A long drive is certainly made easier in a brand new car. Starting bright and early at the Klesis Café in Empire Damansara, Petaling Jaya, two neat lines of 15 Mercedes-Benz vehicles awaited, raring to be driven to Johor’s idyllic Desaru Coast. The car that has piqued our interest is the new C-Class, a best-selling range for 10 years. The premium mid-sized sedan comes in two variants: the C 200 Avantgarde Line and C 300 AMG Line.
The assigned vehicle was car 13, a C 200 in deep Cavansite blue. Sensual and sporty were the adjectives that came to mind as the vehicle had the Avantgarde Line exterior, which includes the Mercedes three-point star in the centre of the radiator grille design, complemented with trim strips crafted in high-sheen aluminium and chrome. It also has lowered comfort suspension and 18in 5-spoke wheels.
While the C in C-Class is meant to stand for compact, everything about the interior is spacious and lush. It feels sleek thanks to black Artico man-made leather and different tones of black, open-pored wood veneers with fine inlays of genuine aluminium. We later learnt that a Sienna Brown leather option is also available, a shade that really elevates the sporty aesthetic.
The centre console draws your eye immediately. Just above the high resolution 12.3in free-standing driver display — which gives the space a minimalist and almost futuristic aesthetic — are three air-conditioning vents artfully shaped like aircraft engine nacelles. All of the vehicle’s functions can be accessed from this high-quality touchscreen, including the ambient lighting and choice of the three display styles (Discreet, Sporty and Classic). Just below the screen is a roomy compartment with two cup holders and enough space for your keys, knick-knacks and a phone.
Once comfortably ensconced, we started our engines and waited for the signal — the waving of the Mercedes-Benz flag — to begin the drive. Setting a new standard for efficiency, the C-Class range features an integrated starter generator (ISG) that uses a 48V on-board electrical system, that enables functions like gliding, boosting and energy recovery, which, in turn, help to save fuel tremendously. It is also responsible for the almost-imperceptible change from starting the engine to gliding seamlessly across the tarmac.
The initial plan for the drive was to go as one convoy, but as we hit the winding turns of city traffic, everyone went their own way. Thankfully, with my phone connected, Waze was displayed prominently on the centre console screen. The new C-Class models have been equipped with the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz User Experience, otherwise known as NTG7 MBUX. In the same way you can command Siri on your iPhone to answer or make calls, with a simple “Hey Mercedes”, you are able to make adjustments to the car and your phone.
“You don’t need Apple CarPlay. You have to set up a Mercedes Me app account and once you’ve done that, it does everything you need,” Michael Jopp, vice-president of sales and marketing for passenger cars at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, tells Options. “With Siri, you control your phone; with the native operating system in the car, you control your phone and the vehicle. It does your calls and music, but also controls the car, for example, to turn the temperature down. Instead of Siri, it’s ‘Hey Mercedes’, and she will respond right away.” Connecting your phone allows for access to Spotify, so the four-hour journey to Desaru Coast felt like a mini concert for one with all the best tunes.
One can only truly enjoy the 1.5L, four-cylinder engine when the car hits the highway. Equipped with a second-generation starter generator — which has an additional output of up to 15kW and 200Nm more torque — the C-Class benefits from the marque’s many innovations. A new feature is the evolution of the twin-scroll technology: a segment charger with flow connection that allows a more immediate response of the forced induction system. Mercedes-Benz’s turbocharger developers and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team worked together to create this. In the case of the
C 300, the output can be additionally pumped up by a 20kW overboost.
Even if you are unused to such a long journey, the C 200 is easy to manoeuvre and incredibly comfortable. Cruising along the semi-empty road — surprising for a Monday — buildings became scarce, replaced by fields of verdant greenery, all of which made for a relaxing change of view.
The C-Class is also highly efficient with fuel, and so even at the Petronas petrol station stop in Desaru, barely half the tank was used up. After a top-up, we zoomed off to our first destination, Ember Beach Club at One&Only, for lunch. With a relaxing view of the beach and sea, we indulged in choices from a sumptuous menu. Highlight dishes included the buttermilk fried chicken bau with yuzu kosho mayo; saffron risotto with charred prawn, grouper and dill; and charred baby gem Caesar with nori and furikake. On completing the filling repast, we retreated to Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast to check in.
After a quick rest, we had a chat with Jopp about the C-Class. “I’m very confident that it’s going to do particularly well for us,” he says. “C-Class has traditionally been our top-selling model. Based on the response we had seen during the launch, we had a huge number of customers visiting the set-up at Desa ParkCity. We have done more than a thousand test drives in two-and-a-half days. Unfortunately, customers had to wait two to three hours for the opportunity to test the cars. The demand was huge.” He added that the complete built-up (CBU) units were sold out, and that their dealer partners were collecting orders for the complete knocked-down (CKD) variants.
While SUVs have gained traction, it is clear that sedans are still the favourite. And the C-Class more so than others. “These models have new layouts of the centre display and the instrument cluster … all a fresh design. You can really now talk intuitively with the car and it will respond and react very fast. This car also has very strong processing power. I think that’s also amazing,” explains Jopp.
We enjoyed dinner at the Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort, a short five-minute drive away. After devouring fresh seafood, we returned to the hotel for a fun evening with a few drinks before turning in for the night. The next morning, we swapped cars, so a C 300 AMG Line was the assigned ride for the return journey to KL.
Car 10 was a vibrant Spectral blue, and had a few design differences compared to the C 200. The C 300 has a sportier AMG Line exterior with 19in AMG multi-spoke wheels. It also features the Mercedes-Benz pattern grille, which has a bolder presence than the radiator grille design, as well as the iconic star in chrome. Besides LED high-performance headlamps with adaptive high beam assist, this model also sports a panoramic sunroof.
With a 2L engine, the C 300 has all the beneficial features of the C 200, including the handy NTG7 MBUX system, which is described as the central nervous system of the vehicle. Driving the C 300 was equally comfortable and easy to manoeuvre. What was different, though, was that it had a more powerful engine, so, on a few stretches of clear highway, it was an absolute joy to push the car to the limit. Quickly, the lush greenery was replaced by concrete jungle. The journey was ending too soon.
All in, the new C-Class models are absolutely fun rides and the technological improvements just make them that much more accessible and easy to drive.
The Mercedes-Benz C 200 Avantgarde Line and the C 300 AMG Line is priced at RM288,334 and RM330,681 respectively. Visit mercedes-benz.com.my for details.
This article first appeared on Apr 11, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.