8 APRIL 2013

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Article from BTNews 8 APRIL 2013

MOTORING UPDATE

On Test with Ted Wilkinson of The Guild of Motoring Writers

Mercedes-Benz C 220 CDI Blue Efficiency Exec SE Estate


A Real Sporting Estate

During a permanently busy testing schedule one does not expect many surprises and this early encounter with the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class estate actually provided a major one.

Invariably an estate car is primarily a competent sort of vehicle, hardly one to excite and certainly not when it is powered by an average sized turbo diesel engine.

First, as I got into the car, it felt familiar, everything fitted me comfortably and most of the functions were immediately understandable. Literally I felt at home.

Next came the real surprise, this so called economy Blue Motion version, has such a spirited all round performance. The 2.2-litre 4-cylinder engine delivered a real punch albeit in a velvet glove and that potency was all the more enjoyable as the handling factors proved so light yet responsive, the handling more that of a sporty hatchback, the braking system well in command and the selectable automatic 7-speed transmission willingly dancing to the engine’s tune.

Importantly, there is an excellent blend of confident handling. a compliant ride and low noise levels, created to a good degree by the choice of the medium profile Pirelli tyres that are probably the ideal formula for this type of car without compromise.

This experience of what, for a Mercedes-Benz brand model, is a fairly innocuous looking car when compared with the serious racy looking cars bearing the famous three pointed star insignia perhaps bears out Mercedes-Benz report that it took top spot in the premium brand sales figures for the UK in February and that the success was strongly bolstered by a very healthy upsurge in demand for its estate models, both C and E Classes.

It is a long time since I used the term ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ or even a ‘Q car’ but here I was driving a car that one presumed would be owned by a sagely minded driver perhaps with a need to carry five occupants (not necessarily a family) in good comfort and some luggage or from time to time a load of promotional or lifestyle items. It would undoubtedly be one who obviously also appreciates the status and qualities of the make though hardly strongly swayed by sporty performance. There’s more than enough here to bring a smile to any driver’s face!

Whoever gets behind the wheel of this particular Mercedes-Benz estate I suggest will become a seriously discerning driver if they are not already, the liveliness has to be experienced to be believed. Mercedes-Benz claim a top speed of 136 mph and an ability to reach 62 mph (100 kph) from rest in a very competitive 8.3 seconds while returning an extra urban fuel consumption figure of 65.7 mpg - perhaps in real world terms and with a bit of a load on board still around 48 mpg and that’s sensible.

What really makes me feel at home in this car is the seriously comfortable driving position that has power memory adjustment, the easy on the eye fascia with the clear faced instrumentation, including a digital KPH reading in place of some of the miserly small markings used on some rival’s instruments, the easy hill-hold electronic parking brake and, of course, the high standard of interior furnishing that is based on a tasteful blend of carbon fibre, bright metal, quality plastics and leather upholstery. Such qualities that cleverly combine to create a traditional Mercedes-Benz feel good factor.

Of course, this car comes seriously equipped and with an options menu that should suit pretty well all requirements based on a range of packages covering security and safety, communications and in-car entertainment plus some practical items like a load securing kit, towing kit and storage boxes under the front seats. And, at least, there is a space-saver spare wheel.

Above all, practicality is a strong factor, the floor to the usefully sized/proportioned luggage area is low and the rear seats 60/40 split fold and there are fittings for optional roof rails.

I can see a lot of reasons for choosing this Mercedes-Benz estate car, some may well be obvious, others are pleasantly surprising!

Price from £31,480

Rivals include Audi A4 Avant, BMW 3 Series Touring, Jaguar Sportbrake, Volvo V70, VW Passat Estate.

STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 9
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 8
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 89 %


NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON’ MOTORING DIARY

BENTLEY MOTORS has announced that it is installing the UK’s largest roof-mounted solar panel system. The installation will be owned and operated by Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd.  More than 20,000 solar panels with a capacity of 5MW are being fixed to the roof of Bentley’s factory in Crewe, making use of 3.45 hectares of roof space which would otherwise be unutilised.  The array will generate enough energy to power more than 1,200 households and is three times more powerful than the current largest roof-mounted system in the UK. www.bentleymotors.com

MINI, part of the BMW Group UK has marked 100 years of car manufacturing in Oxford, where Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin was joined by Harald Krueger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, to open a centenary exhibition at the new Visitor Centre at MINI Plant Oxford.  A classic Mini and a new MINI Hatch are also on display in SMMT’s Westminster exhibition space to mark the occasion.  One hundred years ago to the day, the first ‘Bullnose’ Morris Oxford was built by William Morris just a few hundred metres from where the MINI plant stands today. www.mini.co.uk

MASERATI: A MC Stradale Grand Turismo 4-seat model has been added to the Maserati range. Power comes from a 4.7-litre V8 producing 460 bhp, driving through a 6-speed robotised manual gearbox. Top speed claimed to be 188 mph. www.maserati.co.uk

NISSAN is celebrating the official start of production of the new and improved, 100% electric Nissan LEAF.  This new Nissan LEAF, incorporating more than 100 updates, is now rolling off the line at the company’s record-breaking Sunderland Plant, using advanced lithium-ion batteries manufactured in Nissan’s new UK Battery Plant.  Together the Battery Plant and Nissan LEAF production are supporting jobs for more than 2,000 people in the UK car industry, including more than 500 directly at Nissan. www.nissan.co.uk

SKODA: a Sport version of Skoda’s Citygo supermini model has been launched. Based on the 59 bhp 1.0 MPI engine it is offered in 3/5-door forms and features black wheels, sports suspension, tinted windows, front and rear spoilers and further customising. Colours are red, black or white with colour contrasting stripes, Prices from £10,290. www.skoda.co.uk

THE COMMERCIAL VEHICLE SHOW starts tomorrow (9 April) at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).  It is Europe’s biggest road transport exhibition this year. The NEC, just off the M42 and M6 near Birmingham, is accommodating no fewer than 420 exhibitors representing over 500 suppliers. This year, Euro 6 is the hot topic amongst vehicle manufacturers, many of which will be displaying their new ranges. Indeed, not for many years have such a high number of brand new launches been a part of the Show.  Whether looking for trucks or vans, visitors will be spoilt for choice when it comes to shiny, new metal, not to mention the fuel efficient powertrains, tyres and body designs. Register for their free tickets at www.cvshow.com

VOLKSWAGEN: the new Volkswagen Golf GTi will on UK roads from this June. Two power units are offered 217 and 227 bhp with performance claims up to 156 mph. www.volkswagen.co.uk

VOLVO: The Swedish car maker has developed a night driving headlight that uses an Active High Beam that does not dazzle oncoming drivers and does not require dipping. The creators claim that it makes for easier night driving. www.volvocars.com/uk

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