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Mercedes-Benz has confirmed its position as an innovator in the automotive world with a range of new petrol engines for the C-Class.
Launched in 2007, the current generation C-Class was an immediate success, establishing itself as market leader and, three years on, it shows no signs of slowing.
In April this year, the C-Class was again the top selling model in the class with 565 sales, 188 more than nearest rival, the BMW 3 Series. For the first four months of the year, the C-Class remains at the top of the charts with 1985 sales - 324 more than the 3 Series.
But, in this class, competition is fierce and you can't rest on your laurels.
Mercedes-Benz is known for its Kompressor petrol engines, most recently the 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine in the entry C 200 model. But now, a slightly less glamorous-sounding badge adorns the boot lid.
CGI stands for charged gasoline injection and signals the end of the supercharger (for this four cylinder engine) and the introduction of turbo charging to extract maximum power and efficiency, from the petrol engines.
The C 200 CGI replaces the C 200 Kompressor in the C-Class line-up.
Why turbo charging? The technology has reached the point where there are real advantages. The first is that turbos are lighter. The new engine weighs four kilograms less than the outgoing supercharged engine. Turbo engines produce more torque at a lower engine rev which makes for better driveability.
Turbo charging also helps reduce fuel consumption. The fuel figure for the CGI is 7.3L/100km, down from 8.1L/100km for the previously supercharged version.
So, once seemingly diverging requirements - more power but less fuel usage - are now able to be met at the same time.
The drop in fuel consumption has lead to a drop in CO2 emissions compared with the previous supercharged model - down from 189g/km to 171g/km for the CGI 200 and 180g/km for the higher output C 250 CGI.
It's all part of BlueEFFICIENCY - the car maker's name for its package of initiatives designed to reduce energy consumption in certain models.
Engineers put every design element of the car under the microscope to find ways to reduce fuel consumption. For example, the underside of the C-Class is now smoother to provide an easier path through the air - reducing the energy required to do so.
The C-Class has been put on a diet to reduce weight compared with the previous model.
Weight-saving measures include a thinner front windscreen, less glass, partially blanking off the radiator grille to reduce airflow into the engine compartment and lower wind resistance.
Mercedes-Benz has even sealed the joins between the bonnet and headlamps, as well as between the bumper and headlights to improve airflow around the front end.
The new C-Class range comprises sedan models and four wagons (estates).
The all-new C 250 CGI is powered by the same 1.8-litre turbo engine as the C 200 CGI but it is tweaked to produce 150kW of power and 310Nm of torque. The C 200 CGI has 135kW and 270Nm.
Priced at $65,900 for the sedan, it fills the void between C 200 CGI and the more-powerful C 300 V6 which starts at $89,500.
Prices remain the same for the rest of the range but there's better value, with more standard features across the C-Class range.
The new C 200 CGI sedan is priced at $57,900.
C 200 CGI: Two-zone climate-control airconditioning, speed-sensitive power steering, front electrically-adjustable seats, tilt-and reach-adjustable steering wheel, leather trim, in-dash six-disc CD player. There's also Bluetooth phone connectivity, power windows with one touch operation, cruise control, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, nine airbags (including driver's knee airbag) and stability control.
C 250 CGI: Larger output engine, entertainment and navigation system, 18-inch alloy wheels, split-folding rear seats and double cup holders.
Rear camera, full electric driver and passenger (front) seats, electrically adjustable steering column, data management system for the audio system with seven-inch display for navigation, Harman/Kardon premium sound system and a premium climate control system.
BlueEFFICIENCY and small capacity engines brings visions of years gone by where the baby Benz's performed like wheezing emphysema sufferers - short of breath and barely able to cope with the daily grind.
The symptoms are still around for some, but for Mercedes-Benz that was another era.
The new models we drove performed like a 'Benz' should in 2010 - refined and capable. Despite their diminutive engine displacement, the C 200 CGI and C 250 CGI felt as though there was a much larger engine underneath the three-pointed star's nose.
The 1.8-litre turbo engine has a variable turbocharger and, combined with direct fuel injection, produces 20Nm more torque than the old supercharged engine at 1000 rpm less.
Cruising outside Melbourne, the C 250 CGI was the pick to drive with the extra torque (310Nm) of the higher output engine. This engine matches perfectly to the five-speed automatic gearbox.
Overtaking and passing also benefits from the extra torque and you don't have to rev the engine like a chainsaw to get the job done.
The new tyre and alloy wheel (17-inch) combination hasn't hurt ride quality either. It's still class-leading but now the larger wheels help fill out the guards and give the entry-level model a bit more presence.
BlueEFFICIENCY doesn't mean you get the blues when you get behind the wheel. The models driven performed admirably.
And, with some additional equipment added, and the new C 250 CGI positioned between the C 200 CGI and the more expensive C 300, Mercedes isn't resting on its laurels.
|Mercedes-Benz C200||Mercedes-Benz C 250 CGI|
Rear camera is optional as is the "keyless-go" system
Rear camera is optional as is the "keyless-go" system
|Country of Manufacture||Germany||Germany|
C 200 CGI sedan - $57,900
C 250 CGI sedan - $65,900
|Number of cylinders||4||4|
|Engine size||1.8 L||1.8 L|
|Engine aspiration||Turbo charged||Turbo charged|
|Claimed max power (kW)||135 kW @ 5250 rpm||150 kW @ 5250 rpm|
|Fuel consumption (ave)||7.3 L/100km||7.7 L/100km|
|ADR avg CO2 Emissions||171 g/km||180 g/km|