Almost every week I get a massage. It’s not that kind of massage. I’m talking about the kind of pain-filled, deep tissue ‘tune-up’ massage to keep my levator scapulae loose and my trapezius toned. My masseuse shall remain unnamed so that legions of readers don’t beat a hasty path to her door with their ailments because this might prevent me from getting an appointment with her thumbs of Detroit iron.
The Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI is a car that is perfect for driving to a massage. I’ve never been overtaken by as many other vehicles as driving in this car. I’m relaxed. I’m ready to be kneaded. I’m driving at the speed limit¦this coming from a guy whose ideal afternoon would be spent exceeding 2G on a racetrack in a Radical SR3, and who regularly uses up the majority of the 9kph grace the police give above the speed limit. This is not because the C-Class is mushy or wallowy under sharp cornering — it’s not at all; it’s possibly because of the intelligent suspension that adapts the damping force automatically depending on the road surface. It leads to a very quiet, composed and comfortable drive, but without the car wandering all over the place on the road. And this also translates to a feeling that you’re sitting in total command of the wheels in the perfect centre of gravity of the car.
While I’m laying in agony as her forged fingers part the muscle fibres, I can look forward to the Merc’s wafting and smooth ride, ably assisted by its torquey diesel engine, as it’s also the perfect car to drive home from a massage in. You see, after I’ve experienced an hour of pain, I want to be cosseted and caressed automotively. Until I get home, that is, where I will continue to be relaxed as long as Paul Holmes isn’t on the TV, and there’s not a hungry mosquito performing low altitude flybys on my head.
So what about the Merc’s muscles? It sports a 2148cc diesel with 170hp and an impressive 400Nm of torque mated to a 5-speed automatic. This gives a satisfying surge to 100kph in a respectable 8.5s, and will return a quoted combined fuel consumption of 43mpg, or 5.5l/100km (I couldn’t get anywhere near this, though, recording 7.3 on a run from Hauraki to Grey Lynn in light traffic where I really tried to be economical, and 6.1l/100km Hauraki to Stanmore Bay at night using cruise control on the motorway to keep the car at 90kph).
Two settings are available in the gearbox — comfort and sport — and the gears can be changed manually using Mercedes’ non-intuitive left/right sequential shift. Comfort changes up earlier and down later.
Three brushed-aluminium style, bevelled dials are nestled behind the steering wheel. The centre larger one shows speed, and forms the periphery of a white-on-black display for the trip computer, cruise control/speed limiter, temperature and gear indicator.
A sliding panel covers the rectangular screen in the centre of the dashboard that shows system parameters and audio functions. These functions are controlled using the rotary data entry wheel and two buttons where your left arm rests. A suitable CD in the six-disc changer can add to the experience. Or you can connect an auxiliary music device. Look, I’ve even got Classic Hits tuned in – I must be relaxed because I usually listen to George!
Knight Rider-style proximity warning lights for the front and rear sensors only beep when you’re very close to an object. Before that, they progressively light up. Most other manufacturers use audible warnings and/or a screen with a representation of the car and where the obstacle is getting close, so this system takes some getting used to, but is effective.
A multitude of other safety functions help both you and other cars. For example, the brakes will periodically dry themselves in the rain, and will prepare themselves for an emergency stop if the accelerator is lifted quickly. During an emergency stop the brake lights flash, and hazard warning lights are activated. The car even warns you if a tyre loses pressure. And if all that fails to keep you out of trouble, there are seven airbags (including a driver’s knee airbag).
Available in three trim levels, Classic and Elegance trim get the three-pointed bug shredder on the bonnet above the chrome-plated grille, while Avantgarde models get a more muscular overall stance the Mercedes emblem embedded in the grille.
The C-Class was nominated as Car of the Year in New Zealand, and that’s no mistake as it’s a very competent car. Like all Mercedes, the options list is large including a panoramic glass sunroof, digital music system with surround sound, bi-xenon headlamps, sports suspension and more.
As an entry-level executive cruiser Mercedes has priced it well (I would have guessed eighty grand, others in the office guessed higher, but it’s a shade under 73, so it’s a bargain). Its forte is elegant and reasonably frugal executive motoring. It’s a relaxing end to the day driving the C220 from the office. I don’t have to worry about enormous fuel bills, I’m in leather-clad comfort (man-made Artico leather), and I have the three-pointed bug shredder dealing to the mosquitoes on the way home. Bliss.
Price: from $72,990
What we like
- It’s the consummate laid-back executive cruiser
- Price is excellent
- Quiet at speed
- Very easy to drive
- Perhaps if we could build a massaging device into the driver’s seat¦
What we don’t like
- Indicator stalk in the wrong place — it’s too low for 10-2 or 9-3 hand positions
- Too much delay between pressing the pedal and acceleration happening (from standstill) — this can catch you out if you’re trying to pull out of a junction quickly
- Left/right sequential shift isn’t intuitive and there’s no delineation between when you’re in sequential mode and not
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
New Zealand Standard ‘CLASSIC’ Specification (C 200K & C 220 CDI)
|Trim:||ARTICO man-made leather|
|Equipment:||16-inch light alloy wheels (7-spoke design)|
|2-zone “THERMATIC” automatic climate control, separate temperature controls for driver and front passenger, dust filter and air recirculation with Instrument cluster with three displays and three analogue dials|
|5-speed automatic transmission with Cruise Control & Speedtronic speed limiter|
|ADAPTIVE BRAKE function|
|AGILITY CONTROL steering with safety steering column|
|AGILITY CONTROL suspension with selective damping system|
|Airbags and sidebags for driver and front passenger, windowbags for driver, front passenger and rear-seat occupants|
|Anti-lock braking system (ABS)|
|ASSYST maintenance interval indicator|
|Audio 20 with CD changer|
|Automatic-locking doors with emergency opening|
|Brake Assist system (BAS)|
|Brake pad wear indicator|
|Central locking with interior switch and crash sensor|
|Child seat recognition|
|Electronic immobiliser including “ELCODE” locking system with infrared/radio-frequency remote control and visible locking-verification signal|
|Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) with acceleration skid control (ASR)|
|Foot-operated parking brake with hill start assist|
|Front seats with power height, backrest and squab angle adjustment; driver’s seat with manual lumbar support|
|Head restraints (5), adjustable; crash-responsive NECK-PRO front head restraints; three rear head restraints, manually height-adjustable|
|Headlamp Assist (automatic headlamps)|
|Headlamp range adjustment|
|Heated exterior mirrors left and right, electrically adjustable|
|Interior lighting switched on automatically when vehicle is unlocked|
|ISOFIX child seat attachment points in the rear|
|Leather steering wheel|
|Multi-function steering wheel|
|Multi-function steering wheel with enhanced screen|
|Outside temperature display|
|Piano-lacquer-effect trim parts|
|Seat occupancy recognition for front passenger seat|
|Side impact protection|
|Stowage compartment in centre console|
|Sun visors with illuminated vanity mirror|
|Through-loading feature with load-securing facilities and 1/3:2/3 split-folding rear seat|
|Trip computer in multifunction display|
|Tyre pressure loss warning system|
|The table below shows figures for both manual and automatic transmission. Automatic transmission data where different is shown in brackets.|
¹ Figures calculated according to Directive 80/1269/EEC, version 1999/99/EC
² Figures calculated according to Directive 80/1268/EEC, version 1999/100/EC
³ Figures calculated according to Directive 92/21/EC, version 95/48/EC, (kerb weight with fuel tank 90% full, driver, 68 kg, and luggage, 7 kg) for standard-specification vehicles. Optional extras and accessories will generally increase the kerb weight and reduce the payload capacity.