- C 220 CDI: first Mercedes-Benz with common rail technology
- Market launch of the Estate
- Eight-cylinder C-Class contributed by AMG
The compact class now became known as the “C-Class,” and it was under this new name that Mercedes-Benz introduced the successor to the 190 model in May 1993. This meant that the W 202 series was presented under a generic name analogous to the S-Class (named as such since 1972) and E-Class (which was not given this name until summer 1993). The model designations of the compact class were thus brought into line with the Mercedes-Benz standard: a three-digit number indicated the displacement, and the letter “C” before the number showed the model series origin. The “E” previously used to indicate an injection engine was no longer required, since for the past three years this had been the only technology used in Mercedes-Benz petrol-engined passenger cars. And the code for diesel models now included the word “Diesel” rather than just a capital “D.”
In comparison with its predecessor, the new car had softer external lines and significantly more space in the interior, along with improved active and passive safety features. Comfort was noticeably enhanced, even though the external dimensions remained virtually unchanged. Standard equipment now included a full-size driver airbag, integral side impact protection, ABS, power steering, five-speed transmission and central locking. Yet prices were only slightly higher than for the 190 model.
Mercedes-Benz then proceeded to expand the range of body and equipment variants for the C-Class. The Saloon introduced in 1993 was followed by the C-Class Estate in 1996. This S 202 series was a sporty and compact workhorse, matching the Saloon in terms of safety, comfort and environmental compatibility. The new Estate’s total load compartment volume of between 465 litres (loaded up to the lower edge of the rear screen with five passengers) and 1,510 litres (maximum load, up to the roof) was unprecedented in its class and set new standards.
And the standard of safety was just as high: in a frontal impact, the Estate performed in the same way as the Saloon, but it was even safer in the event of an impact from the rear. Special structural design measures also increased protection in the case of a side impact.
Another innovation was the concept of different design and equipment lines: alongside the classic version, which from 1995 was actually called CLASSIC, three other variants were available: ESPRIT, ELEGANCE and SPORT. The most popular were the CLASSIC and ELEGANCE versions. These three variants accounted for about a third each of the cars sold.
The ESPRIT particularly targeted younger buyers: the suspension was lowered by 25 mm, and the interior featured vivid colours. ELEGANCE models were clearly more luxuriously equipped, and had colour-coordinated trim and chrome inserts on wheel embellishers, protective panelling and door handles, for example. Other details included transparent glass covers for the front indicators and bi-chromatic rear lights. The SPORT variant was also 25 mm lower, had a tauter suspension and came with wide tires as standard, with five-hole alloy wheels.
An equipment package offered by AMG for the new C-Class further enhanced the dynamic appeal of the car. Features included a lowered sports suspension, alloy wheels in a special AMG design, modified front and rear spoilers, and discreet side skirts.
Right from the start of the W 202 series, this diversity of equipment alternatives was matched by an extensive range of models, including four petrol and three diesel engines. Power ratings for the petrol-engined models were 90 kW (122 hp) for the C 180, 100 kW (136 hp) for the C 200, 110 kW (150 hp) for the C 220, and 142 kW (193 hp) for the C 280 with its six-cylinder in-line engine. On the diesel side, the entry-level model was the C 200 Diesel, with 55 kW (75 hp), followed by the C 220 Diesel, delivering 70 kW (95 hp), and the C 250 Diesel with a rating of 83 kW (113 hp). Right from the launch of the new model series in 1993, this impressive fleet provided a significantly wider choice than had been available on the introduction of the first compact-class saloon eleven years earlier. Most of the petrol engines were closely related to the four-valve engines used in the 124 series of October 1992. The only entirely new design was the engine of the C 180 with four-valve technology and an electronic injection system with pressure sensor. Where diesel engines were concerned, the designers adopted the two-litre unit from the predecessor series.
Four-valve technology for diesel engines
Two newly developed engines, the OM 604 (2155 cc) and OM 605 (2497 cc), were a world premiere by Mercedes-Benz – the first-ever diesel engines with four-valve technology. This represented a decisive advance in diesel technology since the use of four rather than two valves generated higher torque and power over a significantly larger engine speed range, and cut fuel consumption under full load by up to 8 percent. The enhanced combustion process also reduced particulate emissions by around 30 percent. Exhaust gas recirculation and an oxidation catalyst were standard equipment.
The first model year of the C-Class culminated in the launch of the top-of-the-range C 36 AMG, presented at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September 1993. The new model was powered by a 206 kW (280 hp) six-cylinder 3606-cc engine with four-valve technology, developed by AMG from the proven 3.2-litre engine. Production of the C 36 AMG started in early 1994.
The elegantly designed C-Class was well received by customers and the trade alike, and the 500,000th unit rolled off the assembly line as early as February 1995. At the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September that year, Mercedes-Benz introduced a revised model series. The CLASSIC equipment line was now included as a fourth variant. All lines were given an enhanced interior, and fitted with 195/65 R 15 tires. At the same time, the front track was widened by six mm.
When Mercedes-Benz introduced the C 230 Kompressor model in 1995, it was harking back to the brand’s proud record in bygone decades. After more than 50 years, the company was again fitting cars with a Roots blower. This supercharger boosted the output of the spark-ignition engine to 142 kW (193 hp), achieving the same performance as the six-cylinder C 280 model. The main effect of the supercharger was to provide significantly higher torque over a wide engine speed range. This provided outstanding acceleration and high flexibility, without any major increases in fuel consumption or pollutant emissions. For exports to Italy, Greece, and Portugal, the company also developed a two-litre variant of the supercharged engine.
Mercedes-Benz also presented a turbocharged diesel engine: the C 250 Turbodiesel was the first turbodiesel passenger car with four-valve technology and charge-air cooling. The new model, with an engine developed on the basis of the proven naturally aspirated four-valve unit, delivered 110 kW (150 hp) and a maximum torque of 280 Nm (207 lb-ft), available from an engine speed as low as 1800 rpm. This put it among the most powerful cars with compression-ignition engines in its category. At the same time, the car excelled in high fuel economy and low emissions.
Upon the arrival of the new turbodiesel, the C 200 Diesel and C 250 Diesel models were removed from the product range for the domestic market. Another C 200 Diesel model appeared in June 1996, but this car was powered by a new two-litre four-valve engine delivering 65 kW (88 hp). This model was exclusively manufactured for the Portuguese market. From August 1996, the company started supplying a special taxi version based on the C 220 Diesel. Its derated engine with 55 kW (75 hp) was optimized for use with the alternative vegetable oil methyl ester fuel.
In 1996, the C 220 was replaced by the C 230, and the other four-cylinder petrol engines were modified and standardized. For example, the 1.8-litre and two-litre engines were now given an injection system using the HFM system with a hot-film air-flow sensor rather than the previously used pressure sensor, and also intake camshafts which were adjustable in operation. These modifications and the automatic five-speed transmission available from August 1996 resulted in lower fuel consumption, reduced engine noise emissions, even higher reliability and longer service lives as well as reduced maintenance costs.