Considering a Merc for transcontinental jaunts

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by SamuelD, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. SamuelD

    SamuelD New Member

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    Hello, all.

    My girlfriend and I live in Paris, France, but we make regular trips to Romania (where she’s from).

    Lately we’ve been doing this by car with an overnight stop in Passau, Germany, since this usually costs less than flying and doesn’t seem to produce more CO2 emissions. The trip takes about 20 hours on the road, all but 20 km of it on high-speed motorways.

    Our present car is a Citroën C1, bought to teach her how to drive (late starter) and to figure out if owning a car makes any sense for us. (We very nearly got an old W 201 instead!) Turns out we use it mostly for long trips out of town, with very little driving in Paris proper. So it’s not an especially suitable car for our needs, though we appreciate its fuel economy/emissions, ease of parking, and low running costs.

    To cut a long story short, we reckon we could skip the hotel stay if we had a car that ensconced us in comfort and could cruise at 130–150 km/h with lower noise and greater stability than our C1. That would take the journey time down to about 17 hours, which is safely doable with two drivers taking shifts.

    We would also use the car for other long journeys around France and farther afield. If we got a new car, we’d want to keep it for a long time – at least 10 years and maybe 20. Although we do long journeys, we don’t do high mileage: roughly 12,000 km per year. Maybe that would change if we had a nicer car, but not by much.

    I am particular about maintenance and do some simple work myself (e.g. changing brake discs on our C1). Reasonable running costs and few surprise bills are important to us.

    I was thinking a C-Class, new or used, would make some sense.

    We’re not into cars as status symbols and have no interest in things like big wheels (quite the opposite – I want tyres with high sidewalls for comfort), high engine power, or electronic doodahs. I appreciate good engineering, by which I mean fitness for purpose: comfort, fuel economy, reliability, durability, active and passive safety, driving pleasure on real roads rather than a track, etc.

    1. Given the uncertainty surrounding regulation of diesel emissions in big European cities like Paris, plus diesel’s driving characteristics and potentially high maintenance costs, we’d prefer a petrol engine. People recommend diesels for long journeys, but I’m not sure why since the economy gap closes significantly in extra-urban driving – so much so that petrols sometimes have lower CO2 emissions in cruise, i.e. burn less fuel by weight. Would a new petrol make sense for us? What about a petrol C-Class from a few years ago? Old diesels are out of the question because of their filth, but we might consider a new one if it makes overwhelming sense.
    2. We would do a lot of high-speed driving, where aerodynamics are important for economy and quietness. When looking at used C-Class models, is there a year when aerodynamics made a major leap, or is it just a case of steady progression from the W 201 to today’s W 205?
    3. Are the petrol engines in the cheaper C-Class models made by Renault? (I remember reading about a possible technology-sharing deal a while ago.) Regardless, are they worth looking at? I’m talking about the C 160 and C 180 available in France. Not sure these are sold in the UK.
    4. Would the CLA be worth considering for our sort of usage? I know it’s not rear wheel drive.
    Any other comments welcome.

    Cheers!
     
  2. renault12ts

    renault12ts MB Club Veteran

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    Welcome...are you French or American?
     
  3. OP
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    SamuelD

    SamuelD New Member

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    Thanks!

    As to your question, neither. Finnish mother, Northern Irish father. British according to my passport.
     
  4. CCAALLVVIINN

    CCAALLVVIINN Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    Hello

    In general I think your move toward petrol might be a wise on, given the length of ownership you intend.

    I wonder if running what is a brand new car today in 10 - 15 - 20 years time will be viable due to their highly complex and 'on the edge' engines, gearboxes etc.

    I have run Volvos and Mercedes, often alongside one another for many years, and if longevity and lack of unexpected bills are a priority I'd be looking at Volvo not Mercedes. Having said that, a Mercedes does offer a better drive, but, I always go for the key of our 2011 Volvo XC70 over our 2012 e250 cabriolet ( basically a c class), unless the suns out of course.
     
  5. Pontoneer

    Pontoneer MB Club Veteran

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    For regular long journeys like that I'd put comfort as my number one priority and for that you can't beat an S Class :) The W126 , in particular , was built as a no compromise mile muncher .

    More seriously , I know you weren't thinking of such a large car , but for longevity and ease of maintenance you can't beat the earlier models , and the W201 you were offered before would be a great contender . Since you're on the continent , the 190E 2.3 ( which wasn't marketed here in the UK ) should be readily available . I've had three 190's and my first one , a 2 litre automatic could better 40mpg on long runs ( cruising at 70 mph ) these were real world figures , calculated across multiple tanks of fuel , and not the estimates of an on board computer . The 2.3L version of the M102 is basically the same engine but with greater output and torque , but runs slightly higher gearing which gives more relaxed cruising and better fuel economy . I had a 2.6 before , which is the nicest engine , but significantly thirstier .

