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July 31, 2012

Review: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 200 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY Avantgarde

Photos by Ulysses Ang

Mercedes-Benz has always been regarded as the choice of the privileged and the upper class. The mere sight of the three-pointed star atop the radiator grille is enough to cause a sea of traffic to part, the security guards to salute and the valet to give up the VIP parking slot. Lately though, Mercedes-Benz has embarked on a diversification campaign, creating almost every conceivable permutation it can make from four-door coupes, to SUVs of varying sizes to even premium hatchbacks. Nowadays, every Tom, Dick, and Harry can get a Mercedes-Benz that feels tailor-made to his budget, taste, and lifestyle. Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz hasn’t lost sight on the cars that made them successful in the first place.

The C-Class is a perfect example: it exudes high levels of engineering and quality while continually being improved to keep it ahead of the competition. The newest model’s been around since 2007, a long time for motoring standards. Yet, Mercedes-Benz hasn’t rested on its laurels and heavily revised the C-Class last year.

Looking at the new C 200 CGI, it’s immediately clear what the differences are. The overall lines remain taut and muscular, but the angularity has been softened thanks to the swoopy headlamps and revamped bumpers. LED daytime running lights are now standard and are integrated onto the front bumper. At the back, the trapezoidal tail lamps now feature LED lighting for all functions including signal indicators improving the C-Class’s overall look while reducing potential maintenance costs. Being an ‘Avantgarde’ line, this C 200 CGI is distinguishable by the large tri-pointed star emblem on the grille, three horizontal chrome strips on the radiator, an exposed oval tail pipe, and mixed alloy wheels (225/45R17 in front, 245/40R17 at the back).

Inside, there are even more changes to level the C-Class’s quality to its bigger brothers. Opening the weighty driver’s door reveals a roomy cabin with the same angular cues found outside. The overall treatment lacks warmth, but it’s elegant, timeless and every easy to use. The seats are firm and nicely supportive while the steering wheel, though a bit on the large size, has the right thickness for optimal grip. The square-cut dash dominates the cabin and allows for the placement of large, chunky buttons.

The C200 CGI also features the COMAND interface system, which hides functions such as adjusting speaker bass/treble and radio presets and buries them into menus and sub-menus. It’s still fairly easy to use, but it’s showing its age especially compared to the newer set-up adopted by its rivals. The COMAND functions are outputted to a large LCD screen that works as well as it looks. And thankfully, the screen is now fixed on the dash as opposed to the hiding, swiveling unit of its predecessor which should lessen potential problems in the long run.

Despite a model designation of C 200 CGI, this particular C-Class actually has a 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine under the hood. Don’t let this meager displacement figure fool you: with 181 horsepower and 270 Nm of torque, this turbocharged engine makes short work of any task. On most occasions, the C 200 CGI feels more like a long-distance tourer with its smooth power delivery, but it can be athletic and light on its feet with the accelerator pedal pressed. For the first time, the entire C-Class range is equipped with the company’s seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic. 

Beyond the impressive engine and transmission, the C 200 CGI’s chassis tuning remains class-leading. It’s comfortable yet remains highly capable when pushed. Taking the car up to Tagaytay reveals a very compliant ride, absorbing all sorts of road irregularities as if they weren’t there. Yet, throw it into a sweeping bend, and it will oblige with precision. The NVH isolation is also one of the best in its class, making this car the best choice to ferry your wife or boss in—and that’s despite the rather low-profile tires!

A small badge on the front fender reveals that the C 200 CGI along with all other C-Class models are classified as “BlueEFFICIENCY” models. This translates to improved fuel efficiency through the use of direct-injection for the engine, a lightweight gearbox, intelligently regulated auxiliary systems such as the power steering, and better aerodynamics through the use of extensive underbody cladding and new side mirrors. All in all, the C 200 CGI returns an excellent 15.625 km/L while cruising on the highway. Unfortunately this technology isn’t so helpful when stuck in Manila’s snarling traffic, where the figure goes down to just 6.87 km/L.

At P 3,280,000, the C 200 CGI Avantgarde isn’t exactly affordable for everyone. However, considering that the new BMW 3 Series clocks in at P 200,000 more, it’s the right sort of money for those wanting a compact luxury sedan. Despite its age, the C 200 CGI remains as an impressive package of high-tech and luxury with a great drivetrain and generous levels of equipment. Plus, it’s comfortable and roomy. More than anything though, the C-Class remains a shining example of how Mercedes-Benz continues to push things in the right direction, designing and building cars that are true stars.

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