We’ve certainly been on something of a three-pointed star theme here at ESM the past few weeks, but things went into overdrive by attending this year’s Media Driving Day. The premise is fairly simple – turn up and test out a wide range of new models from across the entire Mercedes spectrum. From the £14,000 Smart fortwo, to the £136,000 AMG S63 Cabriolet, there was something to highlight every niche occupied by the Stuttgart firm. We tried out six cars we think show the core brand segments.
Mercedes-Benz C220d Coupé AMG LineHaving had a lengthy drive down from the North East, the first choice of the day was the relaxing environment of the new C-Class Coupé in 220d AMG Line specification. After 200 miles of bouncy Polo GTI suspension, the relative comfort of the C220d was quite welcome. In fact the ride was one of the standout features from the 45 minute drive along the roads in the vicinity of Silverstone which, given their appalling state of repair, create a lot of challenges for suspension systems.
Producing 168hp from the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, performance is warm rather than rapid, with a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 145mph. Out on the road, the 295lb-ft of torque – and seamlessly smooth nine-speed gearbox – mean the C220d feels faster than the basic figures suggest. For real-world use you won’t feel shortchanged. You can sharpen things up by selecting Sport or Sport+ mode from the Dynamic Select menu but – controversially for ESM – it probably makes more sense left in Comfort. That way you can happily cruise along, enjoying the (optional) Burmester surround sound system and supportive sports seats. A strong contender for the car most wanted to drive home in.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-Benz C220d Coupé AMG Line
Engine: 2.2 litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
MPG: 68.9 (official combined)
C02: 109g/km (18″ wheels, auto’ gearbox)
Price: From £34,965
Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATICIt’s always good to catch up with friends. It’s even better when that particular acquaintance happens to be a 376hp hot hatch, and there’s the Silverstone Stowe circuit to play on. Having recently reviewed the A45 on ESM we won’t rehash the details. But what we can say is that the ability it shows on the road doesn’t even come close to the limits it can achieve on a circuit. What the A45 emphasises most on track is imbuing the driver with a feeling of confidence and control. That makes it very effective, and a whole heap of fun. We’d probably have never believed a Mercedes hatchback could be a trackday hero, but the A45 proves that it really can happen.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC
Mercedes-Benz GLS350D 4MATIC AMG LineSometimes you make decisions without really thinking about them. Like picking up the keys to a 5.1m long SUV that weighs in at 2,455kg. Oh, and that happens to be sitting in a relatively small car park with other expensive cars around it. Nothing emphasises the sheer size of a car by having to manoeuvre it around and, to its credit, the GLS isn’t quite as intimidating as you’d imagine. A standard 360° camera helps, as do a myriad of other assistance systems. But it’s still big. Very big. Frankly, if you want to feel like you’re starring in your very own rap music video, this is the Benz to be in.
Out on the open road the sense of scale never really diminishes but, again, the optional Driving Assistance Package fitted to this particular car helps. The 3.0-litre V6 diesel actually gains speed quicker than you might imagine, aided by the excellent nine-speed automatic gearbox, and a bucketload of torque. 0-62mph takes 7.8 seconds, and it’ll gamely run all the way to 138mph. It’s another car probably best left in Comfort mode, as the Sport setting made the air suspension tougher than we’d like. Strangely, some of the interior trim – specifically lower down in the cabin – didn’t feel completely appropriate for a £70k Range Rover rival. It isn’t without charm, and has genuine off-road potential, but just make sure your driveway is big enough to take it.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-Benz GLS350D 4MATIC AMG Line
Engine: 3.0 litre V6 turbo diesel
MPG: 37.2 (official combined)
Price: From £69,100
Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 AMG LineThe SLK is dead, long live the SLC. Twenty years after the original SLK appeared, Mercedes has replaced it with the SLC. Retaining the underpinnings of the outgoing SLK makes it look broadly similar, which isn’t a bad thing, and means this SLC 300 uses a familiar 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. Significantly, the SLC 300 gains the nine-speed automatic gearbox which, by this point, we’d realised is really rather good. This test car was seriously well-specified, packing over £12,000 worth of options, which ranged from a £195 analogue clock to the £2,095 Command Online multimedia system.
On paper this should have all the makings of a fun-to-drive roadster, yet somehow it didn’t quite click. The ride felt troubled whatever mode the Dynamic Select was set to, along with a strange vagueness from the steering wheel when on-centre. After having experienced the AMG A45, and the ever amusing sports exhaust, the tone from the SLC seemed to lack the same entertainment factor. It ultimately leaves the SLC 300 trapped between full on sports car, and refined open-top cruiser. Possibly it’s a car that a short drive isn’t quite enough to fathom what it has going on.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 AMG Line
Engine: 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol
MPG: 47.1 (official combined)
Price: From £39,385
Mercedes-Benz E220d AMG LineAnother car that probably needs an investment of time to get the best from, but for different reasons, is the new E-Class saloon. In short, the level of technology packed into this car is simply staggering. For instance, the LED headlights feature 84 individually-controlled LEDs, whilst the steering wheel has two touch pads to adjust settings and controls. This car also included the 12.3″ tablet-style dashboard, which makes the dials and multimedia screen one individual item. Oh, and those instrument dials are fully digital and can be configured to three different styles. There’s a lot of technology to investigate in this car.
It almost seeks to make the driving experience secondary which, for an executive saloon, is no bad thing. The 2.2-litre diesel is smooth and refined whilst (yeah, you guessed it) the nine-speed automatic ‘box makes for hassle-free progress. You could, undoubtedly, cover most of the country for your very important business meeting and get there feeling pretty fresh with this thing. Hitting 62mph in 7.3 seconds means you won’t be completely embarrassed at the traffic lights, yet there’s the (official) potential for over 70mpg. As a benchmark for the exec saloon class, the E220d sets a high bar.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-Benz E220d AMG Line Saloon
Engine: 2.2 litre twin-turbo diesel
MPG: 72.4 (official combined)
Price: From £38,430
Mercedes-AMG GT SAlways finish on a high, which makes the AMG GT S a good place to conclude things. When offered the choice between GT or GT S we naturally ‘went large’ and picked the higher-power car. This particular GT S featured the optional carbon-ceramic brakes that, once adjusted too, offer up immense stopping power. Faced with the tight and twisty Stowe circuit this was probably a good thing.
The V8 powerplant is two AMG A45 engines bolted together, and what it also shares with that car is the feeling of stability and confidence. This is a 500hp, rear-wheel drive, supercar that doesn’t feel like it wants to kill you. It can’t defy the laws of physics, but even after just a few short laps, you can build trust and belief in where the limits are. The performance is predictably mega but what fascinates more is the way the AMG GT S can change character so convincingly. In Comfort mode it could easily cruise to the shops, or across all of Europe, yet Sport+ or Race modes will let it slay on track. Building a car with that multidimensional personality isn’t easy, and that is what blew our mind the most about the GT S.
Quick Facts – Mercedes-AMG GT S
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
MPG: 30.1 (official combined)
Price: From £110,500
Five Key Things We Learnt
- The 9G-tronic Plus automatic gearbox is genuinely brilliant.
- ESM’s Editor needs a large-sized crash helmet.
- Car press offices are the only buyers of small bottles of Evian water.
- Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire County Council seriously need to spend more money on repairing potholes.
- We still can’t look at a GLC without thinking of Goldie Lookin’ Chain. Sorry.