The muse effect
Motoring journalists are a privileged bunch. Many of them don’t realise it, some can’t appreciate the fact but imagine this scenario: Every week a new car, a full tank of fuel, your pick of brands (within reason) and everything handed to you on a plate, in exchange for a few hundred opinionated words in a publication that is hoped to sway public opinion and convince Joe Bloggs to buy a certain car, or not.
In the beginning, when I first started to write for this publication, each and every vehicle was exciting, a thrill of anticipation awaited each new arrival and story angles were carefully thought out, planned and written down. After a while though, you find yourself running out of ideas, a certain writer’s block creeps in and you feel jaded… I mean just how much enthusiasm and vocabulary can be spent on design lines, facelifts, headlights, wheel arches, performance and ride comfort? I found myself in dire need of a muse.
And it arrived in an unprecedented surprise in my driveway the other day. I was expecting something small and city-like – a Chevy Sonic or some such and instead I took delivery of Mercedes-Benz’s new C200. My initial reaction was one of skepticism – this car is after all a 2014 Car of the Year finalist. The first few drives were uninspiring – a massive amount of hype around what appears at a first glance to be a miniature S-class wannabe with a bit of a flat feeling when you experience in-town driving errands. Then I took it on the open road….
When last did you, dear reader, get really excited about driving anywhere? Where each journey in your car is one to be savoured, where you wish that you’d never reach your destination, that the road you’re on will never run out because the here and now of driving in your car is the most perfect place to be? Because where you are right now is your ultimate happy place and you never want to leave?
That’s what this C200 did to me – I’ve called it the muse effect. It inspired me to write this ode to driving performance and I didn’t ever want to get out of it. I found myself taking the long route home, finding diversions and alternative routes so that I wouldn’t have to reach my destination and wishing fervently, that I could continue to live in this car beyond the brief week that she and I were acquainted.
The C200’s road holding is superb, it corners like a feather and turns in at the slightest touch, but without that dead removed feeling that you experience with so many of today’s luxury vehicles. I took this lady through the exquisite Cape passes on a long drive early one weekend morning and pretty much had this review written in full in my mind by the time I was done!
This executive saloon will bring you to your destination, be it a board meeting, social event or long journey, in style, comfort (mostly – provided you leave off the AMG sport pack which our test car came with – it makes the ride too hard) and a longing to climb back inside and to take the wheel once more and go places just for the sheer drive of it.
With me waxing eloquent about the driveability of the C200, I could easily forego the nitty gritty and fail to provide some highlights in the specifications of our test car. But as a whole, the C200 is a pleasing package and I’d be negligent if I failed to mention a few of the things that impressed me. For a start, our test model came with the optional Burmester sound system, 13 surround sound speakers complete with a rather unique front bass which utilizes the front footwell on the driver’s side to provide an additional bass and surround sound effect.
This C-class is only the third in a series of Benz’s to make use of this awesome sound technology, it’s predecessors being the SL and new S-class. As a huge fan of good music and great sound while driving, I was in seventh heaven with this optional package (N$9 000) and would highly recommend that any new owner consider this option to add to their driving pleasure.
Another couple of add-ons (out of many) worth mentioning are the Intelligent LED lights (N$20 000) which provided endless entertainment with night driving and the heads-up display (N$15 000).
The latter isn’t essential but for anyone who enjoys driving at night, like myself, I can honestly recommend the optional light system. They were incredibly intuitive, from auto- high beam, to cornering lights and the very clever cut-out functionality that provided me with a few hours of entertainment on open country roads as I tested their functionality – it works beautifully!
Normally, I’m frustrated by the auto-high beam functionality of most cars as there’s a noticeable delay, however the response from these was prompt and with the added cut-out functionality, I didn’t blind any drivers.
Interior and cabin comfort is exceptional, from the moulded seats to the aluminium inserts and finishes. Possibly a bit brash for my ideal idea of Merc, but nonetheless a striking appearance. As mentioned before, our test car came with the optional AMG sport pack with its massive wheels, low profile tyres and firmer suspension. While this gives the car a fantastic sporty appearance, you do sacrifice ride comfort for looks. It’s your choice.
As a car of the year finalist 2014, this C200 definitely has my vote and it would be awesome if the S.A. Guild jury decided on a car truly worthy of the title and picked this much-loved executive icon. It’s truly worthy of the title.