Mercedes-Benz's popular C-Class compact range has seen the addition of four new powerful V6 engines to its line-up.

Mercedes-Benz's popular C-Class compact range has seen the addition of four new powerful V6 engines to its line-up.

The changes, first effected on the bigger V6-powered models in the Mercedes-Benz range, have now been instituted in the compact C-Class, too. And while the C230 sports coupé benefits from a new 2,5-litre naturally aspirated engine, the C320 CDI, C280 and C350, in both the saloon and estate body styles, have also been revised.

With its displacement of 2 987 cm3, the C 320 CDI produces 165 kW at 3 000 r/min, and an almighty 510 N.m of torque between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min. The new direct injection turbodiesel powerplant, according to Mercedes-Benz, has a 32 per cent higher output and 28 per cent more torque available than its predecessor.

The C280 is fitted with a 3,0-litre engine that produces 170 kW at 6 000 r/min and a peak torque figure of 300 N.m between 2 500 and 5 000 r/min.

The top engine makeover goes to the C350, with a 3,5-litre petrol engine that produces a blistering 200 kW at 6 000 r/min, and peak torque of 350 N.m, available from 2 400 r/min all the way through to 5 000 r/min.

All engines are now equipped with four valves per cylinder and Mercedes-Benz has, for the first time on its V6s, used variable camshaft adjustment on the intake and exhaust sides to reduce fuel consumption under load.

We were able to test the capabilities of the new engines on our drive through the scenic "Seven Passes", stretching from Stellenbosch, through Franschoek, to Grabouw, Villiersdorp and Worcester.

Smooth and quiet, the 320 CDI was noted for a level of responsiveness that would rival any petrol-powered model. Its diesel powerplant can only be heard at idle and, with the radio on, is almost unnoticeable.

The C280 and C350 were very nippy, especially in the smaller body shape, and the 3,5-litre petrol is without a doubt one of the most powerful vehicles in its segment.

While the previous C230 was fitted with a compressor-equipped 1,8-litre engine, the new C230 is fitted with a 2,5-litre naturally aspirated powerplant that produces 150 kW at 6 200 r/min and a maximum torque figure of 245 N.m from 2 900 to 5 500 r/min.

This may be an attempt by the manufacturer to placate irate consumers, since both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have increasingly done away with badges indicating the engine sizes.

The C 230 sports coupé is fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, accelerates to 100 km/h in 8,2 seconds, and reaches a top speed of 241 km/h. Its fuel consumption on a combined cycle is stated as 9,3 litre per 100 km.

Apart from the manual-shift version of the sports coupé, all new models now come standard with Mercedes' 7G-Tronic automatic transmission.

According to the manufacturer, the C 320 CDI accelerates from zero to 100-km/h in 6,9 seconds (7,1 seconds for the estate) and reaches a top speed of 250 km/h (limited) on the saloon and 241 km/h on the estate. The fuel consumption on a combined cycle is a frugal 7,3 and 7,6 litres per 100 km for the saloon and estate, respectively.

The C280 sprints from standstill to 100 km/h in 7,0 seconds (7,2 for the estate). Top end on the saloon is a claimed 250 km/h (limited), while the estate runs at speeds up to 240 km/h. Combined fuel consumption for the saloon and estate models is 9,4 and 9,6 litres per 100 km respectively.

The C350 models blast from zero to 100 km/h in 6,2 (saloon) and 6,4 (estate) seconds. Both versions are electronically limited to top speeds of 250 km/h, but are marginally thirstier than the smaller-engined versions, with combined fuel consumption of 9,7 and 10,2 litre per 100 km for the saloon and estate, respectively.

Also making its introduction on the C-Class is the Neckpro active head restraint system. The moment a rear impact (of sufficient severity) is detected, the head restraints move forward and upward to reduce the risk of whiplash.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class V6 upgrade Saloon Estate
C 280 R 339 000 R 349 000
C 320 CDI R 362 000 R 373 500
C 350 R 377 000 R388 000
C 230 (sports coupe only) R 311 000