Mercedes-Benz: Sometimes all we can do is embrace change

Mercedes-Benz C 220 Estate

Humans rail against change, yet change is probably the single most constant in all of our lives. Maybe not major change, but minute-by-minute change. We hate it.

We hate things that can potentially upset our treasured routines: We hate change at home, we hate change at work, and, most of all, we hate change because it impinges on our ideas of security and comfort. 

And yet our lives immutably change with each passing second

Those who advance change and embrace it cordially are oftentimes reviled by society for ‘rocking the boat’ or are accused of some other spurious, anti-establishment intent.

For the most part, such people end up labelled as visionaries or prophets, which, again, is well wide of the mark; all they are doing is trying to make things better for our little blue planet and those of us who inhabit it.

Change occurs in every strand of life. Indeed, how would mankind have evolved if it were otherwise?

The car industry is no different. It changes constantly: The technologies, the electronics, the mechanics. 

So, too, the people who drive the industry, and, more importantly in a consumer society, the people who drive the products.

Witness the stunning, all-encompassing rise of the sports utility vehicle, the ubiquitous SUV. To paraphrase Caesar, it came, it saw, and it sold by the shed-load. 

The net effect was to upend people’s view of what they wanted or needed in a car. Traditional car variants were largely subsumed by the genre.

Now, I am not a zealous anti-change merchant and have seen and embraced very many revolutionary changes in my life: computers, mobile phones, colour televisions, etc.

I like a lot of the SUVs, but I do get a little bothered by people — marketeers, mainly — who will try and persuade you that a Nissan Qashqai will transform your life.

I like older car formats, too — hatchbacks and saloons, to name a few — and, this week, we try two excellent such options, which are as traditional as dancing at the crossroads. 

And both come from one of the best stables in the game: Mercedes Benz.

Mercedes-Benz has become a manufacturing behemoth and industrial colossus, because it has been able to adapt to change and profit from it. 

That is why the company now makes a raft of SUVs to complement the more traditional type of car it always made.

I recently ran the rule over two of the four varieties of a Mercedes staple — the C-Class — in the shape of the saloon and the coupe. 

This week, it’s the turn of the estate and the convertible.

While all these cars are top drawer, the estate is probably my favourite. All of them are excellent buys — depending on your needs and desires, of course — but the estate won my heart.

The Cabrio, which is terribly good-looking, arrived during that meteorological miracle: a 16 degree March day. I lowered the hood, lost most of my remaining hair, and promptly closed the excellently engineered roof. 

A car for a certain person, then, the Cabrio — middle-aged ladies.

The estate is obviously less sporty and wildly more practical, but no less good to look at, especially not in its deep blue overcoat and swooping lines. It has plenty of room at the back, with the rear seats folded.

The C-Class convertible

Both cars are really nice to drive, although the cabrio is a little fidgety, due to its cloth cap. 

I won’t bore you with the science of torsional rigidity, but the lack of a solid roof does spoil the ride and it isn’t suited to broken west Cork surfaces. It appreciates a smooth road, does the Cabrio.

The estate, while similar to the Cabrio in preferring millpond surfaces, has a variety of driving modes: comfort, sport, etc. 

‘Comfort’ is recommended for Irish driving conditions, largely because of the comfortless, 19” alloys and run-flat tyres, which whittle away ride quality.

In AMG Line trim, the car looks great, what with added muscularity, thanks to the body kit (and the 19” alloys do add to the attractiveness of the look, too, but they are not that nice to drive on). 

The interior looks great, too, with its ‘black, open-pore ash wood trim,’ as well as aluminium and fake leather detailing on the dashboard and doors.

Both cars were endowed with the ‘Advantage’ specification package (€4,061 in the case of the Cabrio and €3,301 for the estate). 

This includes the navigation systems and a 10.25” touchscreen, which controls the infotainment and connectivity and which is very easy to use. 

The standard kit on both cars is impressive, but it is still easy to add an expensive list of extras to either and, in the case of the testers, the two of them had over €10,000 worth of options.

THE Cabrio came with the new, quasi-hybrid, 1.5-litre petrol engine and Merc’s nine-speed automatic gearbox. 

This is a smooth, reasonably quick and fuel-efficient engine (184 bhp, 7.9 seconds 0-100 kph, 239 kph top speed, and a 6.4 l/100 km consumption rate).

The estate was fitted with a revised version of the old, two-litre turbodiesel, which is also mated to the 9G automatic gearbox. 

In this case, that means an output of 150 bhp, an 8.4-second time in the 0-100 kph dash, a top speed of 216 kph, and fuel consumption of 4.7 l/100 km. It also has a 132 g/km emission rate for an annual €280 tax bill.

As agents of change, neither of these cars is going to set the world alight for reinventing the wheel, but both are thoughtfully considered technical advances on their predecessors.

The estate is my favourite of the four C-Class models I tried, simply for its good looks, excellent practicality, and sheer class. 

If you want a workhorse that will offer longevity, a blue collar work ethic, and which still looks fit to be driven by kings and queens, then this is the car for you. 

It is sensible and sophisticated.

No so sensible is the Cabrio, but it is classy and elegant. It will not sell in anything like the same numbers as the estate, but then it was never meant to.

What both these cars highlight, however, is that the evolution of even the most well-established Mercedes model is still a work-in-progress for those who design and make them.

The French usually sum these things up best with appropriate mots juste. 

In this case, that would be: Plus ca change.

Change is with us always. All we can do is embrace it.

Colley's verdict

The Cost: Cabrio, from €51,930-€62,141 as tested. Estate, from €45,183-€55,677 as tested.

The Engines: Two on offer here — petrol with mild hybrid, and one bog standard diesel. Good engines both.

The Specifications: very good as standard, but Mercedes are taking lessons from BMW as to how to extract much more from options.

The Overall Verdict: another two C-Class options and after driving all four, the estate is my favourite.

Star Rating: Cabrio, 3.5/5. Estate 4.5/5.

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