Them’s fightin’ words.
By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG Daimler
FOLLOWING a decade of decline in build quality and rankings in reliability surveys, Mercedes has exerted effort to link the current model lineup with the company’s golden over-engineered years, two decades ago.
The message has been simple: we get that we cut corners in the recent-past and we’re focusing on bringing our current range in-line with our vaunted vault-like past.
Today, the message was tweaked a little bit.
In a “practical implementation of theoretical discussion” aimed at teasing the old school brand faithful (yours truly), Mercedes engineers posed the question: how would the old , beloved (W201) 190D a.k.a. “Baby Benz” perform if fitted with the current C250 CDI’s 204 hp BLUE EFFICIENCY diesel unit?
Much, much better, insist Daimler’s publicity department.
So they took a 1988 190D in all its boxy, diminutive glory, removed the old 72 hp four banger and shoe-horned the modern engine in its place.
The result? Nought to 60 mph acceleration contracted from 18 seconds to 6.2 seconds, as did fuel consumption: from 7.8 liters of diesel in 100 miles of driving to 4.9 liters.
Incidentally, the C250 CDI manages 5.1 liters in 100 miles. Both mileage sets were measured using current NEDC standards.
The PR volk tut-tutted in response to the results:
“The playing field is by no means level: a Mercedes 190 D is 385 kilograms lighter than a current C 250 CDIBlueEFFICIENCY, for example. In addition to more interior space - the current C-Class model is 16 centimetres longer, and around nine centimetres wider and higher than a 190 - this is due to the high standard of comfort and safety features.”
The text that followed went on to list all the great technological nannies that the old Baby Benz didn’t have and that customers then, “enjoyed nothing like the passive and active safety features to be found in the standard in the current C250.”
So, in otherwords, you’ve really never been better off behind the wheel of a tri-star. Honest.
And the subtle put down of the old in favor of the new continued – the new C-Class offers a 6-speed auto, instead of a 4-Speed; the drag coefficient’s now 0.27 rather than 0.34; plus the new C-Class’ radiator fans run more efficiently.
In response, let’s pose a couple of questions:
In 20 years time – which car has the better chance of still being in service on the road: the tech-light 190D? Or the electronically complex C250 with in-built redundancy featured as standard equipment?
And then, finally, if we were to chart the progress in Mercedes-Benz engineering from a 1963 190D “Fintail” to the W201 190D’s 1983 debut, could we say that the engineering difference between those two eras is truly eclipsed by the progress in the last twenty years – as witnessed in the current C-Class?
Considering that the new C250 boasts a thirty percent reduction in diesel mileage from 1983 to 2009 and uses two extra gears?
C’mon. The Baby Benz wins.
By Gunnar Heinrich
WHEN asked what he thought were his favorite designs, Bruno Sacco, the Italian cornerstone of Mercedes-Benz design for the 20th Century’s last quarter didn’t miss a beat.
“The 1980s W126 S-class, the 1990s R129 SL, the CLK, the SLK, and the W220 S-class that debuted in the late 1990s. But my favorite is the Mercedes-Benz 190 [W201] because of its importance to Mercedes.”
Marc Noordeloos’ (Automobile) Q&A with Mr. Sacco has now taken on reference-text like status for plenty of Benzophiles around the globe. It’s linked everywhere, most notably by 560SEC fans who are thrilled that Mr. Sacco himself drives one years after he penned it.
In 10 straightforward questions, Mr. Sacco validates his own conservative ethos (he references the need to establish a balanced design theme), does a mea culpa on the W140 S-Class, praises Cadillac and puts down (gently) BMW design.
It’s been linked here before, but I think it’s worth a rehash. Because like classic automotive design, the sage insights from an artist of Mr. Sacco’s caliber never age.