The Underwhelming Mercedes

Posted on April 2nd, 2012 in Driving Emotion,Reviews by Julian Edgar

While I don’t write new car tests any more, whenever I am interstate and have the opportunity to hire a car, I drive it with rather more than usual interest.

So the Camry Hybrid (by now the previous model) was a great disappointment (surely a 10 year old Prius is better in every real-world respect?); and a Hyundai i45 was scarcely any better (what happened to the great Hyundai promise exemplified by the i30?).

And what about the BlueEFFICIENCY C200 Mercedes?

Perhaps I am getting old, with all the implications in both perspective and experience, but I thought the car had a direction that was at times bizarrely stupid.

I have to start with the tyres. Here is a small – not compact, small – car that has simply enormously wide, low profile tyres. Is that good? Nope – not in 99.9 per cent of road driving conditions… in this country, anyway.

So what was the tyre size?

Try 225/40 on 18 inch rims – and that’s crap for ride, crap for fuel economy… and oh yes, great for absolute grip. Just what you need on lousy roads and in a country with heavily-policed, low speed limits – not!

So what’s this BlueEFFICIENCY tag? A hybrid electric/diesel maybe?

Er, no.

It’s a turbocharged 1.8 litre with heaps of torque down low (270Nm at 1800 – 4600 rpm – excellent) and a reasonable amount of power at 135kW. And all connected to a 7 speed auto trans – one that has such terrible gear-changing logic that a five-year-old Honda craps all over it from a great height.

Reads well on the spec sheet; performs poorly on the road.

But what about fuel economy?



Ten years out of date.

On my gentle country drives, I got between 7 and 8 litres/100km. And that’s just what the official government test specs say I should be getting. But isn’t that good? Nope, not if you’re driven anything with similar room that’s powered by a diesel, or by a hybrid.

Or, and this is where it gets ridiculous, even a 20 year-old small/medium car.

Cos the Mercedes had just Godawful interior space. I banged my head against the roof rail above the door several times (there wasn’t room to turn to look around) and at all times I felt myself to be in this little, squashed car.

More room in a 1980s Holden Camira? I’d think so.

More room in a 1960s Austin 1800? Without a doubt, vastly more so.

And then we go from the sublime to the ridiculous. This squashed little car weighs-in at 1470kg. Yep, just under 1.5 tonnes. No wonder the fuel economy is nothing to write home about…

Good aspects? Build quality, the sound system and….hmmm, I’d imagine safety. And I loved the self-tightening seatbelts.

More bad points? Yep, can think of lots of those – the steering vague around centre, the hard seats, the rebound damping that was so overdone it’s ridiculous, the lack of space… oh did I mention that last one already?

At AUD$65,000, why would you bother?

7 Responses to 'The Underwhelming Mercedes'

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  1. doctorpat said,

    on April 4th, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Did you write about the hybrid camry? I might have missed that one. And I think it’s a highly important car. Even if it is terrible, that’s an important thing for Australia.

  2. Edward said,

    on April 4th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I’d presume while the C200 is not fit for your specific requirements (space, ride, usability, economy, etc.), I think Mercedes has definitely hit the nail on the head for the target market that wants the image, fancy wheels, refinement, perceived quality, ego enhancement, etc. However, I’m not in that target market either so I would probably hate it as much as you.

  3. Julian Edgar said,

    on April 4th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Trouble is that I think that space, ride, usability, economy should be at least *somewhere* on everyone’s new car requirements.

  4. Gordon said,

    on April 5th, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Just a note about that 1470kg weight, it’s about the same as a V8 HZ GTS Monaro (1475kg) according to what I can find with a quick search.

    The incredible weight of modern cars is something that bugs me, as it undermines the efficiency gains of modern drivelines. I don’t fully understand what is behind it either, as I would have thought that advances in design technology could offset potential weight gain arising from improved safety requirements etc.

  5. Julian Perry said,

    on April 8th, 2012 at 12:46 am

    18″ tyres on a C-class is sheer lunacy – are you sure they’re not 17″ (as the .au website lists for the C200). Hell, even my W212 E350 estate has 17″ rims, and that’s a much bigger, 1875Kg bus. (IMHO big rims should exist only to fit big brakes). Both the wife and I thought the C2xx very disappointing for the money – pokey and plasticky (sort of an inverse tardis). The E series though is two axe-handles across the arse, and swallows up the wife’s motor wheelchair & ramps whole (which is why we bought it).

    And I read that Merc. are going towards run-flats in Aust. – they must be mad…


  6. AUSCARS said,

    on April 10th, 2012 at 7:00 am

    J/E, i wish you would still test cars in the hard hitting way you use to, its sadly missed, all the other car-jurnos, EVERY single one of them, are softcocks and write a dog of a thing as good to not upset the makers and cut off all the advertising dough

  7. Edward said,

    on April 10th, 2012 at 11:40 am

    AUSCARS, I made the mistake of buying a Top Gear Oz mag recently and ninety percent of their new car reviews got a 7 out of 10 rating. A 7 rating must be the happy medium that doesn’t piss off the manufacturers or oversell a crap/compromised car. In my opinion only one car I’ve bought in the past 25 years has lived up to the rating it received in print media and even then they neglected or glossed over some very obvious flaws.