The C-Class and its predecessor, the 190E, is one of Mercedes’ most important models, and up until the turn of the century, it was the German carmaker's most affordable vehicle.
It has also introduced many powertrain technologies – including on the 190 which Mercedes considers a C-Class as well. The Mercedes 190 (or W201 as it was internally known), brought newly developed diesel engines with four (OM 601) or five (OM 602) cylinders that were encapsulated to reduce noise. They were also frugal and not as slow as one would think: the 190 D 2.5 Turbo launched in 1986 could sprint from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 11.5 seconds.
However, enthusiasts will most likely remember the W201 series for a gasoline engine: the four-valve version of the M 102, which premiered in the 190 E 2.3-16 model in 1983. It was the first series-produced Mercedes-Benz passenger car with a petrol engine with four valves per cylinder and a successful sports sedan.
What is less known about the 190 is that Mercedes experimented with an electric version featuring two permanent magnet excited electric motors fed by sodium/nickel chloride batteries, each of which had an output of 16 kW (22 hp) and was used to drive one rear wheel. Mercedes tested 10 such vehicles with various electric motor/battery combinations on the island of Rügen between 1992 and 1996, with one of them clocking an annual mileage of 100,000 km (62,137 miles). However, none of them made it to production.
The W202 model series was the first C-Class marketed as such, and introduced the world’s first diesel engine with common-rail injection in a passenger car - the C 220 CDI model. From 2003 onwards, all diesel engines in C-Class model series W203 were based on the common-rail principle.
In 1995, the C-Class W202 brought back supercharged engines with belt-driven supercharger in the C 230 Kompressor. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder M 111 engine was around a fifth more economical than a similarly powered naturally aspirated engine.
1997 saw the introduction of the first V8 engine in a C-Class with the C 43 AMG, which paved the way for contemporary C 63 AMG models.
The C-Class W204 generation also brought a big premiere at the end of 2008, the OM 651 diesel engine. With 204 hp from a 2.1-liter displacement in its most powerful variant, the four-cylinder engine was deemed refined enough even for the S-Class, making it the first luxury-class vehicle to feature a four-cylinder engine.
By Dan Mihalascu