First Drive – 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class facelift

By thoriq, 01 November 2018
2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Yes, we’re still fresh off the new generation A-Class hatchback’s glitzy local launch, but there’s indeed little in the way at stopping the mighty German three-pointed star marque from keeping its momentum going before capping off a memorable year.

To that end, the refreshed fourth generation C-Class saloon’s arrival on our soil today is timely indeed. We’ve driven both the C200 and C43 through Luxembourg and Germany a few months prior, and here’s what they’re like…


Mercedes-Benz keenly pointed that they’ve performed over 6,500 changes throughout this saloon entire line-up. To put in perspective, that’s roughly 50% of the entire car – a move reminiscent of how they refreshed the W212 E-Class.

 Some are obvious to spot like the lightly restyled exterior, some not easily seen like the revised cabin and powertrain line up. As far as skin value goes, you wouldn’t be wrong at mistaking this for the old car indeed. Nevertheless, there are some tasty updates here such as the new LED headlamps, plus the restyled taillights, grille and bumper amongst them.

The most important changes of course lie underneath, with the cabin getting a host of new trim materials and new design touches on top of an array of new tech and features, mostly inspired by the S-Class.

There’s also a new and advanced 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol heart powering the C200 base model – the most significant change we’ve spotted thus far. And if you thought the C43 AMG could use more oomph, then your prayers are answered too.

Unlike the bulk of its rivals, the genius in the C-Class lies in its act of doing its own thing entirely. This is perfectly exemplified in the refreshed C200 base model where comfort and refinement are the standout features.

As mentioned, there’s a smorgasbord of new trim materials all round besides leather. There’s a series of new plush fabric bits and dash trims too. Also new here are the steering wheel and digital instrument display panel, the former housing controls for several improved driving assist systems present.

In the case of the latter, they’re ludicrously customisable, offering three different colour schemes plus the ability to switch the right-hand dial between sat nav, a G meter, trip info, or a good old fashioned rev counter displays.

On the move, the C200’s new ‘M264’ heart has plenty to offer. Besides the healthy 184hp and 280Nm outputs to power the rear wheel via Merc’s slick 9-speed auto box, it also packs an alternator-based ‘mild hybrid’ system called EQ Boost (first seen in the CLS-Class) to keep it green too, sipping as low as 6.3 litres/100km (combined).

Predictably, this slight electrification blends in pretty subtly, and you’ll only notice it when you switch into its more eco-minded drive modes where the engine cuts out under coasting with just a slight whirr when pulling away.

Despite being the ‘base’ offering in the line up, the C200 actually does a solid impression of its bigger brother the S-Class.

Overall, this is a relatively brisk engine for its size. It does however require a heavier right foot application when we took on a few stretches of the Autobahn during our drive. Where it excels most though is in urban traffic, delivering zippy and efficient performance that’s perfect for stop-go traffic.

Despite being the ‘base’ offering in the line up, the C200 actually does a solid impression of its bigger brother the S-Class. It’s not as sharp as the rivalling 3-Series, but it rides much more comfortably, feeling noticeably more refined than the outgoing car indeed.

We have little doubts at how Merc has refined this entry-level offering indeed S-Class-inspired changes granting the ability to punch above its size well enough too. Surely, this much refinement will tempt many easily…

Moving up the range, the C43 AMG also gets the same sort of treatment. Despite the vast changes Merc claims, you really cannot see much on the outside apart from the new – and more advanced – LED headlamps plus other light refreshments – grille, wheels, etc.

Climb aboard and this rather racier offering doesn’t feel too different from the outgoing car it replaces. The changes you see in the lower end cars are mirrored here like the new steering, digital instrument panel and infotainment screen. Of course, this being the AMG offering, you get a darker, racier carbon effect finish to match.

This sportier offering sees its 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 heart uprated slightly with 390hp and 520Nm – power bumped up by 23hp here. Drive goes to all four wheels via an AMG 4MATIC AWD and 9-speed auto box, allowing 0-100kph sprints in just 4.7 seconds before topping out at an electronically governed 250kph.

Though the power bump is welcoming, you can’t actually feel it in the hot seat. Thankfully, what backs this up now is the revised sports exhaust system, which now comes with a button in the lower centre console that lets you activate more sound to match the added go too.


Besides the added power and performance, Merc have also added refinement here too, especially when you put it in comfort and eco drive modes. In other words, this racier offering can now act equally as civilised as its non-AMG siblings when you set it to.

The icing on this sporty offering’s cake though is its uprated AMG Ride Control suspension feature. This system was great in the outgoing car, but Merc has taken things up a few notches in this new one, thus enhancing this sport sedan’s versatility and daily usability even further.

Having driven in through both bits of the Autobahn out of Luxembourg and some twisty B-roads leading into Southern Germany’s famed Moselle Valley, there wasn’t a time where we felt this sports sedan was lacking in both fun and comfort, the latter only superseded by the lesser but comfort-focused C200 of course.

Simply put, if you liked how the C43 AMG as it was before, you’ll like this one even more for sure.

Our Verdict
Looking back, it’s hard to be convinced that this refreshed C-Class line up is ‘half new’ just by the way it looks. That thought disappears almost immediately once we got to grips with what’s underneath, which is where the C-Class’s newfound refinement and expanded versatility shines.

As far as first impressions go though, there’s little in the way to doubt on this mid-sized saloon’s impressive act overall. While it’s too early to call it as the segment’s best, let’s just say that the incoming new seventh-generation BMW 3-Series rival will definitely have its hands full to eclipse this…