UK CAR Reviews: Mercedes Benz C180 Classic 1997

Jaguar XJ6 4.0 Soveriegn

 

Mercedes C180 Classic

I've tried the old 190 Merc before , this is the newer replacement for that range of cars. If we ignore the weird mooseically challenged A class which I think is an undeserving platform to carry the three pointed star and would be better off being an up market Smart car, then we can consider it to be the baby of the Mercedes range. It is rather a big baby mind being around Mondeo size. Compared to the older 190 its grown into a bigger all round car, still compact for a Mercedes but no longer as compact as it was. Styling whilst reminiscent of the older 190 has been neatly updated with a hint of E class to its sides. Thankfully its free of boy racer plastic extensions and looks quite classy. White paint seems a popular choice with buyers, Frankly I think it looks rather obvious and rather terrible. I think that maybe it makes the C class look bigger than it is and probably appears so much on low end Benz's because the buyers are trying to make a statement, where as most E class and S class Mercs I see knocking about tend to be in much subtler shades despite the pricey statement that those cars definitely make. The front end now bears a single restrained three pointed star rather than multiple suggesting the Art of subtlety hasn't been lost by Benz themselves.

The interior shows the greatest improvements. The light grey trim is obviously hard wearing and comes in a sort of modernist mix of letter jumbles. It took a minute or so for it to sink in. But the little jumbles of letters

M E
C R
C E
S D
E
B E
Z N

add an imaginative and novel touch. Ergonomically its a major improvement whilst still maintaining a resemblance to earlier setups. If you've had a 190 you would feel immediately at home. Equipment levels are much improved. But still only to the bear minimum levels that Mercedes could get away with. Electric Mirrors, front windows, and sunroof. The noddy economy gauge has thankfully gone, but a new gadget rears its head. press a button on the dash and the rear head restraints drop down to give you more rear visibility. There is of course no button to raise them. Now I cant quite make up my mind on the plus side we could say its entirely logical. You have no rear passengers you need better vision to reverse, so you pop them down. When a passenger gets into the rear they can stick them back up as needed. Or you could say that you could merely start with them down and rear passengers could raise them when needed and drop them when getting back out. Either way the improvement is fairly limited because the boot slopes out of eyesight so you cant see the rear edge of the car anyway. There is a touch more wood to the interior than before but it quite suits the Merc and isn't sloshed about with abandon, just down the centre console where it looks quite effective.

Ingress to the enticing interior is via remote central locking with flasher lights set into the rear view mirrors and classily into the lockless drivers door handle. Its activated by a classy flick knife style key fob that you just cant stop playing with. (small things , small minds an all that) At least it stops the key cutting a hole in your pocket, cant see how you would get it onto any other key fob mind.

The interior may look quite enticing but getting in there is still a remarkable effort. Mercedes love of bus sized steering wheels would be okay if they didn't insist on setting it so painfully low. No amount of seat lowering and setting back could ease my passage into the cabin. Maybe all Bavarian Beer Meisters have incredibly skinny and splayed thighs.

All in all its a bit a of a farce and would be solved far easier if Mercedes could make a little less profit and fit an adjustable steering column to all models.

Once in the seats are still of the backache curing orthopedic bed type though they do seem a little more forgiving than of old.

Normally I quite like the feel of floor hinged Accelerator pedals, unfortunately I was stuck with a minor Ankle injury which made the whole long action arc rather tedious. The brake pedal is quite soft but invokes decent response when used hard and when really needed the ABS cuts in but you don't even notice it under normal circumstances. It has none of the pulsing or early cut in suffered by some systems.

With Mercedes recent domination of and success in F1, Indy Cart and Sports car and endurance racing would could expect the 180 engine to be something special.

Asmatic Merc engine  overfaced by Tank build of body

You could expect It  but you wont get it. At 122bhp the catalyzed 16 valve 1800 is competitive if nothing remarkable. Its about the same peak as the old 2 litre unit only with 500 more rpm. If feels almost identical in the way it performs, smooth quiet and pedestrian until it gets to its power band, when it takes on a rather flat gruffer busier sound until the redline. The red line maybe 500rpm further away but the power band is also lifted further and really needs 4k to be showing before any real action takes place.

