Saturday, August 25, 2012

Car review: Mercedes Benz C180 Avantgarde (W204 Facelift 2012)

Technical Data

Model (Code / Model Year): Mercedes Benz C180 BlueEfficiency Avantgarde Facelift (W204 / 2012)

Engine: M 271 DE 18 AL red (4-cylinder / petrol / turbocharged / 1796 cm³)
Transmission: 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission
Paintwork + Interior + interior trim + wheels: Calcite white non-metallic paint + Cloth / Artico artificial leather upholstery black + Trim brushed aluminium + 16-inch 5 twin-spoke alloy wheels

Optional Equipment:
  • Avantgarde package: Three-louvre radiator grille with central star, Chrome accents, Agility Control sports suspension, B-pillar high-gloss black, Exterior lighting in the rear-view mirrors, 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, Lighting package, Trim brushed aluminium, Attention Assist, Avantgarde-badgje below the automatic airconditioning, Multifunction 3-spoke steering wheel with a 11,4cm multi-function display in the instrument panel, Instrument panel with 3 analog instruments with chrome rings and a silver clock face
  • Automatic package: Automatic Transmission 7G-TRONIC PLUS, Cruise control "Speedtronic"
  • Other optional equipment: 2-Zone automatic airconditioning "Thermatic", Front seats heated, Through loading rear seats, Telephone pre-wiring with hands-free facility, Comfort Telephone, Becker® MAP PILOT, Parktronic, LED daytime running lights, Audio 20 and 6-disc CD changer, Media Interface including Consumer-Cable Kit (iPod-, USB- and Aux-cable)
Performance: 156hp (115kW) / 250nm
0 to 100km/h: 8,9sec
Top speed: 223km/h (140mp/h)
Fuel consumption in liter / 100km (U.S. miles per gallon): 7,9 liter / 100 kilometer (29,8mpg / US) (click the link for the fuel consumption test)
Price (Germany): €42.078,40
F10 engines driven: C180 BlueEfficiency, C200 CDI, C220 CDI

In 2007 Mercedes Benz launched its new C-class, internally called the `W204`. Assembly of the W204 takes place at a number of production facilities around the world, most notably in Bremen / Sindelfingen in Germany, Toluca Mexico, East Londen in South Africa, but also in Egypt, Brazil and a number of places in Asia. The new C-class completed an extensive test programme that included 24 million test kilometers, making it the most tested Mercedes Benz ever before the sales start (only to be overtaken by the new 2009 E-class that was tested for 36 million kilometers).

After having been a sales succes for a number of years (1.000.000 orders had been reached on August the 2nd 2010), Mercedes Benz released photos and details of the C-class facelift, which was available to the market early 2011. Updates of the C-class facelift included a 7G-tronic PLUS automatic gearbox for the smaller engines, LED daytime running lights and taillights. A major effort was spent to redesign the interior that in order to align its design with that of the E- and S-class. 

For a picture comparison between the pre-Facelift and Facelift C-class: Mercedes Benz C-class W204 Facelift comparison.

pre-Facelift C-class
Facelift C-class


1. Exterior

LED-technology is the most notable difference that sets the Facelift C-class apart from its predecessor. Optional LED-daytime running lights and standard LED-technology in the taillights and revised headlight units are among the noticable changes. 

If the Avantgarde-package is ordered, as is the case with this particular Mercedes Benz C180, the exterior comes with a three-louvre radiator grille with central star, chrome accents, the B-pillar in high-gloss black, 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheel. The Avantgarde-trim gives the C-class a more sporty and modern look, compared to the more conservative standard or Elegance-trim.

White has always been a color of controversy, this C180 has been ordered with Calcite white non-metallic paint. A major advantage of the color is that it comes with no extra charge opposed to the metallic colors and suits the Avantgarde-trim. Downside of the white color is that dirt is easily to spot while the color also may be subject to a lower resale value once its popularity drops. But for what its worth, it certainly is more exciting to look at then the standard black / grey / silver that roam the streets nowadays.

Basic trim
Avantgarde trim

2. Engine, transmission and handling

From late 2009 until April 2012 the C180 was powered by the  M 271 DE 18 AL turbocharged 1796 cm³ engine, that has been replaced by the M 274 DE 16 AL turbocharged 1595 cm³ engine, following the current trend of downsizing the engines in order to reduce emissions. Yet this particular C180 was still fitted with the 1796 cm³ engine, which this part is focussing on.

As with many 4-cylinder engines nowadays, cylinders and engine displacement is downgraded but the power is increased by using a turbocharger. This makes up for the lack of torque from a small petrol engine, giving the C180 the boost needed to navigate fast through the traffic in most everyday situations. However, at higher speeds (most notably on the highway) the engines loses some of its spirit and becomes somewhat sluggish. Another drawback of turbocharged engines is that when ones uses the power and the turbocharger runs, the fuel consumption increases exponentially.

