B Before we start testing here, first a personal question: do you know anyone who has ever switched from a C-Class to a 3 Series? Or the other way around? And have you ever changed your sympathies? Just. There are 3-series fans and C-class friends, and the loyalty to the respective series lasts for generations - although the models are getting closer and closer in their strengths, as the Fundis complain.
For them, only a 3 Series with a row six is a 3 Series - well, they still accept the M3 from the E30 series. In any case, they have been moaning since 2005 about the departure of the small six-cylinder engine, which outshone the weaknesses of pulling with the best of manners and greed, thus shaping the character of the 320 over 28 years and four generations. The four-cylinder vacuum cleaner in the last 320i only increased the fame of the six with its robust pull-through lethargy. Yes, it used to be more six-cylinder, today it is only allowed to whisper in the 335i as a gasoline engine. Otherwise, four-cylinder turbos drive the 3 Series.
Engine and performance on the same level
As with the Mercedes C-Class since 2009 and this side of the C 350. At that time, a turbocharger replaced the compressor, which was considered too uncultivated and inefficient. The rivals are competing with the same engine concept for the first time. Nevertheless, the collective downsizing leaves room for a bit of independence: under the hood of the C 200 sits a 1.8-liter direct injection, which a turbo with variable blade geometry brings to 184 hp and puffs up with 270 Nm.
The direct-injection two-liter turbo with twin-scroll technology, in which two exhaust ducts are brought together to drive the charger, achieves exactly the same values. This reduces the back pressure and improves gas exchange, responsiveness and efficiency. Not only correct in the standard values, but also in practice. In terms of minimum and test consumption, the slightly more spirited BMW 3 Series undercuts the Mercedes C-Class by 0.4 L /100 km.
The performance in both cases is at a hasty level and hardly gives reason to purchase of the same size, but more powerful engines in C 250 or 328i. Clearer differences between the engines can be seen in the manners. While the C 200 with two forged balancer shafts cultivates its run and runs quietly even under loadremains, the BMW engine is bitter. In everyday life, however, the restart rumble of the start-stop system bothers more than the robust high speed towards the limiter.
Mercedes automatic relies on comfort, the BMW is more dynamic
The fact that the BMW 320i does not start quite as spontaneously as the Mercedes C 200 during intermediate sprints is due to the eight-speed automatic. It quickly changes to the highest level at a constant speed and lets the BMW turn at low speeds. Pedal on the floor, and the machine has to rummage through its gear ratios for a moment before moving forward. It remains the only small weakness of the excellent transmission and can be easily avoided by the driver paddling through the gears himself.
Otherwise, the automatic system impresses with accurate gear changes and does not patronize the driver when he switches to manual. Different with the Mercedes. The seven-speed automaton doesn't particularly appreciate it when the pilot thinks he has to interfere in his work with the shift paddles. With a greater focus on comfort, the 7G-Tronic shifts just as gently, but a little less urgently.
And thus goes well with the Mercedes, which like the BMW has not changed its character over the years, but expanded it - also through optional ones Adaptive dampers that offer sporty or comfortable characteristics for both. In this way the Mercedes C 200 learned agility and handling skills. But that's what it feels like - learned - while in the BMW 3 Series it still seems like a natural talent. The pure driving dynamics times do not reflect that the 320i can be steered even more precisely in curves, is extremely safe even at high speeds, offers more feedback - looks more dynamic at every moment.
The other way around now acquired comfort. But that remains the domain of the C-Class. It springs more sensitively, sounds quieter. The fact that the differences in the comfort section are narrow is due to the slightly better seats in the BMW, which also offers more space in the rear.
Mercedes C200 and BMW 320i are again close together
This scores points the BMW 320i with lower costs and with the fact that it is the more modern car. Thanks to i-Drive, the infotainment can be used more intuitively than the Comand system of the C. It also manages important functions such as the assistance systems in nested on-board computer menus that are selected via the steering wheel buttons.
Steering wheel buttons should play a decisive role ? In a sense, yes, because the 3 Series and C-Class are so close together despite all their character differences - not just now, but once again. Is that why only one customer will cancel their Mercedes C 200 and order a BMW 320i? Of course not. Are all buyers of conviction. But they all want to know who is ahead this time.