We already told you, dear reader, that when Mercedes upgrades or renews its best-selling passenger car, you can expect something wonderful, and indeed, the men and women of the marque with the good star set with the new C-Class nothing less than a new benchmark in this segment.
The C-Class reaches new levels of perfect balance between agility, driving pleasure and sheer comfort, all in a very appealing package, both inside and out. Indeed, we find this car very well styled. The proportions of the car are timelessly elegant, the dashboard and interior also breathe quality, ergonomy and comfort.
We drove on this first acquaintance with the C-Class the car on the scenic and winding roads around Marseille, with shorter stretches of motorway packed with speed limits between 90 and 110 km/h.
And we went for gold: we selected the top-of-the-range C 400 4Matic AMG Line with a 245/333 Kw/hp 6 cylinder engine. Mercedes states in its press information that of the new C-Class feels like an "upgrade to a higher class of vehicle". Well, we wanted to find out right away with this top version.
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Well proportioned elegance…
At first glance, we find the car remarkably well proportioned. The stylists and aerodynamic engineers succeeded in bringing a body shape with an extraordinary low Cd value of 0.24.
No small feat, but certainly also aided by the fact that the rather generous dimensions of the car enable more design freedom in curves and shapes to adapt them ideally to airflow characteristics whist still achieving fluent design shapes. We will ask the styling and aerodynamics specialists of the C-Class for their comments in the next few weeks, when the dust has settled a bit for them after the international press presentation of the car.
The wheelbase has been increased with 80 millimetres to 2840 millimetres. Compared with the previous model, the vehicle is 95 millimetres longer (4686 millimetres) and 40 millimetres wider (1810 millimetres). The resulting increase in space benefits the rear-seat passengers, At the same time, there is more room for the new front axle and future hybrid components. At 480 litres the new C-Class also surpasses its predecessor in terms of boot capacity.
Last but certainly not least we mention that one has the choice between the sporty radiator grille with the Mercedes star nicely integrated in it, or one can prefer the classic radiator grille with the Mercedes star on the bonnet. Note that to increase aerodynamics even further, the louvres can be closed!
…with state of the art lightweight technology
But the body is not merely elegant, it boasts also state of the art technology. The aluminium hybrid body is around 70 kg lighter than with conventional fabrication using steel. The vehicle's overall weight is even reduced by around 100 kilograms. There is clever use of aluminium castings in the strategic strength sections of the body structure, making the car still very sturdy despite increased lightness.
Aluminum castings (painted mainly in green) provide strength and protection, and remain undeformed, as shown here after a rear end collision...
These body construction techniques have been used first on the latest SL models and the S Class, and are now finding their way in the C-Class. Of course, we are speaking here of considerably higher production volumes with the C-Class, spread over several production sites world wide, so the fact that this technological leap is achieved in combination with very large production volumes, is no small feat indeed…
The designers exploited the greater design leeway offered by die-cast aluminium compared with steel. The body consists, among other things, of nine large die-cast components. The same designers also managed to integrate and merge various elements into a single die-cast component, which with conventional design would have to be made up of several steel parts. In this way a host of functions can be realised in a single component and installation space put to optimum use. For instance, all shock absorbers at the front and rear of the vehicle are mounted on such rigid aluminium die-cast components.
Cast aluminum sections prevent deformation...also the unpainted and partly yellow painted section below is cast aluminium
Other design details include larger cross-sections as well as precisely calculated stabilising beads in the floor and bulkhead. High-strength adhesives are used extensively to firmly bond the parts, which in turn helps increase the rigidity of the body.
This state-of-the art construction know-how is again very intriguing, and also on this topic we will come back to you with further in-depth interviews and reviews with C-Class Passive Safety and Body Shell experts.
Mercedes designers have created exiting flowing shapes, and have selected truly high-class materials with a pleasant touch and feel. The interior skilfully combines the architecture of the Mercedes-Benz sports cars with a newly interpreted, sporty and flowing centre console design. We liked it very much.
The large solitary component is available in numerous material finishes – such as with contemporary wood surfaces, precisely bordered by a chrome surround, or with an exclusive piano-lacquer look – and characterises the interior's unique ambience. We liked the aura in “our” C400 AMG Line, with dark wood veneer, and red leather accents of seat and door panel inserts. We also were pleased to find back the round analogue clock in this centre console, repeating the round shapes of the 3 ventilation vents, which are centrally placed on the console.
We found the round instrument dials for speedometer and rev counter rather uninspiring, and we regret that this C-Class does not sport an electronic (TFT) display, where the driver can change instrument lay-out and looks according to his mood.
This is even more so for our test car, where the hydropneumatic AIRMATIC suspension allows the selection of different suspension settings.
Of course, the ergonomics are truly excellent, not only the easy to use controls to select the ideal seating poison via symbol knobs in the door inserts, but also worth mentioning is the touchpad in the brand-characterising handrest of the central controller in new C-Class. As on a smartphone, all the head-unit functions can be operated using finger gestures.
Exhilirating performance of the C 400…
Of course, the 6 cylinder petrol engine is the true gem of our test car. Silky smooth, with a velvet-like, deep exhaust note at low revs and small throttle openings, it revs higher under a truly beautiful staccato and yes, nostalgic buffs as we are, we felt like Stirling Moss in the 1955 Mille Miglia at the wheel of his 300 SLR.
He went out setting a record “moyenne” at 157,65 km/h, we went more leasurely through the Mediterranean curves and narrow streets, but the sound was virtually the same, with the formidable 7G-TRONIC PLUS gearbox downchanging beautifully with the right rev blip between the gears to keep the changes fast and smooth, it was a true dynamic (and acoustic) delight. The performance is with 333 hp of course legendary, but with the all-present speed limits, no indication whatsoever of its true all-out performance can be given at this stage.
