During our recent trip to France I had the pleasure to drive a rented car of a class I have never driven before: a new Mercedes C200 convertible. Being the geek I am, I played with it and all its perks until the very last minute of the last day of rent. We spent 9 days with it, making 2100 km in total.
Most of the things that intrigued or fascinated me are by all means nothing out-of-this-world, they are just probably new to me or whomever else is not used to drive a nice car like that.
Let me then share with you some of the most interesting facts.
Security sensors, they are all around you.
The car is always actively inspecting its surroundings, giving you visual and auditive feedbacks whenever something is considered to be a bit out of the ordinary. You cannot drive too close to the next car and this is remarked by a red light on the dashboard that can go from steady to blinking depending on how (too) close you are. Obviously the minimum distance is function of your speed: the faster you go, the furthest you ought to be driving from the car in front of you.
Another sensor prevents you not seeing a car taking you over while you’re about to take over someone, the infamous rear mirrors’ “blind spot”. A red light is embedded in the mirror itself and it lights up when someone passes by. The same light is also embedded in the right side read mirror.
More sensors are below and around the car, detecting when you’re getting too dangerously close to an obstacle, while parking or trying something weird with a sidewalk. A plethora of sounds and flashing dashboard images will certainly make you aware of your surroundings.
Speaking of surroundings, when the car detects that you’re in a confined space, like a parking lot, it will automatically enter its “Check surroundings mode”. The camera(s) will switch on, and all the sensors in the car will report back any information to the dashboard (but without annoying auditive feedback).
Another one detects when you drive over the dashed line in the middle of the road and in that case it will make your steering wheel vibrate for half a second. It took me a while to understand what was going on, and after that I disabled the sensor since I’ve found it just annoying.
I found all of these “security helpers” extremely useful and it’s really a bummer that many of them are not available in cheaper cars.
Your command center is the steering wheel
Through the buttons and the other widgets on the steering wheel, you have basically a “remote control” for all the configurations and informations you’d get from the main dashboard. One thing I found interesting is that among the widgets you can also find two very small touch sensors that you can click or swipe up or down.
The usual suspects are also obviously there: telephony support and cruise control.
A car you can make glide
This is my favourite feature; the car is equipped with a very small electric engine which implements the so-called “EQ technology” (the name is actually the brand behind all-things-electric in Mercedes). You will never drive completely electric, but the EQ helps you in several ways.
If you’re approaching a red street light or you see that you’re about to go downhill for a while, just take your foot off the accelerator and watch the car automatically switching the main engine off but keep going, losing just a small amount of speed instead of engine-braking, thanks to the support of the small electric helper!
How much effective is this gliding, after all? Take a look to the next picture, where you can see the report of the savings after a 640 km long trip.
As you can see, 56km of the total came completely “for free”, with the car just moving ahead thanks to its inertia and a small push from the electric engine. No fuel was used during those 41 minutes.
I cannot say if those kms were “pure saved gasoline”, so to speak, since restarting the main engine after the gliding period I think would cost a bit of additional energy that would need to be accounted for.
Please notice that the gliding only happens if you’re driving the car in Eco mode and that the gliding mode will switch off if the car detects that you’re actually gaining speed (I guess for security reasons), in which case the main engine will be switched on again, providing engine braking.
Another place where the electric engine helps is during the auto stop/start phase. The car automatically stops and starts, at a street light for instance, but when restarting it (somehow) uses the electric motor so that the restart phase is immediate, super smooth, almost unnoticeable.
What I didn’t like
- There are three ways to interact with the main dashboard: from the steering wheel, and two other gizmos in the central tunnel: a dial and a touch interface. Beside the steering wheel “remote” I don’t understand why mirror the same physical interface by the way of two different, yet super close to each other, tools
- The dashboard and control’s UI is… improvable. When going through the already painful system to enter a location entering one letter at a time, for example, how is it possible that you cannot “wrap” from the “z” back to the “a”, but instead you need to go back through all the letters!? What about the random usage of a (boring) italic font when displaying informations? Why? Driving inside a town, the navigator indications on the map are too small and I found myself squinting and getting closer to it too many times, even when Auto zoom was set on
- The car has several dynamic driving settings (from Sport+ to Eco, with even a custom option). The problem is that it doesn’t remember the previous setting when you shut the car off; I have always used the “Eco” setting, to find it back to “Comfort” when the car restarts again
- Despite the main engine having been downsized thanks to the help of the electric engine, this car still drinks a lot. For 2100 km, almost always in Eco mode, using the freeway a lot and not going crazy with the cabrio option, we only averaged a sad 13 km/l. Maybe the car is very heavy, or I used the cruise control too much? I am not sure.
I enjoyed driving the C200 a lot; the engine is fast, gliding is super fun and the comfort of the seats is, well, Mercedes style.
I am quite surprised but the fuel consumption though, especially given the help of the EQ and the downsized engine.
Thanks for reading!
Written on April 22, 2019 by Claudio Cicali.
Originally published on Medium