Does the C220 CDI serve a better role than the C250 CDI in winning clients for Merc's junior executive oil-burner?
When the current-generation C-class was launched five years ago, Mercedes-Benz Thailand offered only one diesel version of it: the C250 CDI which came with a 204hp twin-turbo 2.1-litre that proved to be useful enough in keeping its less powerful 320d rival from BMW at bay.
It was only after the C-class was facelifted that a second diesel choice came in the guise of the C220 CDI boasting the same OM651 engine as the C250 CDI albeit with lesser output for better efficiency (see graphic). Priced 2.59 million baht, the C220 CDI is a good 500,000 baht cheaper than the C250 CDI, although that considerable difference is also the result of the trim levels: the former comes in Elegance and the latter in Avantgarde.
To make decisions easier for punters of the diesel C-class, Mercedes-Benz has conveniently dropped the C250 from the line-up. Right or wrong move?
This Oemmer diesel engine was always impressive for its massive torque output, especially in C250 form. And despite boasting 100Nm less grunt, the C220 still packs a punch on the move, so to speak.
Even on demanding mountain roads, the C220 rarely showed any signs of throwing in the white towel. It simply has plenty of torque reserves to exploit.
And while the improvement in economy isn't that vast on paper, you'll be able to achieve slightly better figures in the C220. Put it like this, we managed to achieve over 20kpl on a gentle cruise upcountry _ something we couldn't with the C250.
Despite the C-class fast approaching the end of its lifecycle in today's generation, it's worth noting that it still has a comfortable, stable and quiet ride to stand out in the Thai junior executive car segment.
Ride is comfortable at most times.
The diesel engine of the C220 is so closely associated with the C250's that makes its flaws rather unsurprising.
While the C220 pulls like a train, it sounds too much like one. In fact, engine refinement has never been a forte in Merc's current four-cylinder diesels, especially if you've been acquainted with oil-burners from BMW.
There's an Eco mode function in the C220 with automatic stop/start.
And it's also here where you clearly hear and feel how the diesel comes into life after energy must be drawn from the engine.
Despite what is being said on the stats sheet, the C220 has some turbo lag above idle speed and the powerband feels quite narrow _ just like in the C250.
And with the arrival of the youthful A-class and the garish E-class facelift, the C-class looks dated and conservative alongside them in the showroom.
BUY OR BYE?
It's a pretty good strategy whereby lower spec versions of any particular model come later in the lifecycle because the lower price simply helps offset any loss in new-car appeal.
And this is exactly the case with the C220 CDI. It doesn't offer significantly inferior performance to the C250 CDI.
And combine that with better economy and far lower price (yup, things like the navigation system have been lost in the process), the C220 is more sensible than the C250 for buyers.
Actually, when the all-new C-class is set to be launched next year, Mercedes-Benz Thailand should simply start diesel sales with a 170hp model just like this C220 CDI.
Navigation system has been omitted for the sake of price.
THE WORTHY ALTERNATIVE
The decision by Mercedes-Benz Thailand to introduce the C220 CDI a little later than usual could have been for strategic reasons.
This 2.59 million baht diesel C-class was probably kept as a trump card for the price war against BMW's latest F30-coded 320d, launched in early 2012.
Powered by a 184hp/380Nm 2.0-litre engine, the 320d is priced 2.899 million baht and was a cheaper bet than the C250 CDI.
So, for you dear reader, does that mean it's now worth saving 300,000 baht for the C220 CDI over the 320d? If it's a company car, maybe yes. But if you can stretch the budget a little on your own, we'd say otherwise.
It's not that the 320d is more frugal (with a 22.8kpl claim) because you'd have to cover some distance to make up for the price difference.
But it's for the way the car goes on the move. In the 320d, there's better engine refinement and tractability, plus smoother power delivery (partial thanks going to that eight-speed 'box).
And topping it off, the 320d is fresh on the market and is more enjoyable to drive overall, despite some small issues about its fidgety low-speed ride.
The 320d sparkles on the move.