Mercedes has been a little slow off the mark with its environmental campaign, but hopes it range of new BlueEfficiency cars – spearheaded by the C180K BlueEfficiency on test here – will do for emissions, economy and public perceptions what EfficientDynamics has done for BMW. And there’s no price penalty for opting for the BlueEfficiency model – in fact at £22,585 it’s actually £815 cheaper than the standard C180K model it replaces (although that includes the recent 2.5% VAT cut).
What is this Mercedes BlueEfficiency all about?
BlueEfficiency is the umbrella term Mercedes uses to describe the optimization of aerodynamics, use of lower rolling resistance tyres, lightweight design and energy management to cut fuel consumption and slash emissions.
Rather than roll out a set number of eco-initiatives across its range, each class gets a set of bespoke BlueEfficiency measures that suits it best. So the C180 K gets a thinner windscreen, lighter but more effective noise insulation material, lightweight forged alloy wheels for a 32kg weight reduction, bespoke Michelin tyres with 17% less rolling resistance and a intelligent energy management system.
There's also a number of body tweaks - smaller exterior mirrors, complete with LED arrow-shaped indicator lenses, a smooth underbody, enhanced panel seals, lowered suspension and a partially blanked grille – for slipperier aerodynamics. Oh, and lighter, smaller 1.6-litre engine…
What? A tiny 1.6 lump in that car. It must be slower than a slug…
It’s no tyre-smoker, but if no one told you, you’d never know that there was such a small powerplant under the bonnet. That’s because despite the 200cc drop in capacity, performance - 156bhp at 5200rpm and 170lb ft at 3000rpm – remains unchanged but now with significantly better economy and emission levels. With a useful 170lb ft of torque kicking in at 3000rpm – bang on the nose for powering past middle-lane dawdlers on the motorway – performance is brisker than you’d expect given the engine’s modest size and outputs.
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Aren’t those supercharged four-pots pretty nasty affairs?
Not in this application. The overriding impression is one of top-drawer refinement. For the most part, the smooth engine is almost inaudible. It’s only near the redline that the engine’s induction rasp can be heard – and with a low 5200rpm power peak, extending the engine is not what it’s all about. Better to waft along on that torque and let the (optional) five-speed autobox slip unobtrusively through the gears.
Bet it’s not much fun to drive, though…
Well, it’s a C-Class so yes, it may lack that ultimate chassis sparkle BMW drivers endlessly harp on about, but for 99.9% of the time, it’s a fine steer. The steering is light but unerringly accurate, the chassis feels taut and the ride quality is exceptionally well damped. So you have a car that can take a 500-mile motorway drive in its laidback stride, yet still feel alert and engaging come the corners.
It’s also a fine place to pass the time - the well-appointed and intelligently configured cabin is superbly insulated from the wind, drivetrain and road noise, and it feels solidly assembled.
Sure a diesel C-Class would be the better base for a BlueEfficiency model?
Mercedes has also launched a diesel BlueEfficiency C-class – the C250 CDI. Powered by a twin-turbo version of its 2.1-litre turbo diesel engine, it posts some impressive figures – 204bhp at 4200rpm, 369lb ft at 2000rpm, a seven second sprint to 60mph and a limited 155mph top speed, all while returning 54.3mpg and 138g/km CO2. Problem is, right-hand drive production schedules in Germany means it’s not coming to the UK until this time next year.
But the C180 K BlueEfficiency is a good start. Mercedes claims 44.8 mpg on the combined cycle means for a 650 mile range from its 14.5 gallon tank – with the optional automatic (£1125) we achieved 41mpg over 300 miles of mixed driving, helped by the new economy gauge housed in the central speedometer.
Mercedes already has 16 BlueEfficiency models in the A, B and C-class ranges, but expect that number to mushroom over the next 12 months. Based on this effort, that’ll be no bad thing.
Although this is C180K aimed at the fleet sector rather than private buyers, the current economic conditions make a compact executive that returns 44.8mpg on the combined cycle, posts a CO2 rating of 149g/km, sits in the 17% tax band, and offers a £370.80 annual saving in tax compared to its predecessor pretty attractive.
Just remember that you need to stick with the manual to get anywhere near those figures.
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