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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz C-class Sport Edition - on sale in July



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Mercedes-Benz dealers are taking orders for the new Sport Edition derivative of the C-class that goes on sale in the UK from July this year.

Prices will be announced later but it will cost around £1,800 more than the basic Classic versions of the saloon, estate and coupe, in line with the price differential of the luxury-image Avantgarde.

The Sport Edition models, using two new V6 engines, are known as the C320 CDI (diesel) and C350 (petrol). They are additions to the range and the AMG derivatives continue.

The 320 replaces the 270, and the 350 the 320. Both engines will be available across the C-class range at, Mercedes-Benz UK hopes, no more than £200 over the outgoing models. With BMW introducing a new 3-series, and Audi fielding the latest A4, Mercedes hopes the Sport Edition will add zest to the C-class which was facelifted only last year.

What the diesel, at least, will offer is a temporary business-user bonus: as a Euro IV specification engine it qualifies for exemption from the 3% benefit-in-kind tax loading on diesels. Chancellor Gordon Brown’s generosity comes to an end in April 2006, when the surcharge is to be restored, along with plans to align the VAT fuel scale charge with the company car benefit charge to provide “consistent” tax incentives.

Meanwhile, Marc Boderke, the Mercedes-Benz C-class senior product manager, says: “Upgrading will go on until its eventual replacement is announced, but we are not saying when that will be.” The successor to the current C-class, launched in 2000, is not expected before 2007-08.

The UK Sport Edition will almost be the Sport Edition Plus – to be sold from the spring elsewhere in Europe – because, says Mercedes-Benz, “the UK always demands a high specification”.

The UK package includes sports suspension, AMG body styling (front/rear aprons and side skirts, plus rear spoiler on the coupe), 17-inch wheels, silver radiator grille and chromed tailpipes.

A three-spoke leather-clad steering wheel, pedals with black rubber studs, silver instrument dials and ‘Sport Edition’ on side rub strips and front mats are among the cosmetic adornments. Only bi-xenon headlamps are excluded from the Continental Plus package.

Strength: Smooth new engines
Weakness: 'Sport’ tag is overdoing it
Opportunity: Diesel will impress business users
Threat: New C-class not due until 2007/8
The USP: C-class class
Prices: To be announced
Engines: 2987cc, 224bhp turbodiesel and 3498cc, 272bhp petrol (both 24v V6)
Transmission: 6spd man, 7spd auto, rwd
Performance: 0-62mph 6.4, 8.1s; top 155/153mph
Efficiency: 40mpg (diesel), 29.2mpg (petrol) CO2 TBA
Rivals: Audi A4, BMW 3

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