SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 31,750 Price As Tested $ 37,535 Engine Type w/SC* DOHC 16-valve 2.3 Liter I4 w/SMFI** Engine Size 140 cid/2295 cc Horsepower 185 @ 5300 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 2500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 105.9"/67.7"/177.4" Transmission Five-speed automatic Curb Weight 3273 pounds Fuel Capacity 16.4 gallons Tires (F/R) 205/55R16 performance tires Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.32 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 21/29/26 0-60 MPH 8.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 16.0 seconds @ 88.5 mph Top speed (electronically limited) 130 mph *Supercharged ** Sequential multi-point fuel injection
(Mercedes Benz always tries to keep a step or two ahead of its completion with its advanced technology, says Bob Hagin. Matt Hagin thinks this is a great thing, since that kind of technical pressure makes better vehicles available to buyers of all makes.)
BOB - Although the term "entry-level" seems like something of a misnomer in the case of a Mercedes-Benz, that's what the company considers the C230K that we're writing up this week. It's a long way from being a "stripper" model, and its sticker price isn't low enough to be considered cheap, so it's really a luxury item in a relatively small package. At 2.3 liters, the little four-banger engine can't rely on cubic inches alone to pull this 3200-pound four-door along at the anticipated Mercedes clip, so the company bolted on a Roots-type positive displacement "blower." This bumps the power up to a very respectable 185 horses and an even more impressive torque rating of 200. And by using a positive-displacement supercharger rather than an exhaust-driven turbocharger, the driver doesn't experience that unexpected burst of power that a spooled-up turbocharger sometimes provides. The engineers at Mercedes Benz are in a transaction program to swing over to engines that are single-cammers with three valves per cylinder, but the engine in our C230K still has a neat twin-cam, four-valve powerplant.
MATT - The "K" in the model designation indicates that it has a "Kompressor," the technical name for a supercharger. It pushes more fuel and air into the cylinders than could normally be pulled in from atmospheric pressure. This makes the power output go up exponentially. It's a relatively easy way to boost the power of an engine without having to do an entire redesign, but the basic unit has to be pretty well built to take the extra stress and stay reliable.
BOB - The small C-Class sedan was introduced by Mercedes-Benz in '94 as the C220 and it looks pretty much the same today. It comes in three trim levels, with the V8-powered C43 being the top-of-the-line. That one is the factory hot-rod version, and it's the product of the company's in-house speed shop, "AMG." And while that car is fast, the performance of our test car is pretty impressive, too, since it will rip off an eight-second 0-to-60 acceleration time and is capable of reaching a top speed of about 130 mph. Our car came with a "Sport Package," which includes bigger wheels and tires, tighter settings on the suspension and seats that are more sporting. I'm a fan of manual transmissions, so I was disappointed not to find one offered on the C230K, but the car has the next best thing. Its five-speed automatic can be shifted manually by moving the leveler to the left for down gears and to the right for up gears with the middle being "Drive."
MATT - With the push of a button, the transmission goes into a winter mode for snow and icy roads. It forces the car to get going in a more sedate fashion and keeps the drive wheels from spinning when road grip is low. Traction control is also standard and it would be hard to get stuck in the snow with all the fancy gadgetry on this car. Mercedes-Benz has made its Electronic Stability Program standard on all its C-Class cars and it works in conjunction with the traction control and anti-lock braking system. It corrects understeer and oversteer by applying brake pressure to various wheels to keep the car in line. Best of all, the driver isn't even aware that it's happening. In addition, panic braking is controlled by the computer for best stopping.
BOB - The interior of the C230K is as lush and well thought-out as the most expensive Mercedes-Benz models. The interior has a tasteful amount of polished wood trim without looking overdone, and the front seats are adjustable 10 ways. It's got a "smart key" system that disables things if someone is trying to steal it, and the washer/wiper system turns on automatically at the first sign of drizzle. It's getting to the point now where these new cars almost don't need driver input.
MATT - Now if they could only devise a system where the car can make its own payments, I'd buy one myself.