Preview and photos by Lesley Wimbush
DETROIT, Michigan – The latest iteration of Mercedes-Benz’s mid-size luxury sedan hit the Detroit stage amid rolling clouds of smoky dry ice, while R&B songstress Kelly Rowland belted out her signature tune “Work”.
The new C-Class is light years ahead of the stodgy four-door that debuted in 1993, and now resembles a smaller version of the flagship luxury S-Class sedan. With the arrival of the compact CLA sedan, the C-Class vacates the entry-level spot to become the “luxury benchmark for the premium mid-size segment.”
Elegant and refined, the latest C-Class now comes with many of the impressive technologies that debuted on the S-Class last fall.
The straight edges of the current C-Class give way to a stylish cabin with swooping lines and a curving dashboard. The cockpit is divided by a sloping centre console similar to the S-Class’s and it borrows another trick from the flagship’s playbook: the “active fragrance system” adding some ambience to the cabin.
Like a dash-mounted iPad, the 7-inch graphics screen displays a variety of functions via the console-located touchpad controller. The ubiquitous Mercedes-Benz Artico leather is available in a variety of colours, offset with trims like chrome-edged wood and piano black plastic.
There are two available grilles: Sporty C with centrally located star dominating the grille or a more traditional radiator grille with hood ornament.
Depending on the market there are a variety of powertrains from Euro-spec Bluetec diesel to five different gasoline-powered four-cylinder engines.
The North American market will receive two powertrains – the C300 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 235 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and the C400 with turbocharged 3.0L V6 with 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.
The Europeans receive two new six-speed manual transmissions, while North Americans will get the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge
Still in development is a plug-in hybrid model.
Standard is a re-designed multi-link suspension steel suspension available in comfort, sportier or sports, this last lowered 15 millimetres.
Optional is a segment-first air suspension system with electronically controlled, continuously variable damping on front and rear axles. There are four driver-selectable settings: “Comfort”, “Eco”, “Sport” and “Sport+”. The system is also self-levelling for ride comfort when the car’s loaded.
Three inches longer and four inches taller, the C-Class is now 100 kg (200 lb) lighter thanks to extensive use of aluminum. The lighter weight and more aerodynamic outline help contribute to what Mercedes claims is a 20-percent reduction in fuel consumption.
The C-Class represents another example of Mercedes-Benz’s mandate to make their advanced safety technology available to everyone.
“You won’t find this kind of tech in any other car in this segment” said Ola Källenius, Executive VP of Sales and Marketing. “It’s all about supporting the driver instead of distracting him.”
On board are almost all of the assistance systems that recently premiered in the luxurious S-Class and E-Class. “Intelligent Drive” incorporates a number of the company’s systems, including Attention Assist, which warns of driver inattentiveness, and Collision Prevention Assist, which helps reduce the chance of collision and employs autonomous braking. Distronic Plus with Integrated Stop & Go Pilot helps alleviate commuter stress by acting as a semi-autonomous auto-pilot with the ability to follow the vehicle ahead and apply brake or throttle as needed.
The mid-size segment can be the make-or-break market for any manufacturer – and the C-Class is Mercedes-Benz’s bread and butter. Layering on generous helpings of luxury help set it further apart from the new entry-level, youth-oriented CLA-class.
Built in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the C-Class should be available this fall. Canadian pricing is not yet available.