Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tried & Tested: Mercedes-Benz C250 CGI

In the blink of an eye it has been 3 years since the W204 C-Class debuted. While the mid-cycle facelift isn't due yet, Mercedes-Benz has chosen to go the way of turbocharging their C-Class along with the introduction of their new W212 E-Class with Charged Gasoline Injection (CGI). In Daimler speak, that's direct fuel injection + turbocharging.

Read all about the test drive of seemingly Golf GTI's power output vehicle with rear-wheel drive plus a boot. Or is it not so? The new C250 CGI after all punches out a maximum of 204hp/310Nm. Scroll down below for a review by someone dubbed recently as "Mr Stuttgart" (think: M-B/Porsche) of the motoring circle :)

Browsing through the Press Information supplied by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia (MBM) along with the tester you see above, the new C250 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY is touted as "the most efficient C-Class ever". With claimed fuel consumption of just 7.2 - 7.9 litres/100km in combined cycle.

As you all know and have experienced before, in the real world these figures are as good as striking it rich in the lottery. However and rather unexpectedly so, the best figure I got from the C250 was 8.2 l/100km while getting boxed-in during northbound traffic of the North-South highway - compulsorily doing speeds of 80 - 90km/h constantly. On the upper end of the scale, the computer was reading out 12.3 l/100km on other occasions of getting 'high' behind the wheel.
In retrospect, my last E200 Kompressor (W211) was returning rather similar range of fuel consumption figures in my 4 years of usage.

So I guess you could call it BlueEFFICIENCY after all, since 204hp/310Nm versus 163hp/240Nm with the same amount of fuel in indeed efficiency at work. That's the beauty of having a triple alphabets "DEH" suffix to M271 (engine code) I guess! But I don't see the need of getting the all 'Blue' over this. There is no AdBlue (ammonia consuming catalyst system) here for this petrol combusting 1.8-litre 4-pot. Hmmm...

Further into the Press Info, M-B claims a sprint timing of 7.4 seconds for their latest C250 CGI. Which is entirely believable, since 310 Nm is at your disposal from a low 2,000 rpm through to 4,000 rpm. It feels especially quick more so in 'SPORT' mode but not that manically rapid as say the 211 ps/280 Nm Mk6 Golf GTI because of its rear-drive configuration and probably 5A/T torque converter 'refining and filtering' things out a tad more. Typical of Mercedes-Benz, there is no lurch even as you slam the throttle aggressively at take-off. One of my "co-tester" even claimed the Toyota Vios is 'more powerful' due to its persistent lunging-forward kick of (initial) acceleration. Gosh! Must be a diehard Toyota fan despite the throttle-gate fiasco which seemed to have evaded Malaysia.

High speed stability wise, the new C250 is indeed better than the outgoing C230 2.5 V6. In 'normal' suspension setting, there is indeed less mushiness of the dampers resulting in less roll around corners. Even in 'Sport' the suspension isn't as hard or jarring as the last 6-potted C230. This is noticeable when I contrasted another C230 back-to-back. M-B engineers along with the Bilstein folks must have done some suspension tweaking over black coffee and some serious test track time.

Having said that, the new C250 is still a tad floaty at speed above 180 km/h despite having adaptive dampers. The steering while being weightier in Sport mode (the older C230's rack doesn't respond to Sport setting at all before) is still a tad numb at speed beyond 200 km/h. With a wee bit more choppiness than desired on poor undulating surfaces of certain highway stretches the C250's chassis can come across as jittery approaching its claimed Vmax of 240 km/h.
I guess M-B might still want to relegate such lofty task to the W212 which is way calmer and felt sturdier - possibly due a longer wheelbase and wider tracks.

Yet above it all, on B-roads the new C250 CGI is nicely agile and tracks corner like a dream with the steering ratio reduced from 14.5 in the C200 versus 13.5 in the C250. I would have preferred the 'Sport' button to be split into two separate level of actuation where the throttle 'Sportier' mapping is decided at the gear lever while the chassis/suspension tautness and steering weight/feel is activated by the regular switch on the centre console. Much like the Mk6 GTI where you can dial in a combo of 'Sport, Normal or Auto' suspension mode with either regular 'D' auto or 'S' auto drive mode.

Priced at RM287,888 the new C250 CGI is indeed a very promising Mercedes that is solid in performance yet retains M-B hallmark of comfort, albeit in a smaller package. The turbocharged C-Class (E-Class in a broader perspective) will be the range that will answer to MBM's profitability for their current financial year since the C250 CGI definitely cost less to make versus the C230 V6 of yore. The C250 CGI (as well as the C200 CGI) also address succinctly to the downsizing-cum-efficiency trend of current times, complying with EU5 emissions standard while being fun to point-and-shoot should you want more zippiness at a moment's notice. The Munich camp meanwhile has no emphatic answer to this with their aging E90 especially in regards to their asthmatic 320i and pricey, yet detuned 323i. However, the E90 320d makes a very compelling case and this shall be the closest competitor to this C250 CGI - in my books at least. Watch out for its review coming up next.

Related posts:

Mercedes-Benz C200 Kompressor (W204) tested in 2007
Parting shots of the W203 C200K Final Edition


Lewin said...

hi dr long,

good and informative post.

you mention that the "C230's rack doesn't respond to Sport setting".

i have driven both the C230 and C250.

i own a C230 and when in sports mode, the steering does tighten up.

this, plus a more responsive throttle due to shorter gear ratios.

the suspension is significantly stiffer as well.

the C250's torque is good and i would say its overall performance is better than the C230.

just a couple of things to point out in terms of comparing the engines. the C250 sounds a little klanky when the engine is started up. also it feels a little out of breath when approaching speeds in excess of 230km/h. where as the C230 doesn't.

drlong said...

Thanks for your comments Lewin.
I haven't noticed the steering tightening in the C230 V6 I have tested last year and I am glad yours does so because the W204 C-Class inherently have light feel steering, less confidence-inspiring should you decide to push beyond 200km/h. Even in a C63 AMG, the rack is on the lighter side of things!!!