Young at heart

2011-04-01 13:49

For many years Mercedes-Benz has been slugged as an “old man’s car” and the German brand, which celebrates 125 years in business this year, feeds into that perception.

Launched in Tenerife, off the coast of Spain recently, the new C-Class and SLK BlueEFFICIENCY models are the first new cars made by the German manufacturer this year – and they ­reflect a younger feel.

The volcanic isle of Tenerife is the biggest among the Canary Islands. We drove the two cars right around it. The exhilarating, twisty roads and hairpin bends perfectly showcased the dynamic handling of these super machines.

While the C-Class gets little more than a facelift inside and out, the SLK is a third generation model and so ­entirely new.

The brand’s reputation as a retirement car is in contrast to Mercedes-Benz’s powerful stable of models. The C-Class dates back almost 30 years with the 190E model in 1982, and it has come a long way since then.

It has sold 8.5 million units since its inception and is considered the brand’s golden child.

» The C-Class will arrive in South Africa in June while the SLK is set to land in August.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class
What’s new:
» New headlights with bi-Xenon lamps;
» More aggressive front and rear bumper with similar traits found on the new SLK and SLS;
» All models come standard with the stop-start eco-function to help reduce fuel ­consumption;
» The C-Class is now 31% more fuel efficient;
» The car is lighter and more ­powerful;
» New telematics system with the online command system to allow texts to be read on screen as well as accessing the internet; However, South Africa is not yet able to ­support that kind of technology; and
» Ten new driver assist systems such as ­attention assist and blind-spot assist.
» Eco stop start standard on four-cylinder models only

What we like: The styling is more ­aggressive than ever before. Its highlight is inside with a rearranged layout and a plush interior, which looks far better than the cheap plastic in the current model.

Mercedes-Benz SLK
What’s new:
» A brand new “magic sky roof” which can be changed from light to dark by the touch of a button;
» It has a longer, more defined bonnet;
» The rear is shorter and sharper in design;
» It has strong traits of the 190 SL from the 1950s blended with the modern SLS; and
» Much better and up-to-date interior.

What we like: The fact that it looks similar to its big brother, the SLS, with the gullwings, the design is a quantum leap from the current model. It looks sexier with aggressive styling and a very low stance.
The heated seats keep one as warm as an egg in a nest,even when the top is down. While the car seems agile, the gearbox was not as impressive – especially while in manual. It felt as though something was ­missing.
The SLK has the same new driver-assist systems as the C-Class and includes a direct steering system and torque vectoring brake system. The SLK 250 will not be available locally.

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