​A relaunch with heart

There is something majestic about a vehicle launch that allows you to rest your bones at one of the most prestigious hotels in Johannesburg, the Westcliff.

Driving in from Bloemfontein, I was relieved to plonk myself down and await the evening’s festivities of one the most evolving car manufacturers in the world. I was curious to see the extremes Mercedes-Benz would go to to relaunch an already established model.

The venue was the Art Eye Gallery rooftop. I sipped on a virgin gin concoction and awaited the arrival of the only other motoring journalist I know — Elvis from the SABC — who arrived looking dapper.

Elvis is so well known that when he was present with the Pope, someone enquired as to who was standing next to Elvis. Thanks to his social etiquette I was introduced to most of the Mercedes-Benz team before we made our way to the spread one floor below.

Inner-city rejuvenation projects are always close to my heart. Witnessing the passion and dedication that Mercedes-Benz has invested in developing these dilapidated areas is inspirational and aspirational.

Mercedes-Benz has invested in the redevelopment of the old Rotunda. The Rotunda used to be the spot to purchase plane tickets before the internet took over. The building fell into disrepair and was left to rot. It has now been revamped, re-worked and uplifted.

The revamped Rotunda presented a stunning setting for the unveiling of the facelifted series. Selvin Govender, head of marketing for Mercedes-Benz South Africa, entertained with a spellbinding yarn of the brand’s initiatives and success stories.

Having owned a C63 AMG a few years ago, complete with Akrapovic exhausts and upgraded performance pack, I was encouraged to witness the evolution of the brand from perceived serious business and older gentry wagon to an almost supernatural appeal which transcended all age barriers.

Watching the head of Mercedes mention the awards that the brand had accumulated raised my eyebrows in appreciation at the dedication of the global initiatives. I wondered who counted and data-logged the six thousand changes the new C Class has apparently undergone?

From new engines to restyling the interior and exterior, Mercedes has done a substantial overhaul of an already successful vehicle.

Elvis and I headed to the black C43 AMG that was parked in the sun beckoning us to sample her wares. We were shooed away to another vehicle, having been told that this was one of the academy escort cars.

We settled on a Mojave Silver C200 Sedan and due to my recent GLC S63 AMG test, it was easy getting accustomed to the controls.

Apart from equipping the cars with two-way radios and making us stick to well defined route schedules, the Mercedes crew were polite and efficient. We even received a goodie bag for our short drive out.

The C200 was easy to use but I felt its lack of power on the dusty, traffic-laden stretches on the way to the Vaal. A soft ride and effortless gearbox make the C200 the obvious choice for a newly appointed director or businessperson with a medium car allowance and traffic jams to navigate.

The first changeover stop had more people scrambling for the AMGs. Elvis lamented in sadness as we blazed off in blur of amusement with our 287 KW C43. He had forgotten our snack pack …

The C43 has a 61% rear/39% front bias, which makes the car easy to steer and simple to control. Like all the 43 AMG models, the nine-speed box allows you manual shift orientated control between the gears or depending on the mode, a rather intelligent selection strategy.

We had open road, so I opened the AMG up.

We managed the soft limiter before Elvis and the cameraman began swearing in languages I could not understand. Something about speed? I normally wear earplugs and a helmet.

As a biker, 200+km/h is second gear. Car people are strange…

I had never seen a black man turn white, and the cameraman, who was white, turn grey with such rapid alacrity. It was amusing; maybe not so much for them.

Our lunch venue was the Pont de Val, a rustic venue that has a far more impressive interior than one might presume from the outside.

After another incredible meal we were back on the road. This time we excitedly climbed into the C300 coupé. The cameraman opted for another vehicle. I could only wonder why. Both Elvis and I found the C300 was the most versatile vehicle. It has well-balanced performance, comfortable seats and a smooth as silk suspension. It’s an impressive package priced well within the affordability factor for those single or childless couples that want luxury with aplomb and refined style. It’s deceptively quick and fuel efficient. Definitely our number one choice as an all-rounder for the day.

In launching the upgraded C Class, Mercedes-Benz has remained true to its innovative hashtag #neverstopimproving. It has combined aspiration with inspiration and done it in a way that not only uplifts the community, but allows people to develop their own identities while evolving in the material world.

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