What is it?
The Mercedes-Benz C220d is the biggest-selling version of Britain’s biggest-selling compact executive saloon, tested here in recently facelifted form, out to show its mettle on British roads. Better pay attention in the office canteen, in which case.
The C-Class’s recent facelift brought with it a number of new engines, all hooked up to nine-speed automatic transmissions – and we’ve already sampled the very newest: a 1.5-litre 48V turbo petrol which powers the new C200. But it’s the upper-middle-range diesel, 192bhp C220d that Mercedes expects to continue to dominate the sales mix.
The car’s also now got optional digital instruments, some new active safety systems, new ‘multibeam’ LED headlights and redesigned bumpers front and rear: the usual midcycle update fare. For now at least, prices on the wider C-Class range start from just north of £33,000 with CO2 emissions from 117g/km.
What's it like?
For this car, Mercedes has retired its long-serving and somewhat coarse 2.1-litre four-pot diesel engine and brought in its new-generation 2.0-litre, as seen in the latest E-Class. What a difference it makes.
While there’s still the faintest edge of uncouthness to the engine’s combustion under load compared with the very quietest four-cylinder diesels, the new C220d has just as much apparent torque as its predecessor and feels just as strong when accelerating; is much freer-revving; and will return an indicated 60mpg on a longish journey of mixed roads when moving with the flow of traffic. Having been a bit of a relative weakness for the C-Class for decades, the C220d’s engine is now a real strength.
And yet this is still a C-Class: a luxury compact executive option in among pseudo sport-saloons, catering best to a fairly laid-back driving style. Rush that new nine-speed gearbox and it can hesitate a bit during bursts of kickdown acceleration. Hurry it down less than perfectly smooth roads and the car’s standard ‘agility control comfort’ steel suspension, which does deliver an absorbent ride at mooching speeds, allows the body to jounce and porpoise a little too freely over bigger intrusions to provide great onboard tranquillity. The rear axle can also occasionally seem to stumble a bit over sharper edges.
Perhaps Mercedes is a bit guilty of confusing a soft, under-damped ride for a comfortable one, then. But at least we needn’t criticise this version of the car for not being more athletic – though it’s by no means sloppy-handling – since you can have ‘Sport’ or ‘AMG Line’ trims with increasingly shorter and firmer set-ups if you want better body control. And if it was mine, I would.