 

Lots of people prefer their Mercedes as automatics many even claim the Merc auto is the pinnacle of self shifting, after suffering the old agricultural manual shifter, I was pleased to get the opportunity of using the Auto. Its got its work cut out though. a rev happy peaky 1.8 and a big heavy body definitely test it to the limit. Though It does have E (conomy ) and S (tandard) modes to help it out . In E mode it does pretty much what you would want and heads for top gear as soon as possible, and then resolutely refuses to let go of it. Obviously Its only fair to comment on the performance when running in standard mode.

Performance off the line with anything other than the pedal pressed hard down onto the kick down switch is best described as stately. Even full bore starts are only moderately adequate in Extracting performance from the engine as there seems to be a positive pause whilst the engine builds around the clock to 4000 rpm. On the move you really do have to use a lot of throttle to invoke a gain of speed, uphill its kick down or nothing, which is a little unsubtle. Strangely the performance has one or two black holes.

Kick down from 30 ( a regularly required function ) takes an age to happen. Yet its instantaneous between 40 and 75.

At 80 it refuses to kick down full stop despite a large range of available revs. This lead to the rather perverse situation where you need to back of before nailing the throttle hard again, from there it will rev on happily for a good while with plenty to spare before dropping into top again.

Please don't write in asking why I would want to kick down at 80, I just do okay, and anyway it comes from the land of the open Autobahn, so it just should.

Whilst the lack of cubic capacity may be blamed for some of the Autos limitations, It cant be held responsible for the harsh changes when loaded up, or the jerky change when you drop off the kick down switch. Away from full bore its changes are smooth and fluid and rather pleasant.

I suppose I could always resort to shifting the stick by hand but its auto so I cant be bothered and anyway the delay between going up a gear manually by hand and the gearbox noticing is a bit disconcerting.

The engine gearbox combination give you the impression the Mercedes is not really setup for the heavy or rough footed, add in a few twists and turns and the chassis reinforces the feeling that its not really setup for jockeying about. Along with the other improvements Benz made to this model they also softened the suspension and lightened the steering. Unfortunately although the steering is light it gives very little feedback. The first indication of taking it a little too far is the squealing of the front tyres. The softer suspension whilst not adversely affecting the roll much, does allow more forward and aft pitching and is not conducive to hard accelerating and braking sequences.

Its much better just to relax and waft about , drive smoothly and the Mercedes will reward with a composed bump eating elegant ride. So sit back relax forget speed and enjoy the ride, when its this smooth and quiet why rush it.

The it maybe slow in terms of outright performance but the C-class is an accomplished motorway mile eater. It travels comfortably at high speeds in a way which belies its modest capacity. It will move along at eighty in eerie near silence, even opening the sunroof doesn't induce a lot of noise and gives surprisingly little wind buffeting. Stability is as always a Benz strength.

The C180 is as practical as any mid range saloon out there, the boot if fairly volumous even though it contains a large spare wheel and the battery. Interior accommodation is generous for a mid range car. Storage space in fairly limited though, The door pockets are a little skimpy and the air bag eats the glove box leaving a pathetic little hole of little practical use in here sits the only noticeable bit of tack in the car namely the light and its built in switch which looks a little Heath Robinson and homemade to be honest. The Mercedes foot parking brake at least clears a reasonable tray down the centre , and Mercedes tight fisted ness in not fitting an arm rest leaves it a substantial size.

At the end of the day anyone who would buy a Mercedes knows that they pay extra for build quality and longevity. They accept low relative levels of equipment seeing it as a trade off against the quality of that which is fitted.

Despite some public rumblings about quality testing on the newer Benz cars, there is no evidence of cheapening of the breed easily found in this car. Despite its dynamic limitations its still a much admired car ( mainly by those who have never driven one!) the only real question is wouldn't it really be worth paying a bit more for a bigger torquier motor , which I'm sure would make it much more pleasant to drive. For you to want a new C180 you would have to be a very undemanding driver or just plain desperate to acquire the Mercedes Kudos at minimum cost.

All in all a nice car its just desperately short of 50 extra horsepower.



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