It’s a good, clean engine to drive, with a lot more low-down performance than you’d normally credit from such a small powerplant. The trouble with it is that while it’s smooth, it’s not especially pleasant to listen to when it’s being worked hard. And it’s only a 1.5, so working hard is sometimes unavoidable.
The tone at the coalface is a bit too thrashy and the effort a bit too obvious for a car carrying a three-pointed star, though that only comes across in the vocals, not the vibrations.
The electric boosting has been seamlessly integrated into the powertrain, to the point at which it’s impossible to know where the electric boosting stops and the four-pot takes over completely.
Its Eco mode is the car’s truly happy place, with the engine capable of switching off completely at highway speeds to "sail" to save fuel. The only downside here is that it’s not sufficiently developed to allow the electric motor to throw in a bit of torque here and there to keep the petrol motor switched off on small rises.
Down low, the thing jumps off the line with a surprising alacrity as 160Nm of instant electric power fill in until the turbo can talk the petrol engine’s torque curve into waking up. It’s a languid thing for wafting along and moving easily from one place to another, though it’s caught short anytime you want it to lift its skirts. That’s when you find the steering to be Audi-like in its numbness, the engine exertions sound all too obvious and the chassis’ balance undone by the suspension setup’s disinterest in piling on pace.
There’s a 2.0l turbo four in the C300, but we never had seat time in it and, besides, it doesn’t get the C200’s more interesting mild-hybrid boost. It does get another 13kW of power, though, taking it up to 190kW and 370Nm of torque.
There’s been a heap of things transpiring over at Benz’s diesel department, and I’m not just talking about the legal advisers telling everyone to shut up about thermal switching (which turned off most emissions controls below 6°C or above 26°C).
Now, the OM654 2.0l diesel is fine down to -7°C and up to 35°C, so Benz insists. The four pot has multiple exhaust gas recirculation, plus it has snuggled the SCR particulate filter and the SCR catalytic converter right up close to the turbocharger to shorten the cold- running phase.
For low-down strength and sheer economy, the C-Class range doesn’t get any better than the diesel engines and the pick of them is in the C220d. This is the engine with 143kW of power and 400Nm of torque from only 1,600r/min, and it thumps out emissions figures of 117g/km of CO2 in sedan form, for a claimed average figure of 4.4l/100km.
It has taken a huge step towards reducing the noise, vibration and harshness levels that dogged its otherwise-impressive predecessor. It’s a much more refined motor than it was before, though it still hasn’t toppled BMW’s equivalent diesel fours as still the pick of the premium bunch.
It’s very strong at low engine speeds and it’s flexible everywhere. It feels as though this is the engine-transmission package the C-Class was really born to carry, and it wears it well.
Again, its handling package feels stolid and conservatively safe and comfortable rather than athletic. Keep it within that day-to-day handling envelope and you’ll struggle to find a complaint against it. Push it harder and it will do what you ask of it.
In terms of luxury and functionality, the C-Class remains a middle step between a 3 Series and an A4.