It’s taken South Africans far longer to fall in love with the turbodiesel engine than our European cousins, particularly when it comes to luxury cars. The stigma of diesel being for tractors and bakkies is a hard one to shake, but one can thank BMW in particular for driving the change in perception, because its 320d certainly proved that turbodiesel can also mean performance and refinement – barring the odd blown engine, of course… Mercedes-Benz’s current C-Class, already one of the most popular cars on the local market, now gains some turbodiesel grunt and we were cautioned that it’s a real handful. Could this Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI be the first “performance diesel” from Merc?
No exterior cluesThe only real clue to the presence of the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI is the badge on the bootlid. As per usual, Mercedes-Benz has been conservative in the car’s design execution, but for many this will be a positive. The current C-Class is a handsome machine, unlikely to date fast and has found a very diverse South African clientele. Many of these potential customers will appreciate the C270 CDI’s subtle styling. In fact, they may enjoy “smoking” the competition off the line in a car that looks like a bog-standard C180K!
There are no Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI badges inside, of course, so the only clue to the identity of this particular model is the rev limiter. And why would you want it any other way? The current C-Class has a great interior, boasting superb build quality, efficient ergonomics and high levels of luxury and comfort. Rear space is also very good, aided by a long 2 715 mm wheelbase. And the 430 L boot will swallow most families’ holiday luggage with ease.
Elegance trim means a fairly extensive list of standard features come standard, including climate control, auto lights/wipers, electrically adjustable front seats, xenon headlamps, a radio/CD player sound system, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, leather upholstery and six airbags. You do have to pay extra for satellite navigation, however.
Serious muscleThe advanced, 20-valve, five-cylinder 2,7-litre engine is borrowed from the brand’s M-Class SUV, where it has proven a popular choice among consumers looking for a balance of performance and economy. And you have to keep in mind that if an engine can move a vehicle as big as an M-Class around with some verve, then it should do wonders in a relatively compact sedan. The maximum power figure of 125 kW is not the most important. It is the 400 Nm of torque, available from a low 1 800 rpm that really defines this powerplant. Crucially the torque remains on tap until 2 600 rpm. Power goes to the rear wheels via five-speed automatic transmission called Touchshift, because it offers the option of manual shifting, too. Best of all, when using manual mode, the gearbox will not automatically shift up when it reaches the limiter. It will wait for the driver’s instruction, and for many, that is a clear sign that this C-Class was developed with some enthusiastic driving in mind.
Certainly, standing-start sprints provided further evidence supporting the above hypothesis. Switch out the ESP. Dial up the revs while standing on the brake. Release… and the result is a cloud of smoke as the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI lights up its rear tyres, before lunging forward and pinning the occupants in their seats. A 0-100 km/h time of just over nine seconds is the result with the Mercedes topping out at a heady 225 km/h. Such performance usually comes with a significant consumption penalty, but when driven with restraint, the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI will consume an average of as little as 8,4 L/100 km, which includes town and highway driving.
Dynamically, there isn’t really any difference between the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI and its less powerful (petrol) siblings. The basic set-up is a good one, striking a fine balance between ride comfort, stability and at least a measure of agility. It’s not a car that exactly “comes alive” when pushed hard, but it does the job without much squeal and understeer. So, not a cornering king, then, but rather a straight-line blaster.
This means the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI is an exceptionally fine (and fast) long-distance cruiser. With a full complement of passengers on board, including their luggage, the C-Class will provide comfortable and economical touring with an indecent turn of speed when required.
Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI - VerdictUltimately, the Mercedes-Benz C270 CDI is not a sports sedan, even though the raw performance figures may suggest so. There’s nothing about its appearance or dynamic set-up that suggests that this was Mercedes-Benz’s aim in the first place. But what we do have here is a very fine (and very fast) luxury sedan with exceptional straight-line performance and good overall fuel economy. We suspect it will not only be typical Mercedes customers that will approve, but that the C270 CDI will also convert a large number of petrol addicts to the wonders of diesel.
- Classy design
- Build quality
- Power/economy balance
- Ride comfort
- Not much…
- Lack of fold-down rear seat
Engine: 2,7-litre, five-cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 125 kW @ 4 200 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 1 800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: 225 km/h
0-100 km/h: 9,1 seconds
Fuel economy: 8,4 litres/100 km
- Audi A4 3,0 TDI Quattro Tiptronic: Brand new on the market and certainly very appealing. Good looks clothe an upmarket cabin loaded with toys and then there’s also the engine, a stunningly powerful unit that also delivers great economy. Oh, and it’s got Quattro all-wheel drive…
- BMW 330d Exclusive Steptronic: Quite pricey but very appealing, especially to the driving enthusiasts out there. The dynamics are class leading, and the engine very possibly too, delivering a whopping 150 kW and 410 Nm of torque. Good standard spec, too.
- Volvo S60 2,4 D5 Geartronic: Another newcomer to the executive diesel scene and at first glance a surprisingly strong rival, although the engine is down on power and torque. At the price, the specification level and build quality are commendable. But resale will be atrocious. Could be a great used buy.