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More than just a facelift

Dr Alan Moran is a fan of Mercedes’ new ‘facelifted’ C-Class

Recently MSL Ballsbridge, the Mercedes garage, has started to display the Mercedes cars of the O’Flaherty collection, the man who started importing Mercedes (and Volkswagen) to Ireland. The cars rotate on a monthly basis to display some of the finest examples of automotive history in Ireland.

To me, there is a subtle sales message: ‘If these cars can last this long, well, maybe your next Mercedes will too.’

Which brings me nicely to this week’s test car, the Mercedes C-Class. I have to say I was surprised the facelifted Mercedes C-Class was so good. I have driven the previous models and thought they were fine. We have an expression in our house that you won’t get a better ride in any other car than a Mercedes.

Manufacturers tend to follow particular themes with their cars. Lexus are mostly soft inter-county or inter-continental cruisers, and Audi and BMW are the sports cars. Mercedes are the refined option and now they are nudging into BMW territory with their latest models.

Anyway, the new C-Class facelift is now with us. Depending on what source I read, there appears to be a significant number of changes to the car. The advantage of being old is that I remember when the original 190 class came out, and I vividly still remember driving the first Mercedes 190 Cosworth in the country. I was supposed to be on-call in Drogheda hospital when a friend came in as a visitor. He gave me the keys and gave several women in labour the opportunity of being treated by a proper doctor as I disappeared off to see what it was all about. To this day, I still remember driving it.

Ten million versions later, and Mercedes are still churning them out. In the UK, the C-Class outsells the E-Class. In Ireland, of course, we’re better; we’re the other way around. So it’s a car they have to get right. And they have.

My test car was fitted with a new 1.6-litre turbo diesel, producing 160bhp and 310NM of torque. If you don’t know what these figures mean, take it as quite a lot. Not so much as to be a racing car, that’s the C43, but enough to satisfy you on a favourite piece of twisty road. Some people, like my wife, think it’s really fast. And speaking of favourite pieces of twisty road, the handling for a Mercedes has crept-up a few notches. Now you can feel it sitting nicely into corners, tucking in and following the line neatly and confidently, with satisfying body control. And I got 52mpg, or 5.4l/100k, depending on your chosen units. The sane can expect more.

Yet it can be driven in comfort, with minimum intrusion of the road surface into the cabin. It is no S-Class; its wheelbase is too short, but on the ‘pain scale’ of 0-10, its comfort is at a good 8, with the S at a 10 (The E-Class is 9.5!) For those who wish to increase the comfort level further, air suspension is an option, a first in this class of car.

This is listed as a ‘facelift’, a classic mid-term intervention with many subtle changes to the styling, the chassis and the interior, but mostly to the engine. And speaking of engines, the C-Class has the new all-aluminium unit coded the OM 654 we first saw in the new E-Class. Mostly, it is quiet and refined and unless you are the type who will regularly push the throttle all the way to the floor, you won’t notice the slight roughness of full throttle.

The gearbox is a nine-speed auto, with manual paddles, which actually respond quickly enough to have fun. Left in ‘comfort’ mode, it can hesitate at times shifting down — not so when in ‘sport’ mode.

With the multitude of improvements made to the C-Class, I was really hoping they would fit the wide-screen dash they use on the E and the A-Class, but I’d expect that to be next time around.

Standard equipment for 2019 includes reversing camera, multifunction steering wheel, rain sensor, large fuel tank, keyless start, folding rear back rest, LED headlights and heated multi-adjustable seats.

The new C, or the C-Class facelift, depending on what you wish to call it, has kept Mercedes up to speed and, depending on your priorities, certainly ahead of the competition in many aspects.

It has moved the game on nicely and is a significant improvement over the slightly wrinkly previous model.

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