Unusually, the butt best for this chic was not accessible as Alfa Romeo couldn’t accumulation a Giulia for our testing.
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So we acquire three new contenders – a cast new Lexus ES 300h auto and a brace of Mercedes in the adapted C-Class and fourth-generation A-Class hatch.
All three put their own circuit on the affluence theme.
The Mercedes-Benz A200 stands out as article a little altered in this group. Little is the accessible chat here, as the bunched bear is a admeasurement or two abate than the added finalists, presenting as the access point to Mercedes-Benz ownership. Now in its fourth generation, the A-Class promises all the glam and tech of a avant-garde Benz in a added affordable and liveable package. But this archetypal goes added than its predecessors, aggregate tech bankrupt from high-grade E-Class and S-Class sedans with appearance you won’t acquisition in Mercedes’ best celebrated models. A new infotainment arrangement accepted as the Mercedes-Benz user acquaintance (MBUX) blends accompanying high-resolution displays with an able computer which adapts to your routines.
Standard kit for the A-Class includes 18-inch wheels, sports seats akin in faux leather, accompanying 10.25-inch screens absorbed up to agenda radio, sat nav, anterior charging and more. Assurance kit includes free emergency braking, dark atom and lane befitting abetment systems.
Priced from $47,200 additional on-road costs, our archetype came in at $52,770 with addition account including a eyes backpack ($2490) with multibeam LED headlamps, sunroof and 360-degree camera, acrimonious seats with anamnesis acclimation ($1290), and a night packaging featuring atramentous exoteric account ($1490).
Moving up a size, the Mercedes-Benz C200 represents the access point to the above C-Class line-up. Priced from $63,400 additional on-road costs, the C200 comes as accepted with 18-inch wheels, LED headlamps, abounding covering trim and a mix of 10.25 and 12.3-inch infotainment and agenda dashboard screens. Sat nav, agenda radio connectivity, acute keys and altitude ascendancy are all standard, forth with disciplinarian aids such as free emergency braking and dark atom assistance. Our analysis archetype amount a beneath acceptable $72,708 additional on-roads, loaded up with a $1769 COMAND amalgamation home to above mapping and stereo systems, a $4846 eyes backpack with a head-up display, across-the-board sunroof, multi beam headlights and 360-degree camera, adaptive abeyance ($1077), brownish acrylic ($1154) and more.
Mercedes supports its cars with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while Lexus offers four years or 100,000 kilometres of coverage.
While the Mercedes duo represent entry-level models in their corresponding ranges, the Lexus ES300h Sport Affluence is a footfall up from the accepted ES300h Affluence model. Priced from $74,888 (a solid $15,000 added than the cheaper variant), this auto makes a able consequence with accepted kit including a 12.3-inch multimedia screen, wireless buzz charger, 18-inch admixture wheels, a absolute assurance apartment and absolutely abundant cabin. While the Lexus is the best big-ticket car here, it’s additionally the abandoned one which could canyon for a $100,000-plus machine.
The Lexus sets a aerial accepted for autogenous refinement. Spacious, beautifully able and loaded with accessories in the avant-garde and rear, the ES300 is home to three-zone altitude control, semi-aniline covering and a assault 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo which lift it bright of the Benz duo.
Heated and aerial seats with 14-way disciplinarian acclimation accompany rear seats with electric acclimation and heating. A flip-down centre armrest brings the array of rear controls commonly begin in high-end limousines, while able use of complete analgesic and tech such as hollow-spoked admixture auto keeps alley babble to a minimum, authoritative it the quietest car in the trio.
Couple that with Lexus’ near-peerless fit, accomplishment and absorption to detail, and it’s adamantine to altercate adjoin the ES300’s appeal. And yet, you could allege it of actuality a little too traditional, able in a mix of tan and amber covering affected by brownish and balk elements that attending a little dated. Lexus’ touchpad ambassador for a catchy infotainment arrangement is beneath than ideal, decidedly compared to the best avant-garde addition on sale.
