Product Type: Mercedes-Benz cars
Newest Review: ... only behaves well at slow speeds. For such a heavy car you might think that it will handle poorly at speed but, anything but. There i... more
Silver Dream Machine
Mercedes-Benz C 180 Classic
Member Name: grahamt
Mercedes-Benz C 180 Classic
Date: 11/05/03, updated on 13/05/03 (3919 review reads)
Advantages: Reliable, Comfortable, A Good Drive
Disadvantages: Watch out for rusty bonnets, Expensive repairs
We had been together two years, one month, twenty days, not a long time you might say but long enough for us to get to know each other's foibles. Long enough for me to be able to say without a shadow of a doubt that our time together had been a time of great enjoyment although not entirely free of problems.
The Mercedes-Benz C180 Classic 4 door Saloon is a fine car. Mine had come to me for the first year of our relationship as a company car. On a three year lease, I had it as a hand-me-down for the final year when my VW Passat 1.8 20V Sports had itself also reached the end of its lease and was reclaimed by the leasing company.
At the time our company had just completed an acquisition of a competitor and so a number of their company cars were without drivers but still with time to go, therefore, no new cars for anyone.
This was the first Merc I had driven let alone "owned". Aware of the reputation for solid Germanic engineering (a reputation soundly destroyed by the Passat - see my review) I had expectations of the Merc and hoped that they would be realised. Fortunately I was able to get some background from its former user (who had been given an upgrade along with a new job) and was assured that I wouldn't be disappointed.
And so it proved. This is the previous model, somewhat "squarer" in design than the latest model. More in keeping with the appearance that one expects of a Merc, though by no mean one of the slab-sided monsters of years past. All in all, a good looking car.
The 1.8 litre 4 cylinder OHC engine is normally aspirated and, in view of the weight of the car (over 1 ¾ tons) I had expected it to be underpowered. However, this is a very good piece of engineering and the power output is more than ad
equate. The power comes on progressively and smoothly, with no power ridges typical of VTEC or Turbo charged engines. The red line is at around 6250 rpm. I was never disappointed by the performance of the car but then again, be aware, this is not a sports saloon.
The weight of the car does have advantages. You can be pretty sure that in an accident the Merc is most likely going to come off best. Another advantage and maybe a less expected one is the way that it hugs the road in bad conditions.
You will probably remember a few months ago we had a dump of snow in the Home Counties. I was due to drive up to Warwick that day but, having taken 1 ½ hours to travel one mile from my home, that was never going to be a reality.
I had decided not to chance the side roads so headed for the A30 at the Jolly Farmer roundabout East of Camberley. The approach to the lights along The Maultway is a fairly steep descent. I had visions of the car sliding forward, all wheels locked up. But, no, solid as a rock and not a hint of the Merc getting away from me.
The same could not be said of a brand-new Jaguar X-type in front of me. It must be a much lighter car because it was all over the place, totally out of the control of the driver. With all the wheels locked it slowly slid this way and that. It was pure luck that it didn't slide into another vehicle.
Not that the Merc only behaves well at slow speeds. For such a heavy car you might think that it will handle poorly at speed but, anything but. There is minimal body roll in corners, which the Merc takes with ease. A rear-wheel drive car, the sort on which I cut my early driving teeth, a touch of the right foot brings the back round beautifully in tight corners at speed.
The interior is spacious, providing adequate space for 4 adults with the occasional fifth suffering only from the space taken up by the prop-shaft tunnel running down the middle of the car, inevitabl
e with rear-wheel drive cars. Often I have had problems with the amount of leg-room in the back with many otherwise ideal cars. I have quite long legs.
In the past I have rejected the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and the Skoda Octavia simply because, with the driver seat in the position that I need it to be in order to drive comfortably, no one can sit behind me. Certainly the A4 and the Octavia in their latest versions have cured that problem. I haven't bothered to check out the latest 3 series.
The boot is large with the spare wheel located under the matting covering the boot floor. The rear seats do not fold down. This is really the only major drawback to the Merc. It means that you cannot carry long loads, which would have to go on a roof rack. This has caused us problems over the years, carrying our ski-bag to the airport.
The view from the driver's seat is good; the classic Merc bonnet decoration gives clear indication of the position of the front of the car. The driver's seat is extensively adjustable for height, distance from pedals, rake of the seat back and tilt of the bit you sit on. For me, this last is essential for comfortable driving. I have to have the front edge of the seat higher than the rear. The only missing control is a variable lumbar support.
The dash layout is simple and uncluttered. The usual speedo, rev counter and other normal dials are set right in front of the driver, together with a central LCD panel for odometer and other problem indication symbols.
Set between the driver seat and passenger, the central console contains the climate control panel and the radio/cassette, in this case a Sony model. The climate control is very effective and performed well even in the hottest conditions, such as when we were on holiday in the South of France a couple of years ago. There is also an "Economy" button that switches off the climate control in order to save otherwise was
ted engine power, such as in winter, when it's heat you need not cooling.
I dislike intensely Sony car radios. The design and operation is illogical. I'll give you an example. You can set up pre-selector buttons for your favourite stations. These display the name of the station so you know which is which. I have the London station, Heart, set up on one of the buttons, 106.2mhz.