    I have suggested the W201 over its successors for a number of reasons : firstly , it is the best engineered of the series - so much went into getting it right as it was so important to the company and they are just so well made ; the W201 is a simple and reliable car which can easily be looked after by a home mechanic , and will save on garage bills , they don't have the troublesome and complex electronics which send the later cars to the scrapyards when they go wrong . I ran a W201 alongside a W126 and it was almost as comfortable and just as nice a drive ; it is certainly a much nicer place to be than a W203 which is much more closed in and claustrophobic than a 201 with a roomy , bright and airy interior and much , much better outward visibility . They are also more nimble in handling and more responsive than the much heavier later cars , yet were applauded on introduction for crash safety the equal of the S Class !

    Although prices are now on the rise , you should still be able to buy a 190 for less than later models , and have money to spare for ongoing maintenance , something that any car would need , but with a 190 it is nuts and bolts rather than expensive and complex electronics .

    Don't worry about a 190 being older - they are superbly well engineered cars - get a good one , keep on top of the maintenance and it will last forever and reward with total reliability .

    Thinking about fiscal structures in different countries , the 190 will be approaching Historic status and thus exemption from the LEZ's which exist in many European cities , and also a relaxation of duties payable - inexpensive Classic Car insurance ( taking into account your low annual mileage ) is another advantage .

    Not many 190's in the UK have air con , but that may be different where you are , however desirable options , thinking about your long trips , would be a sunroof and cruise control .

    Another option , if you can find one in good condition , would be a W123 230E : simple , well engineered and supremely comfortable .
     
  6. Benzmanc

    Benzmanc Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    would it not be easier to get a French girlfriend ;) although i suspect that option would cost a lot more in the long term :D:p
     
  7. 190

    190 Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    If you are thinking of a petrol the W204's were the first C classes to provide really good fuel economy and low emissions. A C180K Blue Efficiency has 60 % aspect ratio tyres and a very good drag coefficient of 0.25 or 0.26 which shows in it's top speed of 144 MPH out of only 154 HP. Economy is good, mine has averaged 44.9 MPG so far but that falls to mid 30's in town driving. On Motorway trips it does a minimum 50 MPG at 70 MPH (113 KPH) At 80 MPH (130 KPH) I don't know what it would do but I guess it wouldn't be below 45 MPG.
     
  8. StuartK

    StuartK Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I would buy a 1980's 300 or 500 se or sel.
     
  9. Pontoneer

    Pontoneer MB Club Veteran

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    The design brief included carrying a full load of passengers the length and breadth of Germany in comfort and at high speed on the autobahnen .
     
  10. renault12ts

    renault12ts MB Club Veteran

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  11. neilrr

    neilrr MB Club Veteran

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    I'd fly.
     
  12. Pontoneer

    Pontoneer MB Club Veteran

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    The train is much more civilised and comfortable , without all the nonsense security rigmarole , besides being MUCH cheaper on the continent than they are here .

    I HATE flying because you are herded like cattle and treated as criminals instead of as valued customers who pay their wages .
     
  13. ianrandom

    ianrandom Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    The old S class (W126 in my case) is a most fantastic mile muncher. They just yomp the miles up like nothing else I've driven. You can get nearly 30mpg out of some if you're careful, on long trips.
    Not terribly practical in Paris though.
    The seats need to be in good condition to be comfortable. I absolutely love mine, I do hear complaints from other owners but I think that's when they are tired.

    The W201 suggestion seems a good one. They are a really lovely drive, very smooth and solid feeling at 80mpg, and much smaller for city manoeuvring when needed. Lovely cars actually.

    Modern cars, I don't know about those. Find it hard to trust them, I like to keep hold of my cars forever
     
  14. CCAALLVVIINN

    CCAALLVVIINN Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    +1 for a w126, brilliant cars, but, active and passive safety somewhat lacking compared to modern cars.

    A 300se would be a good compromise between speed and economy, although beating the time set by the C1 would give less than 30 mpg
     
  15. tuonopepper

    tuonopepper Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    The way the Schengen agreement seems to be in Jeopardy, cross euro rail travel may soon be as problematic as air travel!
     
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  16. bolide

    bolide Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    A few years ago the default option would have been a Citroen CX Diesel - often seen blasting down the outside lane of a Route Nationale at 85 mph with the indicator going and a tanned arm hanging out of the window

    I can't think of any new car I'd buy and keep ten years, let alone twenty. I am not sure a "car for life" exists any more

    Paris is a hard environment for cars, and depreciation is a bitch, so I'd buy something 3-5 years old and get rid of it after 3 years.

