With the new W204 C230 V6 nowhere to be seen yet (still rumoured to be due June/July 2008) in Malaysia, I reckon the courtesy car of a C230 2.5 V6 Avantgarde Sports - on loan by Cycle & Carriage Bintang (CCB) Berhad recently - did provide a nice glimpse of what to expect of the drivetrain of the new C230 successor from Mercedes-Benz.
Those of you who know me would have known that I am pretty much a fan of the 1.8L supercharged (Kompressor) M271 engine. Needless to say, I like this forced-induced 4-pot best in its C230 Kompresssor form good for 193bhp at 5800rpm with peak torque of 260Nm at 3500-4000rpm. Below is the M272 replacing the C230's heart circa 2005 (2006 locally), in the form of an all-aluminium V6 of 2.5L displacement.
The V6 is good for 204 bhp at 6100rpm and max torque 245 Nm at 2900-5500rpm; herein lies the difference between the old C230 Kompressor and the newer C230 V6. While the supercharged 4-pot is indeed more thrilling to drive with more urgent torque delivery, the normally aspirated V6 spells of finesse and refinement (NVH) in the way it gets up to speed. Added to this the 7G-Tronic tranny felt less busy and don't lurch as much as the 5-speeder mated to the 4-pot. No Kompressor whine, no buzz, no busy swing of revs associated with relatively frequent gears hunting. Just smooth sweep of climbing rev with the sweet point circa 4000rpm. Toyed with the paddle shifters I did and with the engine kept on boil above 3500rpm it was sheer pleasure taking this tester (oops! I mean courtesy unit) on winding trunk roads and some hilly stretches. All these while enconsced in Mercedes-Benz trademark smooth-gliding comfort - firm damping yet compliant ride. One thing I must mention here is that finally Mercedes-Benz has got their bi-xenon headlamp beams right - to shine bright and squarely on the road ahead, unlike the halogen-micmicking HID items with patchy illumination on the Avantgarde W211 E-Class (pre-facelift).
The chunky steering (pic below) was very nice to handle while weight and feedback doesn't quite match the E90 325i Sports, it is much more confidence-inspiring than even the new W204 C200K. Same goes for the Avantgarde Sports suspension vs the new C200K, Agility Control (standard as in new C200K) bollocks notwithstanding. It is interesting to note that 2007 C230 has its paddle shifter AMG-style i.e. '-' on the left for downshift and '+' on the right for upshifting. Prior to this I truly dislike the confusing and nonsensical bilateral rocker-switches (+/-) placed discreetly behind the steering wheel of the C230K of 2003-2005.
What you see above is some of the nicest aluminium trim in-cabin, the other one being found in the Audi A4 (B7) 2.0TFSI. I somehow wished the gear shifter knob can be transplanted to my w211 E200K! Side borders of the somewhat concave centre console are of soft-padded trim. Please knock on the corresponding items in the W204 if you get the chance!
So in conclusion, the W203 C230 V6 still appeared quite classy (pic above) and relevant in the used car (junior-exec) market. More importantly, it still drives very well, with the V6 powerplant lending a more refined, classy and upmarket appeal to it as the last bastion of the top-end W203 in Malaysia. Chassis and steering dynamics are without a doubt - at least in this C230 AV Sports guise - better than the W204 C200K. It is with this that I am looking forward to sample the new (W204) C230 2.5 V6, bragging its much-touted Advanced Agility Control et al.