The C 400 travelled the mediterranean curvy roads with the grace and elegance of a (European) ballerina...
We did not find much more information on this engine yet, except that this version of the C-Class will be available “in due course” and that besides its 333 hp maximum power, maximum torque is a creditable 480 Nm. Consumption is indicated at around 8 litres/100 km, which is remarkeable considering it also is a four wheel drive car.
Your servant certainly enjoyed the drive in the new C-Class...
… and frugal Diesels combined with dynamic four cylinder petrol engines
Of course the C-Class is available with state-of-the-art four cylinder engines. All engines , all equipped with the ECO start/stop function and are complying with Euro 6 emissions standards. The fuel consumption has dropped by up to 20 percent compared with the preceding model.
The C-Class in front of our Marseille hotel...
One of the interesting innovations is a small diesel engine with a displacement of 1.6 litres. Reduced weight, compact design and low specific fuel consumption are among its special merits. Depending on its configuration, the single-stage turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates 85 or 100 kW (115 or 136 hp) of power from a displacement of 1598 cc and delivers 280 or 320 Nm of torque. This engine puts the new C-Class well in front within its segment in terms of CO2 emissions. Among other things, this was made possible by the first-ever use of steel pistons in a passenger car diesel engine.
Press service by Mercedes-Benz was outstanding: information awaited us at our hotel chamber...
In addition to this new small diesel engine, an advanced version of the proven 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is also available in several output variants. The diesel engines thus cover an output range from 85 kW (115 hp) to 150 kW (204 hp). The C 220 BlueTEC is optionally also available with an output of 120 kW (163 hp) as a BlueEFFICIENCY Edition.
All diesel engines of the new C-Class are equipped with the established SCR technology (selective catalytic reduction) for particularly environment-friendly driving, and ensure that the C Class models with diesel engines attain at least efficiency class A, and in most cases even efficiency class A+.
Four-cylinder petrol engines with power outputs ranging from 115 to 180 kW (156 to 245 hp) will also be available. These include the C 180 BlueEFFICIENCY Edition special model, which qualifies for efficiency class A.
The BlueDIRECT four-cylinder petrol engines the BlueDIRECT technology from the V6 and V8 engines to the four-cylinder engine. The direct injection system with spray-guided combustion, first introduced into passenger-car series production by Mercedes-Benz, employs an electronically controlled precision multiple injection process. The third-generation direct injection technology is complemented by "fast multiple ignition".
We will be anxious to take these cars for a full test drive later in the year, when they become available.
We conclude here that also a mild hybrid version (C 300 BlueTEC HYBRID) will be available.
An AIRMATIC suspension for that ultimate combination of agility and comfort
Indeed, the C-Class is now also available with an optional air suspension (AIRMATIC) on the front and rear axle.
Thanks to electronically controlled, continuously variable damping at the front and rear, the C-Class enters here a league of its own. The driver can choose between the various characteristics: "Comfort", "ECO", "Sport" and "Sport+". The additional "Individual" setting enables drivers to configure their vehicle according to their own preferences. AIRMATIC also features all-round self-levelling for optimum ride comfort even with the vehicle (fully) loaded. It worked beautifully, together of course with the superb suspension with a new 4-link front axle.
Our test car came even equipped with an optional 360° camera as well as head on info display...
We found the Comfort and Eco settings already admirable in their stability and sporting response, but with the undulations found on the narrow curvy roads, we thought the car body movements a bit too “soft” and preferred the Sport and Sport+ modes in these conditions. We agree with the engineers however, that on long Autobahn stretches the added comfort of the Comfort and Eco settings are just what you need for effortless high-speed Gran Turismo driving.
To sum it all up, what a beautiful harmonious drivers’ car the C-Class is!
Safe with virtually all new driving assistance systems from the E- and S-Class…
But in today’s traffic, being a true drivers’ car is not enough. It needs a host of assistance systems, and the C-Class offers it all. We were during the presentation, invited to test some of them out at the Michelin-test area Fontagne.
Notably the BASPLUS warns when pedestrians are detected in the danger zone by the stereo multi-purpose camera.
The PRE-SAFE® Brake with pedestrian protection triggers autonomous braking when the system detects a pedestrian in the danger zone and the driver does not react to the system's warnings. We can tell you, when we tested it out with a dall standing in the middle of the road: it works!
On the test track, we also drove up to a standing vehicle, and also a vehicle driving in front of us which stopped unexpectedly. Accidents were prevented through autonomous braking…
The standard assistance features on the C-Class are already impressive:
COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS with adaptive Brake Assist and autonomous partial braking
ADAPTIVE BRAKE with the value-added functions Hill-Start Assist, brake priming, brake drying and HOLD function
STEER CONTROL steering assist function
Torque Vectoring Brake
Adaptive brake lights
Brake Assist (BAS)
It will need a special report to describe it all…
The C-Class is a truly formidable car, setting indeed new benchmarks in its segment. With this car, Mercedes has now three modern cars throughout its range, a new E, S and now C-Class.
Its technology is breathtaking, certainly when one knows that it is put into (higher) volume production.
Your servant explaining the C-Class experts, developers, engineers and designers how the car felt on the curvy mediterranean roads... read more in depth comments with these experts soon in these columns!
We will come back at regular intervals on aspects of this car, with comments of the people who designed, engineered, styled, tested and built it.
Stay tuned on these columns!
Hans Knol ten Bensel