Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Tried & Tested: Mercedes-Benz E200 CGI (W212)
Click on all images to enlarge
How often have you noticed a burnt-out third brake light of the car in front of you? Or a pair or even all brake lights not functioning at all? More often than can be imagined right? So imagine the gall of the parliamentary lawmakers wanting to amend the Malaysian Road Transport Act 1987 to slap a maximum fine of RM1000 for road traffic offences currently capped at RM300. How often do you see people with malfunctioning brakes lights get pulled over? Not as often as for alleged speeding offences (speed trap) I bet.
Back to the subject of third brake lights, the all-new E-Class from Mercedes-Benz has had it migrating from the rear boot lip to the rear parcel shelf again...and in a very slim form. Neat. However, the rear end appears to be a rehashed W123's arse (think: white diesel taxis in the 70s) with angular theme and larger, horizontal tailamps. Altogether with an up-curved blistered arch that looks fussy and very much an after-thought. With such a disastrous looking butt - more so in solid-white - I seriously do not think the W212 leaves the W211 design for dead - unlike what the W211 did to the W210. It awed many - with its sleek n fluid design - in its movie debut "Men In Black 2". Remember that?
Aesthetic wise, the corner of the front headlamps where it meets the fender, bonnet and bumper is quite a disaster too - with surfacing and meeting of dissection lines grossly incongruent.
Cost cutting are abound almost everywhere in the new E200 CGI. Dash top material is B-class-esque rather than S-class aping. Of course, there are Artico-leather wrapping for the dashboard (Porsche's option style!) in the loftier E350, E500, E63 etc models in other markets but the base material is plain disappointing. So is the inner door rubber strip which is naked now. The premium fibred-fabric wrapping is gone: now a pale grained surface imprint serving to mimic the former. Rear seat are also disappointingly smaller with too much rounded edges, while the front seats bottom rounded sides translates to a noticeable lack of thigh support around the corners. What happened Mercedes-Benz?
For the base model E200 CGI too, there is now measly one-sided muffler at the rear, whereas the last E200K from the onset had a pair of mufflers - regardless of whether the exhaust tips are downturned or not. While the last W211 clearly had better differentiation at the steering wheel from the W203 C-Class, the new W212 compels you to steer gripping an item from a common parts bin. Does not convey a higher premium feel I must say. Not when you are asked to part with some RM366k in hard cash or hire-purchase for that matter.
Also, what's with this 3-zone Thermotronic (or is it called the lower-spec Thermatic) climate A/C now? It used to be twin-zone independent temperature control for the rear passengers, plus silent operation even at full cooling capacity. Now the centre console box mounted rear A/C blower just whirr and whine at its highest or near-maximum fan setting. No good.
While the A/C main control looked decidedly classier now, the cabin air-conditioner fiter(s) has lost its 'iconic' odour filtration finesse. Yes, you can smell diesel fumes and other noxious traffic odour(s) - albeit not excessively - once the A/C goes into fresh air intake mode. For the record, it's almost never insulting to your olfactory (nasal) bulbs in any of the previous W211 variants, unless you are in a diesel trucks and buses stationary convoy e.g. basement parked in KL's Puduraya bus complex.
Now, the good side of the new E200 CGI. The modified (read: recycled with turbocharger and direct injection cam-heads for the new dacade) M271 powerplant - 4-pot displacing 1.8L is now way more refined, NVH-wise than the clunky-cluttery Kompressor. So is the throttle response and engine pulling power, noting the 270Nm advantage over 250Nm previously for the final edition E200K. The 5 A/T 'box also seem better with the extra torque but a 6th cog (or 7-G Tronic?) would have been welcomed for calmer high-speed cruising at possible lower engine revs.
Steering feel, weight and feedback in the E200 CGI is way ahead the the "first gen" W211 E200K and felt like a superbly retuned and recalibrated version of the FL (new generation W211) E200K's rack - launched in 2007. It is very close to the E60 5-series in agility and hydraulic-resistance-feel now, minus the parking-speed "dead weight feel" of a typical BMW M-Sport rack.
Ride wise, it is undeniably firmer now in the E200 CGI. More so when you push the car harder and harder into corners. I reckoned it has got to do with some mumbo-jumbo regarding reactive dampers which closes some valves in the struts, thereby firming up damping rates, non-pneumatic nor electrical nor magnetic in execution of course. After all, this is the entry level W212. Tracking corners are sharper and quicker now, thus inspiring more confidence and smiles as you string up the bends, palpably better than the W211.
Rear passenger calm ride composure are still maintained mostly, even on busily winding B-roads, a classic, affable trait of M-B midsized execs accompanied by excellent incisive rebound damping i.e. no wallows whatsoever. The comfort "Benz" hallmark is not lost in the new E200 CGI, even in the pursuit of better handling and overall sportier drive here. High speed blasting stability still leaves the W204 C200K in the dust. An engineering input (or rather slightly lacking thereoff in the junior sibling) being intentional on M-B engineers part, as evident in W203 versus W211 of the previous decade.
With so much to love under the skin (drivetrain,chassis and suspension) and solid comfort of the new E200 CGI - the fronts seats are okay as you acclimatise to it (rear seats still have room for improvements) - it is sad that the external metal sheets of the new E-Class from C- pillar onwards right up to the butt lost its plot somewhat, somehow. Pity.
You might want to read this:
Mercedes-Benz E200K (FL) versus E200K (first gen)