- Expect more than 1000km per tank from the C220d if you drive it with a gentle right foot.
- C200 drives like a small sports car, but it can do with more poke under the bonnet.
- They glide well, but a low ride height might be a challenge for most of today's drivers.
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I played musical chairs with the new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class in C200 AMG Line (R911 956) and C220d Avantgarde (R912 599) format for a week to determine which model is the better executive decision.
If you refuse to step into a world of SUVs, plug-in hybrids, and electric crossovers, then the C-Class is the one for you. I've driven the 3 Series and tried the A4, but the new C-Class rises above these premium sedans with agile handling, stunning interiors, and drop-dead-gorgeous looks. Yes, both the models are expensive compared with their competitors, but Mercedes-Benz usually prices its car at a premium compared to BMWs and Audis.
Nevertheless, let's tuck into each model and then determine which one makes sense as a daily driver and family car.
Mercedes-Benz C200 AMG Line
This car must be one of the best-looking Mercedes-Benz vehicles you can buy right now. It boasts just the right proportions from all angles, and the addition of the AMG styling pack makes it look sporty without being garish. Our test car's 19-inch wheels and tyres caught the attention of enthusiasts, many of them asking if this was a C43. That's coming later; we don't know when due to the stock shortages.
Its LED headlamps, slender and serpent-like, also draw you in and majestically captivate you. Overall, the car looks very similar to the much larger S-Class sedan. Inside, too, it's borrowed heavily from the large luxury limo to make you feel like you're driving around in the lobby of a boutique hotel or popular nightclub (depending on the ambient lighting setting, of course).
There's space for five adults, although, as usual, the centre passenger will sit on a more rigid portion of the seat and have to straddle the tunnel that houses the prop shaft. Yes, the C-Class retains rear-wheel drive, and you feel this rearward bias when you're powering through the bends. Its light and agile steering, four-wheel steer an option, makes it feel so nimble and sharp in the hands. In fact, driving this new C-Class back to back with a family member's previous-generation model, I felt like the new car was two generations ahead of where it left off.
As standard, the C200 AMG Line comes with lovely safety, comfort and convenience features, including automatic climate control, a large-format touchscreen tablet infotainment system, six airbags, and a selection of driving modes. Our car came with an upgraded larger touchscreen with additional MBUX (voice control functions). We simply connected through wireless Apple CarPlay and used the optional wireless charger to keep devices topped up. You can easily add more than R100 000 in options to make it really lovely, but as standard, the specification seems worthwhile for its segment.
The C200 is now powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine that's turbocharged but augmented further by a 48-volt starter motor that can add additional power and torque when you plant your right foot. It has a small battery pack that stores energy when you brake. When you need an extra poke, gun it, and you'll immediately feel that low-end surge of torque. It felt a little like the Kompressor cars from a few generations ago. It's not the most powerful thing on earth, and it's not going to set your heart on fire for outright pace, but with 150kW and 300Nm on taps, there's more than enough for you to enjoy revving it out now and then.
The nine-speed transmission fitted to the car is smooth-shifting, but it can get confused around town if you're erratic with the throttle. The brake pedal also took some time to get used to, as the feel is not as natural as you would expect it to be in a C-Class. The stopping pedal felt like a slight pause or remote (brake-by-wire) delay before regeneration becomes braking with the pad-on-disc contact. You get used to it after a while, so it's not a deal-breaker.
Regarding consumption, the car used around 9 litres per 100km around town, but that dropped to 5 litres per 100km on the highway. Mercedes-Benz claims it will sip 6.8 litres per 100km in a combined cycle, but realistically, expect it to use more fuel than that every day.
Mercedes-Benz C220d Avantgarde
While on the topic of fuel consumption, enter the C220d. A 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine (147kW/440Nm) powers this car, yet it uses so little fuel you'd think it was a plug-in hybrid. On the highway, I achieved as low as 3.5 litres per 100km. Around town, it crept up to around 7.5 litres per 100km. It's amazingly light on juice, and if you are looking for a car that will give you at least 1000km per tank, this is it. Mercedes-Benz says its official combined cycle figure is 4.7 litres per 100km.
Like the C200 AMG Line, the C220d Avantgarde came exquisitely finished inside and out. Meticulous shut lines, good use of synthetics and plastics and premium materials all came together nicely to make you feel like you're getting your money's worth. After all, we're looking at million rand vehicles here; they need to feel special. The C220d feels special because it glides like a luxury limo along the road. It's superb inside, and the use of 18-inch wheels and tyres in this model as standard gives it a much more excellent ride for daily driving compared with the C200 AMG Line.
The seats in both cars were comfortable, but the Avantgarde's chairs felt the best, thanks to softer padding. The sports seats in the AMG Line do well to hold you in place if you're cornering aggressively, but let's face it, you rather have the more comfortable seat that's going to keep you alert and in better driving condition for those longer journeys. The view from the car is easy to live with, but its ride height can be a challenge if you live in an area with steep driveways.
The bottoms of the C200 AMG Line and the C220d Avantgarde touched a lot during my test drive, so I had to take it easy over speedbumps, up and drown driveways and when entering and leaving business complexes that have those spike barriers. I guess this is why more consumers prefer SUVs and crossovers with greater ride height, so you aren't worried about scraping the bottom of your car or leaving its sump behind. I can understand Mercedes-Benz has optimised the ride height for aero efficiency, but the only real weak spot in the vehicle has to be that it's too low to the ground for our potholed South African roads.
Driving the C220d, you don't feel like it's powered by diesel, as the engine is refined and idles quietly even when cold. I liked this powerplant, and it has to be one of the best diesel engines ever. Low-end grunt, top-end power, the ability to rev freely almost as if it were petrol-powered. It's awe-inspiring and makes a great case if you want to stick to an oil-burner one last time before going hybrid or all-electric in the future.
Which one is the better buy?
If you prefer petrol, there's nothing wrong with going the C200 route. However, I'd pick the C220d because of its super ride, handling, and amazingly frugal engine. I do not doubt that if you brim a C220d and drive it nicely from full, you can travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town with diesel left to spare. The C200 will also do well on the long-road thanks to that nine-speed autobox, but I just couldn't get used to its firmer ride around town.
While the world turns its back on the humble sedan, you can rest assured that this C-Class is the most refined iteration to wear the moniker. It's imposing, graceful, and a million bucks worth of mobility, making you feel like a million bucks when you drive it. The question is whether you are prepared to pay a million rand for a C-Class or if the recently reintroduced seven-seater GLB is the better choice.
All Mercedes-Benz C-Class models come with a two-year or unlimited distance mechanical warranty and a five-year or 100 000km Maintenance Plan.
Would you buy a C200 AMG Line or a C220d Avantgarde? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.