Well, before I start on my car, a little bit about myself. I am a self-proclaimed car buff (totally my own opinion). So, when I was old enough to buy my own car, I decided I shall own cars that are known for something. Good design, great performance, unique shape, a great ride, etc. Boring cars that a normal person my age would aspire to own didn’t really excite me. Hence, I have owned a plethora of not so commonly owned cars and the “used car land” became my haunt of choice (younger days at least).
Car Selection Process
So, after owning a Mercedes-Benz B170 auto, I decided that I wanted to own something a little more refined in terms of build quality and better in terms of convenience technology, performance, and reliability. I tested some affordable new cars at that time but was not impressed. I then decided to go for a premium brand used car below 5 years old as I felt they offered a better blend of performance, tech and even economy. Some of the shortlisted cars included the E90 BMW 320i and the VW Passat CC 2.0 but at that age, those cars were already known for their need of extra care/love and poor/suspect after sales service.
In 2012, performance and reliability came in no better form for me than in the form of the 2007- 2011 W204 Mercedes-Benz C200K (K indicating the presence of a Kompressor, supercharger, spelt with a K in German). The engine was a 1.8 litre 4-cylinder inline configuration engine driving the rear wheels. It was rated at 181hp at 5,500rpm with 250Nm of torque being available between 2,800-5,000rpm. It is no slouch of a car with a sub 8.8s 0-100 km/h time and a theoretical 230 km/h top speed rating. Cheap road tax, economical when driven sedately and powerful when you step on it.
What Is Great About the Mercedes-Benz W204 Series
The locally assembled 2008 registered C200K (in Elegance trim with Avantgarde front grille) I purchased in 2012 had just clocked 42,000 kilometres and was a one owner lady car. Looking at the excellent condition of its all grey leather interior and silver colour exterior (most say it's the easiest colour to maintain), I just pounced to negotiate a great price and bought it at a lowly price of RM 164,000. The original price the previous owner paid would be approx. RM240,000 in 2008.
I felt really proud owning this car in my 30s. it brought a sense of prestige and perceived build quality second to none. Doors closed with a “thunk”. The leather was so well stitched that not a stitch or seem on it was out of place. Even on the door cards. It had electric adjustments for almost all things like the steering wheel (still not available in the latest G20 BMW 3 series in Malaysia at least). Both front seats were electrically adjustable with 3 pre-set memory options which included the steering setting and door mirror setting for the driver. Even the front headrests are electrically adjustable. There is an easy entry and exit feature where the steering wheel moves away when you switch off the car and moves back into your pre-set location when you’re seated with the car switched on. The front seats are very firm yet comfy but, in the back, a compromise still needs to be made despite the increase in wheelbase compared to the older W203. The passenger hump in the floor well is average in size and can be intrusive for the middle rear passenger. A Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord from that era was probably more spacious in that sense.
The car came with an in-built premium 6 CD in-dash changer with a 6-speaker set up complete with the then new MB Command APS controller. A lit and cooled glove compartment which by the way also housed a 12V socket and an auxiliary port for you to connect your iPod or other external devices. It had rear electric sun blinds (still works flawlessly to this day). Ambient lights in the front footwells and all switches were backlit as well. Not to mention availability of features like auto self-levelling HID headlights, directional spot lights that moved with the steering direction, auto wiper activation, ABS, EBD, ESC, 6 airbags, dual zone climate control with rear air conditioning vents. The W204 also had a great alarm and security system with an anti-towaway feature (had to switch it off on the Penang Ferry as the car constantly thought it was being stolen/towed away, hahaha). There’s also the Adaptive Brake which gives you hill-hold assistance (a feature only more common nowadays). The Adaptive Brake system also primes your brakes when you make a sudden lift-off from the throttle and also applies light contact to dry your brake discs in wet conditions. Finally, it also has cruise control and a speed limiter if so needed. All four doors have puddle lamps and courtesy lights as well. The trunk is capacious, flat and square. The pre-facelift version does not have the folding rear seat feature.
