21 February 1997

TURBO BRINGS MORE PUFF –

AT A PRICE

ITS HERE at last: A Mercedes diesel engine, complete with double helping of extra puff to draw on.

Served up by a turbocharger and intercooler, that bigger mouthful of fresh air has transformed the mid-sized

C-Classs five-pot diesel. No longer a car merely for the middle-aged cruiser, the C250TD now has a sprightly step and should appeal to generations hitherto largely unimpressed.

But why has it taken Mercedes so long to take the turbo route to diesel pepping? After all, other makers have done it for years. Stranger still, silver-starred turbodiesels have been available on the Continent for the past decade, and more.

Whatever the politics, the turbo is here now and was well worth the wait. With a top speed of 125mph and 0-62mph in 10.4secs, performance is on a par with the C-Classs pokiest petrol, the 150hp 2.3-litre C230, and the new diesel drives as well as these figures suggest.

The test model came with optional five-speed auto box (£1450 extra) which, though silky smooth, probably takes some of the bite off performance. Even so, in the 1500-2000rpm band where lethargy once reigned, there is now a genuine sense of urgency and thrust.

Also a first for this test was a run-out in the new estate-bodied version of the entry-level Mercedes C-Class.

Targeted at the booming, "compact" estate car sector, Mercedes has, in simple terms, added a raked D pillar to the saloons back end and filled in the space thus created. Total vehicle length stays the same.

The effect is quite stunning, creating a swept look that raises the rather bland saloon profile out of anonymity.

Practically, the new shape isnt too bad, either. Whereas most of the new compacts offer little more than token luggage space, the "C" estate gives usable extra volume over and above the smaller saloon.

Clever design of rear seat folding also encourages workman-like use, though there are minor niggles. To get a level surface the rear bench actually has to come out, rather than fold, and the safety net requires all manner of gymnastics and contortions to locate.

The verdict: Long overdue, maybe, but now its here this 150hp turbo- diesel gives Mercedes a realistic rival to Audis A4 TDI and the BMW 325tds.

No prizes for guessing the major obstacle for potential purchasers: That starting price of about £25,000. Dont hold your breath for lower cost used examples, either; Mercedes are not renowned for being fast depreciators.

Turbodiesel

muscle and estate car curves

combine on the Mercedes C250TD.


MERCEDES DATA


&#8226 Model: Mercedes C250TD estate

&#8226 Price: Starts at £24,730

&#8226 Engine: Five-cyl, 150hp turbodiesel

&#8226 Top speed: 125mph

&#8226 0-62mph: 10.4secs

&#8226 Test fuel consumption: 35.8mpg

&#8226 Insurance group: 13