Another new feature that has been introduced with the facelift is the new 7G-tronic Plus automatic transmission, that replaces the older 5-speed automatic transmission in the lower end models. The extra gears enable lower revs at normal cruising speeds, thus reducing the fuel consumption more. As with the 6-cylinder models, the 7G-tronic Plus also works perfectly in the C180, probably being one of the best transmissions currently out there.

With the Avantgarde-package, the C-class is fitted with an Agility Control sports suspension. 
Agility Control sports suspension. Normally the C-class is more trimmed towards comfort, but the sports suspension makes the ride firmer. However it is not as "aggressive" in its handling like an Audi or BMW.

3. Interior, multimedia and communication

pre-Facelift C-class
Facelift C-class

As can be seen from the pictures above, the interior received a major upgrade in order to align the C-class more with the current design of the E-class and other recent Mercedes Benz models. The screen of the satnav has been integrated in a fixed position in the center dash, while more chrome accents and other buttons had been have been fitted into the center dash. Although plastic materials are still used in the dashboard, it now feels more upscale and modern then the pre-Facelift model. Another nice feature is the new sports steering wheel, apart from the modern impression due to the chrome accents it also feels very nice in your hands.

Another new feature is the Becker® MAP PILOT that has replaced the previous APS 50 navigation system. The hardware of the Becker Map Pilot has been integrated into the car, but altough the navi can be controlled with the cars controlled, yet the software seems to be a standalone system. Controlling this system is less intuitive as controlling the other systems and the interface seems to be somewhat outdated. What I  miss is the extra information on traffic jams etc., and the graphics are also quite basic. 
On the other hand, the system is a major improvement compared to after-market systems (like a TomTom) that cannot be controlled through the cars controllers, while it does its primary function of navigating to the destination moderately well. Compared to the more expensive COMAND-system this Becker Map Pilot is a good trade-off between quality and price, as it is much cheaper then comparable built-in systems. 

APS 50 Navigation System

COMAND Online Navigation System
Becker Map Pilot Navigation System

Other features included the Bluetooth-connection of both the phone and music on the phone, a USB-connection which also can be used to connect a music device, and a MultiMedia-connection that enables the phone to be charged. Compared to other car brands these options perform their job just as well, and they increase the comfort for the driver enough to deem them essential when ordering a in this class.

4.Optional Equipment

This section discusses (part of) the optional equipment available on the F01. Ranking from 1 (definitely a yes), 2 (nice to have, but not a minimum requirement) to 3 (not worth the money).
  • Avantgarde package: Compromises of both exterior and interior features, giving the standard C-class a significant upgrade for a decent price. Ranking 1
  • Automatic package: The 7G-tronic Plus is an excellent automatic gearbox, but if its of any use depends up to driver preference. Ranking 2
  • 2-Zone automatic airconditioning "Thermatic": Increases comfort if there is a regular second passenger. Ranking 2
  • Front seats heated: Helps to heat up cold seats rapidly and greatly increases driver comfort for a small price. Ranking 1
  • Through loading rear seats: Greatly enhances the transportation capability of the car, but if regular use is required the C-class Estate might be a better option. Ranking 2
  • Telephone pre-wiring with hands-free facility: Apart from the fact that hands-free calling is much safer, many countries also impose heavy fines when caught. Using the hands-free facility therefore is a wise move. Ranking 1
  • Becker® MAP PILOT: If you do not want to pay for the expensive COMAND Navigation System but still require navigation, the Becker Map Pilot is a good trade-off between a basic built-in system for a small price. Ranking 1
  • Parktronic: Small obstacles are easy to miss, the Parktronic helps to evade minor damages to the car. Ranking 1
  • LED daytime running lights: Gives the car a more modern appearance, yet might be standard in some countries / equipment levels. Ranking 1
  • Audio 20 and 6-disc CD changer: If the Media Interface is ordered a 6-disc CD changer becomes obsolete. Ranking 3
  • Media Interface including Consumer-Cable Kit (iPod-, USB- and Aux-cable): Allows for a range of possibilities to connect different types of music players to the car. Ranking 1
Final thoughts:

One of the main drawbacks of the pre-Facelift C-class was its interior design, it was too overloaded with plastic that did not match the premium feel one might expect from Mercedes Benz. However Mercedes has implemented a change in strategy, also in its slogan "Das beste oder nichts" (the best or nothing), which is reflected in its current generation of cars. Not only has the premium feel of the C-class improved, it also now has a more modern look to it.

This particular C180 Avantgarde has the smallest engine and was not overloaded with options, yet it does not feel as a "starters" car. With the options it does have, it is an excellent trade-off between price and luxury. It still has an acceptable level of luxury and comfort for a car in this class, while it does not cost as much as a fully loaded V6.

The Mercedes Benz C180 Avantgarde is a good car and certainly worth the money.

Mercedes Benz C-class W204 Facelift media:

Mercedes Benz C180 Avantgarde Calcite white:

Mercedes Benz C200 CDI Basic Black uni:
Mercedes Benz C220 CDI Basic Palladium Silver Metallic:

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