Saturday, October 23, 2004

Mercedes-Benz upgrades C-Class


Best-selling line of cars ripe for a little
nip and tuck

By Carol Traeger
Enquirer contributor
2005 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

ZOOM

Mercedes-Benz's eight C Class models receive exterior and interior enhancements for 2005.

What I drove: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Prices: C230 Sport Coupe: $26,570, C230 Sport Sedan: $29,970; C240 Sedan: $33,370, C240 Wagon: $34,870; C320 Sport Coupe: $28,970, C320 Sport Sedan: $38,070, C320 Sedan: $38,670; C55 AMG: $54,620

Summary: Mid-year updates give more sport and luxury to Baby Benz

Drive: Rear- and all-wheel drive

Engines: C230: 189-hp 1.8-liter supercharged inline four; C240: 168-hp 2.6-liter V-6; C320: 215-hp 3.2-liter V-6; C55 AMG: 362-hp 5.5-liter V-8

Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 5-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 106.9 inches

Weight: 3,250 to 3,540 pounds

EPA mpg, city/highway: 16/22 (C55 AMG) to 23/32 (C230 sport coupe)

Warranty: Basic and drivetrain: 4 years/50,000 miles; roadside assist: unlimited years/unlimited miles

Safety: Dual front, side, and side-curtain air bags; antilock brakes; traction and stability control; brake assist; LATCH child-seat anchors; seat belt pretensioners

Cool: Three slick body styles, solid build, finally a Benz-worthy interior, new 6-speed shifter, Mercedes cachet for under $30,000

Uncool: Priced above rivals, tight rear seat, lackluster 2.6-liter V-6


Find a Car
Search for a car
Advanced search

Find a local dealer:




Recreational
Buy motor boats, RVs, campers, trailers, motorcycles and more!
Search local ads

Research
Reviews database
In the news
Vehicle history
Car Talk

Extreme Makeover. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The Swan. Pimp My Ride. Judging from the TV listings, the whole world has gone makeover mad - automakers included.

Having undergone an extreme makeover in 2000, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was ripe for a little nip and tuck. After all, competition is heating up in the duke-it-out near-luxe segment, once the domain of the BMW 3-Series, C-Class and Audi A4, and now home to the Acura TL, Infiniti G35, Cadillac CTS and Chrysler 300.

For their mid-cycle face lift, 2005 C-Class models - eight in all - receive exterior and interior enhancements, and a greater distinction between sport and luxury models.

Previous C-Class interiors were nothing to write home about, but this year's upgrades - including a new dashboard, center console, instrument cluster, three-spoke steering wheel, and seats - have finally given the Baby Benzes the upscale ambience they deserve. A great Harmon Karmen audio system replaces the previous Bose system.

Outside, all C-Class models retain their signature low hood line, arched roofline and "sideways melting snowman" headlights, but now sport clear-lens headlamps, new front and rear bumpers, new grilles and taillights.

On the performance side, the C230 and C320 sport coupes and sedans get AMG aero packages, 17-inch wheels, lowered suspensions, stiffer front bushings and a bigger rear anti-roll bar. The six-speed manual transmission features 20-percent shorter throws for more precise shifts.

Luxury models receive an improved seat design with adjustable driver's seat lumbar support, upgraded surface finishes, and a revised center console.

Four engines power the C-Class lineup. The C230 features a 189-horsepower, supercharged 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder. The C240 houses a 168-horsepower 2.6-liter V-6, and the C320 employs a 215-horsepower 3.2-liter V-6.

The C-Class's only V-8 engine is reserved for the new C55 AMG sedan. The hand-built 5.5-liter V-8 pumps out 362 horsepower and a prodigious 376 pound-feet of torque. It comes mated to a five-speed automatic with a SpeedShift manu-shifter that holds the gears until you shift yourself. Mercedes plans to sell only 1,200 C55 AMGs during the second half of this year. At $54,000, the C55 AMG is the priciest C-Class model.

The rest of the lineup is aimed at attracting first-time Benz buyers. Base prices range from $26,570 (for the C230 sport coupe) to $38,670 (for the C320 luxury sedan).

Sport models are offered with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with manu-shifter. Luxury models come exclusively with the automatic. All C-Class models come standard with rear-wheel drive, but sedans and wagons can be ordered with 4Matic all-wheel drive.

I test drove a rear-wheel-drive C230 sport sedan and a 240 4Matic AWD wagon. The C230's 189-horsepower, supercharged 1.8-liter is livelier (cheaper, too) than the C240's 168-horsepower V-6, which feels lazy at takeoff - though the AWD system offers super road-holding ability. The C230's short-throw, six-speed shifter and rack-and-pinion steering give the sport sedan crisper manners than its predecessors, though it's not as snappy-sharp as the BMW 3-Series.

All in all, modest changes have made a positive impact on Mercedes-Benz's best-selling line of cars. The C-Class may be your cheapest ticket into a Benz, but now it feels Benzier than ever.

E-mail ctrigger@aol.com



Auto Review Archives
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996