Benz C220 CDI Long Termer - February 2009

One of the most endearing features of the C-Class is its steering, the excellence of which serves as a constant reminder of the quality and depth of engineering that helped the sedan snare our 2007 COTY gong.

Good steering should be seamless, offering the right level of assistance in the urban environment, so as to not be noticed, but delivering reasonable feedback, weight and accuracy when the driving turns spirited.

The C-Class ticks these boxes emphatically, adding excellent manoeuvrability into the mix. Compare the Merc's 10.8-metre turning circle with that of the similarly-sized Audi A4 Avant (11.4-metre), and you'll see that the former's rear-drive layout has benefits other than dynamic ones.

Whether manoeuvring through city traffic, searching out a spot in a crowded car park, or enjoying a brisk open road drive, the C-Class steering has the happy knack of feeling right for every occasion.

And we have an Australian company to thank for it. Like several other contemporary Mercs, the C-Class is equipped with what Benz calls 'Direct Steer'. Designed and developed by Sydney-based Bishop Steering Technology, 'Direct Steer' is Benz speak for Bishop's internationally renowned variable ratio steering rack. Or, put into slightly more technical terms, 'speed- sensitive rack and pinion power steering, with a variable rack ratio'.

It's that last bit that makes the Benz steering just a little bit different, by changing the level of assistance as a function of the steering angle, so that the more steering angle you apply, the more assistance you get. It's simple, elegant and works a treat.

It's possible to be fooled by the initial impression that the steering is too light, but spend a little more time at the wheel and you soon begin to appreciate the rack's directness (just 2.7 turns lock-to-lock), as well as the steering precision and sensitivity.

Pleasingly, there's been no evidence of rack rattle, in this or the previous C200K Estate, despite the fact it was experienced occasionally during Wheels COTY testing.
Date acquired: Nov 2008
Kilometres this month: 854
Total kilometres: 2973
Av. fuel consumption: 11.3L/100km
Maintenance: nil

There's nothing particularly special about this month's average, until you consider that both fills (11.6L\L/100km and 10.9L/100km), were recorded in 100 percent urban driving, at an average speed of 25 and 29km/h respectively. Given some open road, the C220 CDI will improve.

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