The Wheel Deal

Fixing you up with life in the fast lane.
Posted: December 8th, 2010 | By Thomas Falkiner

Mercedes-Benz C180 CGI BlueEfficiency AMG

The striking Mercedes-Benz C180 CGI BlueEfficiency AMG proves that the C-Class isn’t just for octogenarians, writes The Wheel DealMy flat mate is one of those people who spends his day segmenting the population into neat little pie charts and graphs. I don’t know how he does it but by fiddling around on his laptop this process allows him to ascertain what sort of people are interested in a particular type of product or brand.

Normally his predictions are spot on but in the case of the new Mercedes-Benz C180 CGI, well, he and his marketing supercomputer were left feeling a somewhat befuddled. You see simply going on history alone the C-Class is a car that traditionally appeals to the octogenarian sect but, and much to his surprise, I found myself (a 27-year-old) rather taken with it. Now although he was unable to explain this anomaly, I can put this exception to the rule down to three big capital letters: AMG.

Now in case you’re not au fait with the world of Mercedes-Benz, AMG is basically the firm’s dedicated high-performance wing, a sports division that makes cars of the Silver Star both cooler and faster. With the C180 CGI you can discount the latter but in terms of aesthetics it’s clear that they’ve finally brought some much-needed fire to the belly of this beast. It’s expensive – bolt on another R27 500 on top of the R20 000 you need to shell out for the obligatory Avantgarde trim – but once fitted the AMG Sports Package does much to bump the otherwise innocuous C180 CGI up the automotive Scoville Scale.

Licked in Obsidian Black paint, I couldn’t believe what a difference those racy 17-inch alloys, side skirts and pronounced front and rear aprons made to our test car. Normally I feel a bit like a fish out of water when piloting a lesser C-Class but for once I felt unusually hip; like some self-made businessman with a hot model girlfriend and one of those minimalist loft apartments buried somewhere deep in the Johannesburg CBD.

This AMG treatment is just as evident on the inside thanks to some wicked design touches including a three-spoke, paddle-shifter equipped steering wheel; an aluminum gear knob; stainless-steel pedals and a trick tube-type instrument cluster that mimics the one used in the hairy-chested C63. Very stylish, very slick, I was suitably impressed with this car’s cockpit and found that it compares to anything hewn by rivals Audi and BMW.

Needless to say, being topped off with a truly brilliant seating position – the amount of adjustability Mercedes have managed to work into the mix is admirable – this makeover sets high hopes for the driving experience. And for the most part the C180 CGI delivers.

Swapping that trademark Mercedes supercharger for a more fuel-efficient turbocharger, the smooth-revving direct-injection engine hustles this baby C-Class along at a fairly rapid rate. It is not the fastest thing on four wheels, granted, but there’s more than enough power and torque on tap to get a taste of that sweet rear wheel-drive chassis. Sitting atop a lower-than-average suspension setup (AMG have slammed this model by 15mm), it’s crisp, nimble and actually very good when firing through corners.

That old-school five-speed automatic gearbox may rob the driver of a certain degree of involvement – even in Sport Mode it’s no ball of fire – but on the whole there’s not much else I could pull my nose up at. In the comfort stakes it manages to score highly with a nicely balanced ride and very little wind/road noise intrusion when travelling at normal highway speeds. This, incidentally, can be attributed to this Merc’s best-in-class aerodynamics; just one of the many elements that contribute to the firm’s fuel-saving latest BlueEfficiency technology.

In the end, not quite as dynamic as the equivalent BMW 3 Series but definitely more interesting than the comparable Audi A4, the new C180 CGI Avantgarde AMG is a surprisingly lustful executive that does a great job at smashing the C-Class stereotype. It’s a pricey add-on, yes, but for the premium you pay that all-important AMG Sports Package really makes this Mercedes an enticing proposition on nearly every level. Plus buying it means that you’ll mess with a good few marketer’s heads, which I kind of like.

Mercedes-Benz C180 CGI BlueEfficiency AMG at a Glance:

Engine: 1796cc four-cylinder turbo

Power: 115kW @ 5000rpm

Torque: 250Nm @ 1800 – 4200rpm

0-100km/h: 9.0-seconds (claimed)

Top Speed: 220km/h (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 7.6/100km (claimed) 8.6l/100km (achieved)

CO2: 169g/km

Price: R390 700

We like:

Attractive AMG styling

Fine chassis

Practical and good to drive

We Don’t:

Slow automatic gearbox

AMG goodness demands a premium

Tempting options can push up price

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