    I'd get something comfortable like a Citroen C6 turbo diesel - it's French, economical, comfortable and sensible. The latest C6 you could buy is a 2012 car, so three or four years old, and it should meet current emissions standards across Europe

    I think it's important to realise that current Mercedes are not the hewn-from-granite cars of old (like the W126) and that the majority of new German cars ride appallingly

    Nick Froome
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  17. OP
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    SamuelD

    SamuelD New Member

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    When I looked at W201s with a view to buying one, I saw a lot of rust. That was ultimately the deciding factor in my opting for the Citroën C1 instead (as strange as it might sound to have been shopping for those two cars).

    Is there a secret to finding one with good bodywork? Maybe I was just being too fussy. I’m not looking for a show car, after all.

    Mechanically and aesthetically these cars are very appealing to me, but the diesels of that era are dirty and the petrols burn more fuel than today’s petrol engines (in today’s aerodynamic bodies). So as a practical long-distance runner, I wonder.

    Still, a W201 or better yet W123 would have real character.

    The C1 is incredibly fuel efficient in the city (it weighs 800 kg!) or on country roads, but at motorway speeds – especially French or German motorway speeds – economy falls off more sharply than with saloons I’ve driven. We average ~5 litres per 100 km (~55 miles per Imperial gallon) when cruising around 110 km/h (70 MPH). That is impressive in an absolute sense, but less so when you consider the C1’s minuscule size. If the W204 C180K can really do 50 MPG in similar conditions, as 190 said up-thread, that is amazing!

    I’m not obsessed with fuel economy but don’t think I could tolerate much below 40 MPG (~7 litres per 100 km).

    Renault12ts: County Tyrone. Do you know the place?

    French girlfriend suggestion duly noted.

    I thought if any car would last, a Mercedes-Benz would. What about a petrol C-Class with as few options as possible?

    You’re right about Paris, but my girlfriend has underground parking at work and we rarely use the car in the city. The car is used almost entirely for automobile tourism.

    Another thing about Paris is that the air quality is catastrophic, in large part because it’s full of diesel engines cold-idling in traffic jams. I am a cyclist and don’t need EU regs to tell me something needs to be done about this. I’m very reluctant to contribute further to this mess or to reward the car manufacturers for senselessly pushing diesel to average commuters, which is why I’m so resistant to buying a diesel car. The Volkswagen scandal has only soured me further.

    That said, it’s interesting you mention the C6. The three cars I have seriously considered buying in the last few years are the C1 (bought), W201, and C5 (though not C6).

    I am a big believer in high tyre sidewalls for ride comfort. I bet a lot of those modern German cars that ride terribly would be transformed with more appropriate wheels and tyres – not that most owners could be convinced to part with their grotesquely oversized alloys.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
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  18. ianrandom

    ianrandom Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    I like your attitude, I'm a cyclist too around town and I'm finding the diesel thing really heartbreaking recently. Clouds of smoke pouring out of nearly everyone's cars, it's so choking. And the sitting idling thing too

    I found the same as you mentioned with economy, driving the work Berlingo. Awesome urban mpg, but as soon as you got it on the motorway about 85mph, 26mpg sometimes! Different tools for different jobs I guess. My 30 year old w126 will do that or maybe slightly better, while sitting at 100/110.

    I actually not seen many rusty W201, I'm sure there are plenty though, I don't know what their rust weaknesses are really.
    W123, are really nice cars, but they rust so much more than the 126/201, just because there seems to be more places water collects and less good proofing. Also unless you have the diesel, not great mpg.
     
  19. fabes

    fabes Hardcore MB Enthusiast

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    If you are really / solely using the car for the long fast runs, then a four pot diesel is the sensible suggestion.

    The Renault 1.5dci is in many of theirs and other marquees cars and will hit 50mpg at 130kmh plus dependent on the car (not a SUV)
    The merc 200 / 220 cdi will be excellent at the job
    Hate to say it but the BMW 320d is said to be one of the best at doing 60mpg plus on fast runs, if you get se suspension you might even live to tell the tale (sorry :ban:)

    Is mpg or L/km that important though as a petrol will still do 35mpg and sit better with your conscience (a 4cyl sub 2 L with good Aero) though above 120km fuel does really drop off ....

    Curve ball suggestion is hire the car you need when you need it though?
    Small car or even electric if needed in town, and then a bit of luxury when you need it for the long runs.the saving on tax and insurance will be reasonable

    And keeping a car for 10 plus years when you drive it around Paris could be ambitious. I am in Paris and Puteaux on a regular basis to witness the driving, the roads and the battle scars 90% of cars display. I would respectively suggest 5 to 10 years is a realistic aim given some Paris driving and the less frequent fast and long run

    HTH
     
  20. DrFeelgood

    DrFeelgood MB Club Veteran

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    If you are not into amateur mechanics I'd avoid an old clunker at all costs.
     

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