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BMW and Mercedes: basic models of the 3 Series and C-Class in the test

Hans-Dieter Seufert
BMW versus Mercedes
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S o pretty much the only option that BMW and Mercedes is not punished with a surcharge, is 'omission of type code'. A popular extra because not everyone has to know whether the BMW 3 Series or the Mercedes C-Class has the large six-cylinder with 300 hp or the base engine that is only half as powerful. After all, the small four-cylinder engines still have a reputation today that they are not fine enough for the fine world of the premium middle class.

Entry-level versions of the 3 Series and C-Class with more power

Included has apparently just not yet arrived everywhere, that despite the diesel hype, a lot has happened with the entry-level petrol engines. As early as 2007, BMW gave them the 'Efficient Dynamics' eco-package, which, in addition to a significant reduction in fuel consumption, includes a welcome boost in performance. Since then, the cheapest BMW 3 Series, the 318i for 28,700 euros, has achieved 143 instead of 129 hp and 190 instead of 180 Nm and, according to the ECE standard, consumes one liter less than before. For the next step - smaller displacement with simultaneous charging - you still have to wait until the model change in 2012.

Mercedes implemented the downsizing issue in 2002, and also missed it in the C-Class A four-cylinder compressor reduced the volume by 1.8 liters for more power and less consumption. The recent switch to turbocharger, direct injection and start-stop, in conjunction with further detailed measures, should bring another improvement, but apart from the higher torque (250 Nm at 1,600 rpm instead of 230 Nm at 2,800 rpm), the new Mercedes C 180 CGI stands for 32,219 euros in the key data is no better than its predecessor.

Mercedes C 180 CGI with good pulling power

Nevertheless, the cultivated four-valve engine with 156 hp in the Mercedes C-Class looks surprisingly lively, revs up cleanly and smoothly from idle and accelerates the 4.58-meter sedan to country road speed in 8.5 seconds. Thanks to the good pulling power, you can make rapid progress even on inclines, rarely have to reach for the somewhat imprecise shift lever and often drive in high gear. This reduces interior noise and consumption, although the current test car (8.9 L /100 km) was not as economical as a Blue Efficiency model with a 1.6-liter supercharged engine (8.2 L) measured in 2008 /p>

Despite its larger displacement, the two-liter naturally aspirated BMW 318i is the samenoticeably inferior to the supercharged Mercedes engine in terms of power and torque, which is primarily reflected in the lower elasticity. If the BMW 3 Series, which is roughly the same weight, gets going in the city, it looks tough and powerless at motorway speeds. The long sixth gear also requires more frequent shifts and turns, and a lower gear tends to be selected than in the Mercedes C 180.

BMW 318i with lower consumption than the C-Class

All the more gratifying that the higher speed level in the BMW 3 Series is not at the expense of noise comfort or fuel consumption. The mean is even half a liter below that of the Mercedes C-Class in the test, and those who want it, can travel 100 kilometers with less than six liters - with the friendly help of standard savings aids such as automatic start-stop, decoupling alternator and demand-controlled air inlets . Nevertheless: The proverbial sheer driving pleasure does not want to set in with the basic BMW 3 Series, at least as far as the drive is concerned.

In every other respect, however, the BMW 3 Series fulfills the demands of the fans: ergonomic seating position, feedback-friendly steering as well as precise gearshifts and switches mix with the balanced weight distribution to a delicious driving dynamics cocktail without the risk of hangovers. Thanks to the excellently coordinated ESP, the BMW 318i even makes quick changes of direction safely and stably, but decelerates not quite as energetically and on ยต-split as precisely as the Mercedes C-Class, despite the optional 17-inch tires. The fact that it is not a litter, but rather bumpy and taut, especially with the side-reinforced run-flat tires, is part of the sporty habitus.

Mercedes C 180 CGI with typical Mercedes virtues

At Mercedes you traditionally see it differently. Relaxed, safe progress is the greatest asset here. Small and medium bumps bother the occupants of the Mercedes C-Class in the test only marginally, only severe faults bring the mechanical-adaptive dampers to their limits and the load gently pumping. Otherwise, you glide comfortably, quietly and comfortably on slightly contoured seats, registering the functional, neatly finished interior and the clear round instruments just as benevolently as the well-structured controls or the excellent light of the optional bi-xenon headlights Agile or even nervous handling, on the other hand, does not fit the concept of unexcited driving. But although the Mercedes C-Class completes the dynamic tests more slowly than the BMW 3 Series, it enables high cornering speeds and precise course corrections, which can be mastered with the smooth, soulful steering without much driver effort. The good feeling is underpinned by the powerful, firm brakes and the extensive safety equipment.

The basic petrol engine in the BMW 3 Series does not meet thisExpectations

Not all of these are included in the basic price, and you have to pay heavily here and there for the usual niceties such as metallic, leather or the navigation system. But although the BMW 318i is overall cheaper to buy and maintain, the tepid basic petrol engine does not really meet the dynamic expectations of a BMW. At Mercedes, on the other hand, you get a full, comfortable, harmoniously motorized Mercedes C-Class at the - albeit slightly higher - entry-level tariff. Reason enough not to deny the Mercedes C 180 CGI the lettering on the rear, but to wear it with pride.


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