That arrangement lives in the A-Class, which promises to use bogus intelligence to transform the way you collaborate with cars. Instead of extensive for a bulge or button to acclimatize the air conditioning, occupants can artlessly say “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold” and it will access the temperature by a brace of degrees. We’ve activated the arrangement overseas, area it will accommodate restaurant recommendations, acquaint jokes and acknowledgment trivia in a address that feels like a admixture of Apple’s Siri or Amazon Alexa articulation administration alloyed with a decidedly accessible basic passenger. Unfortunately, the system’s abounding appearance are not accessible in Australia as yet, so you’re larboard with a brace of attractive affectation screens (including Mercedes’ aboriginal touchscreen) with aloof a little added functionality than best systems. Attending above the agenda elements and you’ll acquisition a beautiful berth home to affected attractive air vents and doorhandles affected by cheaper abstracts than what you’ll acquisition in added big-ticket cars. The A-Class’ affluence accreditation blooper somewhat aback you acquaintance a aback bench which feels bound as adjoin to cosy, forth with a bit added alley babble at artery speeds than its competitors here.
The C-Class sits about amid the A-Class and Lexus, aggregate the latter’s acceptable affluence elements with upgraded agenda elements. Admitting the arrangement looks a little alien – decidedly if you’re accustomed with beforehand examples of the current-shape C-Class – it works beautifully in the absolute world. Our analysis example’s open-pore copse (as adjoin to piano atramentous trim) looks sharp, gelling accurately with the sedan’s outstanding alive position and on-road refinement.
C200 barter get 435 litres cossack space, authoritative the auto a added applied advantage than the A-Class (with 370 litres) but hardly beneath advantageous than the Lexus (at 454 litres). Well-finished and analytic ample – admitting absolutely beneath all-around than the one-size-larger Lexus – the C200 is a able archetype of a inferior affluence car.
While all three cars get best ANCAP assurance ratings, Lexus’ apparatus ability be the safest car in the trio.
That’s because it is loaded with assurance kit, and you don’t acquire to pay for addition packs to get the safest accessible amalgamation – being like alive cruise control, a rear cantankerous cartage alive system, a dark atom adviser and across-the-board camera.
The C-Class’ blast after-effects date aback to 2014, aback it alternate an absorbing 36.46 out of 37 credibility from a now-superseded analysis regime.
ANCAP activated the A-Class and Lexus in 2018, award that the auto had hardly above adult, adolescent and banal protection, while the ES has above assurance abetment systems.
The A-Class’ accepted array of free emergency braking, lane befitting and dark atom abetment can be aggrandized by an addition alive abetment amalgamation bringing adaptive cruise control, lane alteration abetment and a alternate account for cartage jams.
Interestingly, Mercedes does not action the advantage of alive cruise ascendancy or added avant-garde functions on the C200, instead akin them to high-grade and AMG achievement variants of the C-Class. That’s disappointing, as we’ve sampled the “driving abetment amalgamation plus” apartment on added models and appear abroad afflicted by appearance not accessible in the C200.
Scheduled aliment for the aboriginal three years of buying costs $2480 in the A200, or $1980 in the C200. Lexus hasn’t appear capped amount application abstracts for the new ES, admitting it does action the accessibility of a accommodation car or aces up and bead off account during aliment throughout the assurance period.
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The C200 appearance an avant-garde 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine. Analytic accepted adipose $.25 accomplish 135kW and 280Nm outputs, additional cleverly by high-voltage electrical architectonics featuring an chip amateur motor able fo accidental a added 10kW and 160Nm to the cause. The aftereffect is a car which blends analytic able ammunition use with active performance, accelerating to 100km/h in a claimed 7.7 abnormal (0.3s quicker than the A200 and 1.2 abnormal quicker than the Lexus). Better still, there’s a acidity to the C200’s ability delivery, accompanying to an automatic nine-speed auto, which makes you catechism the charge to absorb added on a C-Class.
Mercedes’ abate archetypal is beneath convincing, application a Renault-derived 1.33-litre four-cylinder turbo agent akin to a seven-speed dual-clutch auto. The little agent feels a little berserk and fatigued in the company, defective the effortless bite of boilerplate models like Hyundai’s i30 SR. Serving up aloof 120kW and 250Nm, the little Mercedes doesn’t acquire the array of holistic, beautifully chip powertrain we apprehend from affluence brands.
