speed transmission is a joy too. It always felt as if there was more than enough power when needed and it offers loads of grunt.
The Merc diesel offers strong performance and is a happy high-speed cruiser. However, its manoeuvrability in town is hampered by Merc's traditional foot-operated parking brake which isn't a good match with the manual transmission.
It gets irritating using this kind of parking brake when pulling away on a hill, and especially when attempting a three-point turn on a road with a heavy camber.
It takes some getting used to...
The Mercedes C-Class is a highly competent vehicle and is a worthy bearer of the three-pointed star.
In its latest guise it still an example of traditional Mercedes-Benz values but it has also kept up with the times and the demands of modern day motoring.
Furthermore we welcome the recent improvements, which ensure that the C-Class is still a distinctive car Although the exterior styling changes on the C-Class are minimal, they work. The car really seems more crisp and the new clear-lensed headlights, as well as the aggressive grille design, gives it a more modern stance.
We see the C-Class as a fashionable vehicle and it will suit most people's images - it really appeals to a broad audience. It offers good value for money and thanks to the three different trim levels and wide range of options you can make sure that the C-Class fulfill your needs.
Despite the recent introduction of the face-lifted A4 and the launch of the new 3 Series looming, the C-Class still has enough going for it to be a worthy rival in its segment.
- Foot-operated parking brake