I travel all over the UK and around Birmingham, Heart has a sister station, Heart FM, 102.7mhz. Now, it seems that Sony seem to think that HEART is the same as HEART FM because as soon as I switch from one to the other, both buttons are automatically reprogrammed to the same station! So, I can never have both stations set up on their own buttons. They are either both one or the other!
One feature of the Merc totally baffled me the first time I sat in the car. I was going to take it out for a drive to become familiar with it. I started the engine and than sat there looking round! No handbrake! I switched off the engine.
After some minutes scratching my head I noticed that there were four pedals not the usual three! So, perhaps the left-most pedal is a foot-hand-brake? But how to release it? A bit more head-scratching. Then I noticed a little lever on the right of the dash, marked with a brake symbol. I pulled it and "Voila", the brake came off.
This has taken some getting used-to. Trying to synchronise releasing the brake with pulling away, especially on an incline takes some practice. The brake doesn't come off progressively, it's either on or off.
Fortunately I don't often need to use the "hand" brake much when driving. Over thirty years ago I taught myself the heel-toe technique and have used it ever since, automatically. I rarely if ever need to hold a car on a hand-brake even on the steepest hills.
I don't know if you use this technique but it is relatively e
asy to learn. I'm surprised more people don't learn it. It can be extremely useful, especially when driving in town and also for rapid country driving where a lot of gear-changing is required.
Actually, the term heel-toe is a misnomer. You don't actually use your heel at all. Most cars have about a one inch gap between the brake and accelerator pedals. Any more can make this difficult for people with small feet.
You rest the left-hand side of your right foot on the brake pedal. In fact, you actually use only the joint below the big toe to operate the brake. Resting you foot in this position the right-hand hand side of your foot now rests on the accelerator pedal so bridging the gap between the two.
By rocking the right of your foot up and down, simultaneously maintaining a constant pressure on the brake, you can rev the engine. With practice you can quickly learn to apply greater or lesser pressure on the brake pedal so as to slow down quicker or slower whilst at the same time controlling the engine speed.
So, starting off on a hill requires you to accelerate the engine whilst finding the bite-point of the clutch and at that point easing off the pressure on the brake. The same technique enables you to brake and change down at the same time whilst entering a corner.
We have become somewhat lazy in recent years. Synchromesh gearboxes have enabled us to change gears without even trying to match the engine speed to the road speed. We just let the clutch drag the engine speed up to match. This does cause greater wear on the clutch and, when driving at speed, it is a slower driving method than heel-toeing.
It does take practice. I recommend that you find somewhere quiet to do it before trying it on the road. It took me about a week to become competent.
So, an enjoyable few year but, as I said, not entirely trouble-free. The lock on the glove compartment broke and wouldn't stay
shut. I had to wedge it with a piece of card whilst Hughes (of Beaconsfield) ordered a replacement. In the end I never did get it fixed as I traded it in today for my new car.
The cable that connects the internal door handle to the actual lock on the driver's door, snapped. This was an expensive repair, £120! Also, the programming of the automatic window operation was affected and had to be fixed with a complicated series of button pushing and holding sequences.
The most expensive problem was infamous Mercedes rusty bonnet. I am seriously annoyed that Mercedes don't spray their cars with an adequate layer of paint. I began to notice that stone chips on the front wings and especially on the bonnet, were showing signs of rust. The chips had gone right through to the metal. Eventually it started to look as though it was suffering from measles.
Now, I have never experienced this problem with other cars. My old Passat, for all its faults, never chipped through to deeper that the undercoat. Mercedes, this simply isn't good enough! I expect more from what you would want everyone to believe is a quality car. That cost me over £600 for a part respray. Still, at least the repairers (Rob Taylor Autos of Dorking) did a proper job and I didn't have any more problems.
So, what is the verdict? Well, apart from the rust problem the car has been a very good companion. I would certainly recommend it to anyone as a second-hand car. My old one had 85,000 miles on the clock and was over four years old. I would expect you to be able to pick up a model in good condition for around £6,500.
Even at this mileage (barely run in for a Merc) you would get years of excellent use out of it. Check especially for rust and insist that the dealer rectify the problem if you find it, before buying it.
Why have I got rid of it then? Well, I am no longer a company car driver. Gordon Brown has everything to do with
that. His short-sighted view of company drivers is stupid, bordering in vindictive. I need a car for the job that I do and yet the Chancellor treats me almost as a criminal, to be penalised with draconian taxation.
I came off of the company car scheme last year, at the start of the tax year. Instead I now receive a car allowance but as a result have to make all my own arrangements for my car, purchase, tax, insurance, repairs, maintenance... The only restrictions that the company imposes is that the car must be suitable (translate as big enough for 4 adults in comfort, although I have seen some of my colleagues who appear to have been able to seriously bend that rule).
The other rule is that the car cannot be older that six years. So, my choice is to keep the car to the bitter end when it has little more than scrap value or change it whilst it still has some residual value. I chose the latter.
What have I gone for? In view of my happy experience with the Merc, another one? Well, actually, no. Since they were first introduced I have lusted after one of the new MG saloons. Now I have got one.
It's a six month old MG ZT 160+ 1.8 Turbo 4 door Saloon with 1024 miles on the clock (genuine). RED!!!! LUUUVVVEEERRRLLLEEE!!! Review in due course but after one day I can say it is definitely the DB.
Mid-life crisis? I should be so lucky!