The car rides and handles as well as if not better than most cars in its class then and even now. Its 184hp power output is still comparable to the current C200 CGI models and on par with similar cars from BMW and Volvo. The steering is light but accurate. It gets weightier as the speed rises but is still skewed to the lighter side. The refinement (NVH) and suspension noise suppression is great. Even a BMW 328GT with adjustable suspension and all has more road noise and suspension noise over big potholes. The ride in elegance form is very compliant and big bumps are just smothered away. When driving, the car never creaks or squeaks even now, 12 years on. The power delivery is smooth and strong from very low RPMs thanks to the supercharger. It growls with an aggressive sound when revved but fades into silence when you cruise at higher speeds. The facelifted C200s CGI engine is more refined especially at lower speeds and even more economical.
Maintenance Is Easy
Reliability is a strong point of the car where it almost never gives any sudden unforeseen problems other than natural wear and tear issues. Now my car has reached approximately 170,000 kilometres in mileage. Its running as it was when I bought it. Maybe even better now as I have changed all the worn bits as it perishes. Any little problem will be duly informed by the monochrome LCD display within the centre of the speedometer. The original car battery easily lasts for 4-5 years. The standard “elegance” trim absorbers lasted me 9 years. Yes, some parts feel pricey but when you look at the frequency of changing those parts, it’s really not.
General maintenance is easy and reasonable in cost. A simple service every 10,000 kilometres cost in the region of RM450 to RM600 depending on the type and brand of the engine oil used. My preferred service centre recommends changing the gearbox oil every 50k kilometres. Tyres generally last about 40k - 50k km (again an approximate figure depending on the tyre brand and model). It has disc brakes all round. A pair front brake pads can cost between RM350 to RM600 depending on the brand.
Negatives are few. The 5-speed auto is a lazy shifter in comfort mode. Only slightly better in sports mode. The switchgear looks spartan yet there is a general sense of too many buttons on the centre console. The buttons are easily scratched by fingernails. The command controller has a plastic twirler and that commonly gets broken on the inside. Some aftermarket servicemen can upgrade that controller by replacing it with a cast iron part that solves the issue at a fraction of the price (RM 250). The main infotainment display is monochrome and looks dim. It also has a clamshell hood that is totally unnecessary and removed from the facelift version. If any suspension part wears off, it will appear as a knocking noise or squeak that will irritate you to death. If the suspension is all good, the tyres wear very evenly back to front. At first startup for the day or after a long rest, the engine with whirr and rumble a bit and that’s the supercharger. The supercharger also emits a little low whine when you’re pushing the car. You get to like it after some time. The CGI (turbo) versions have less engine noise on startup. The grey leather needs some leather cleaning and care every year to keep it bright and spotless.
The Next Plan
Now after seeing, test driving and looking at the latest cars, I don’t think my W204 is so obsolete. I finally determined that the only thing it looses out on is in the infotainment front (Apple Car play/ Android Auto and also latest active safety gear like Blind Spot Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and a slew of other questionable safety gear that’s not even available on all the new sub-RM 300k or more Mercedes-Benz models.
I now plan to keep this car as a project car and have already upgraded the infotainment system to match the latest W205 models even (already shown in the earlier interior picture). The new safety systems available, I still think I don’t really need them as of yet. Next is to give the paint a revival by giving it a coat of paint to touch up all the little scratches and dents that are urban jungle battle scars. For me this Mercedes Benz model is a keeper for those who want a touch of class and enjoyment and yet not spend overboard on maintenance. This car can be both as sedate (aka “Uncle”) or as sporty (aka “Ah Beng”) as you want it to be. There are many FB clubs and forums that can guide you on upkeep and upgrading parts at sensible prices. Its popularity and familiarity are also why maintaining an older Mercedes Benz W204 is easy. Parts are readily available nationwide. Buy one and remember why the Mercedes Benz was once thought of as the epitome of excellence. Oh, by the way, I have also changed the front grille to that of a diamond design emulating the latest Mercedes Benz range. More little changes to come. Hopefully keeping it tasteful along the way.
Ageless exterior design
Solid build inside & outside
Great fit & finish inside & outside
Top specification models have gadgets that are ahead of its time.
Good NVH quality
Large 2 tier cooled glove compartment
Rear air conditioning air vents.
Good dual zone air conditioning system
Lazy 5 speed torque converter auto
Engine and supercharger noise when cold
Mediocre interior space
Obsolete built-in infotainment system
Switches easily scratched
Too many switches
Lighter coloured leather interiors are hard to keep clean and spotless
Poor front cupholders.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Quality & Features: 3/5
Ride Comfort: 4/5
Fuel Economy: 3/5
Price & Cost: 3/5
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