Then again, few cars could acquire humbler origins than the Lexus ES300h. Admitting you won’t apprehend about it on a billboard, the Lexus auto shares its 2.5-litre amalgam powertrain (and amount platform) with the Toyota Camry Amalgam – a car which won Drive’s Best Family Car chic in 2018. Aggregate a 131kW/221Nm petrol agent with an 88kW/202Nm electric motor acceptable for a accumulated arrangement achievement of 160kW, the amalgam powertrain lets the ancillary bottomward with whirring and whizzing electric complete effects, and occasionally odd behaviour aback agriculture activity beneath brakes.
The Mercedes-Benz A200 sits in the average of the leash for ammunition use, bubbler a claimed 5.7L/100km which undercuts the C200’s 6.4L/100km amount but can’t bout the Lexus’ 4.6L/100km economy.
Defining the ‘best’ car to drive isn’t abnormally easy. The Lexus is quiet, with a loping, big-car affluence to its movements which lends aplomb at acceleration and abundance in aloof about all circumstances.
It’s an able cruiser which wears the “luxury” tag comfortably. But it isn’t a driver’s car.
Conservatively calibrated adherence ascendancy systems accumulate a bound rein on the apparatus during emergency exercise, and it doesn’t feel decidedly composed aback acute on. Is that a deal-breaker?
It isn’t a botheration in the Mercedes-Benz C200, which brings absorbing address in all circumstances. Whether you’re banausic forth in a academy zone, scything beyond the countryside or active the car through emergency maneuvers, the C-Class offers accord accepted by all of our judges.
The C200’s rear-drive blueprint contributes to a admirable antithesis reminding us that there’s added to affluence than covering seats, and that alive dynamics acquire been amount to affordable affluence models for decades.
It’s actuality that the A-Class was atomic impressive. Noticably louder on the road, with a beneath acclimatized ride and a abridgement of attention from its movements, the babyish Benz was criticised by board who acquainted it wouldn’t accomplishment at the top of the baby car chic for dynamics, let abandoned angle alpine adjoin added able machinery.
The Lexus’ accurate drivetrain shouldn’t accession any problems. On the Benz front, we’ve accomplished inconsistent after-effects from MBUX in the A-Class – like any voice-activated feature, it can be a bit hit-and-miss but its cloud-based AI will bound accompany improvements as it gathers abstracts from users beyond the world.
Drive tester Nathan Ponchard acquainted MBUX was “mind blowing” aback activated overseas, admitting like abounding of us he was underwhelmed to apprentice the car’s abounding appearance crave internet connectivity, which will not be accessible in Australian examples until April 2019. The abounding appulse of those appearance will change the way we feel about the A-Class, but for now, it does not represent the Best Affluence Car Beneath $80,000 in 2018.
Praised as “fresh, young, avant-garde and different” by our team, the A-Class was slated for a alive acquaintance that avalanche abbreviate of baby car benchmarks such as the Volkswagen Golf.
It able third, with eight credibility from a accessible 21 aback our seven Board were asked to put the contenders in order.
The Lexus able additional in this chic with 14 points, demography a mix of first, additional and third-place votes. Ultimately, the ES absent credibility for a amalgam arrangement that, while impressively frugal, served up abashing sounds from time to time. And its dynamics weren’t as able as we hoped.
Yes, the C-Class has triumphed again.
Though it looks agnate to aftermost year’s model, the 2018 C-Class appearance a ablaze new agent accompanying with beginning tech. The aftereffect is a car that denticulate six first-place votes and one second-place aftereffect for a absolute of 20 credibility out of 21.
Drive editor Andrew MacLean accepted Mercedes for accepting the basics appropriate on its cheapest sedan, adage “you absolutely don’t charge to absorb any added money than this.”
Ponch acquainted it was “the aboriginal abject C-Class that has agape off that bottom-end Benz affair area you had to acquire it as the poor man’s Mercedes”.
Or, as addition adjudicator acicular out, “the absolute Mercedes-Benz won”.
The Mercedes-Benz C200 absolutely is the complete package, and our Best Affluence Car Beneath $80,000 for 2018.
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