We did a four day round trip from Johannesburg to Durban on a single tank of fuel in the new Mercedes-Benz C220d
Diesel cars don’t receive nearly as much credit as they deserve. Generally, people are either loyal to petrol or diesel and in most cases, you have a better chance of seeing flying pigs than converting these groups. Maybe it’s just the case that lovers of high-octane fuel simply don’t know what they’re missing. We drove the current Mercedes-Benz C220d AMG Line to see how far one can go on a single tank of diesel in a modern car.
Mercedes-Benz claims a range of 1400km in their new C220d, so the idea was to see how attainable this is under normal driving conditions. We’re all too familiar with brands overstating test figures through unrealistic tests and sometimes even manipulation. The plan was to collect the vehicle at the collection point in Bryanston, Johannesburg, and join the N3 heading towards Durban. We would spend four days in the tropical city, before attempting the drive back to Gauteng on the same tank of diesel. We weren’t too sure how things would pan out, but we were going to find out.
Mercedes-Benz C220d stats
The vehicle in question is the latest generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class, available in two engine derivatives; a 1.5-litre petrol (C200), which left us astonished during our review of it, as well as the C220d, powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. It would be the oil burner that would accompany us for this challenge.
With 145kW and 440Nm, it also features Mercedes-Benz’s EQ technology onboard which assists the internal combustion engine and can increase output by 15 kW and 200 Nm on electric boost. The engine drives the rear wheels through a 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox. For those who aren’t yet familiar with Mercedes-Benz’s EQ technology and how it works, simply put, vehicles with this system have a 48-Volt battery and an electric motor. As you drive, the motor cleverly works in the background and assists the engine in running the car and its systems. To recuperate its energy, the battery is charged when brakes are applied through regenerative braking, or when coasting.
Johannesburg to Durban
After collecting the Mercedes-Benz C220d, we noticed that the fuel tank was full but the range displayed wasn’t in line with what we expected. With a reading of 866 km, our odds of returning to Johannesburg successfully on a single tank weren’t looking great. Assuming that the range displayed was due to a heavy foot by a previous driver, we put our concerns on ice and opted to drive the Merc conservatively around town before setting off. The hope was that the new driving style would improve the C-Class’s range. We needed to make a few stops in any case, for snacks and luggage. 64km was covered during this pre-trip drive, and the range remained unchanged. In a last-ditch effort to troubleshoot the issue, we topped up with diesel to ensure that the tank was indeed full. Surprisingly, it was, and only R108 worth of freshly pumped went in.
Accepting the facts, it was time to hit the road. Leaving a major Province like Gauteng is always accompanied by a frenzy on the highway. That initial leg is chaotic, likely due to heightened adrenaline in drivers in anticipation of the big trip. As you leave the city behind you things begin to settle into a predictable rhythm. While munching up the kilometres along the N3, something strange began to happen. The range on the Mercedes-Benz C220d slowly crept into the 900km region. The steady increment continued until the range was a little over 1000km. Now If you’ve driven any car, you know that the fuel range decreases as you drive, not the other way around. As unexpected as this occurrence was, it was very welcome!
Stopping for a refreshment break halfway between the two provinces, we had driven over 300km, and the remaining fuel range on display was astonishing, to say the least. The readout on the Mercedes-Benz’s digital instrument cluster was now 1238km. At this point, there was more than just a glimmer of hope for the success of this experiment. Glancing at the fuel gauge, it had only dropped by around 10%.
With plenty of juice in the tank, the road was beckoning. We resumed the trip eager to munch down the remaining +-300km. Surprisingly, keeping a steady eye on the instant fuel consumption revealed a conservative rate of between 1 and 4 litres per 100km on the open road at 120km/h.
Something else that we noticed about these unusual fuel readings was that the C-Class was most efficient under cruise control, and no amount of light footwork could produce the same lean figures as the vehicle’s computer. We would eventually arrive in Durban a little after 8pm, greeted by rain and gloomy weather, but there was nothing gloomy about our situation. We had reached our destination with a remaining fuel range of 1121km, which meant the Merc had only used up 117km of range during the latter half of the trip. Impressive stuff!
The next four days would see us driving around the usually sunny tropical city to visit friends and family, and of course, the beach. Still, the Benz hadn’t seen a single fuel pump.
Durban to Johannesburg
Day four. It was time to head back, and with around 800km of range remaining, the odds of making it were fair. We were very aware that the return trip would have a lot of uphills compared to the drive down. Naturally, the vehicle was going to consume considerably more fuel during this leg.
As the journey unfolded, intermittent roadworks and trucks overtaking trucks for 10 minutes at a time at a snail's pace threw a spanner in the works. This was meant to be a smooth drive at a constant speed with as little braking as possible. At some point, it was clear that with further disruptions, we wouldn’t make it on the remaining diesel. You see, every time there was a snag on the road, our fuel range would take a hard knock. With no filling stations in sight, we would have to call for help if it came down to the wire. Range anxiety had reared its ugly head.
Thankfully, the remaining portion of the trip went by without incident, allowing us to bring the Mercedes-Benz in for a safe landing where it all began - Johannesburg.
With so many touch-and-go moments along the way, there was great relief and disbelief as we parked the C220d for a well-deserved rest. We had driven 1382km and although the tank was now in its reserve portion, the C-Class was still generous enough to offer up a further 78km of range. It had done enough and we were grateful for it. Had we taken it up on the offer, the final figure would have been well over 1400km from that single diesel tank.
Our overall fuel consumption for this trip was a staggering 4.8l/100km, just shy of Mercedes-Benz’s claimed 4.7 litres/100km. Should you be in the market for a similar diesel vehicle, visit www.changecars.co.za
Mercedes-Benz C220d AMG Line price - R 1008 749