2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge

Originally published April 1, 2014

Review and photos by Jeff Wilson

Marseille, France – “The drop line.”

Amid a lively discussion with C-Class designer Volker Leutz, the affable German was asked if there were any aspects of the attractive new mid-size Mercedes that were simply “right” from the initial sketches.  Leutz, without pausing, proclaimed the “drop line” – the sweeping arc of a crease that runs from the headlights down to its termination point just below the rear door handle.  This was a defining element in the design and one that was more or less untouched from early in the lengthy design process.

Selecting a most-challenging aspect was not so easy – and not because the whole design was an immediate home run.  Quite the contrary.  This is Mercedes-Benz after all, and as one would expect from the German automotive stalwart, the army of literally thousands of engineers who had a hand in the development of the C-Class carry a lot of clout – and are apparently almost always at odds with the design team.

Incidentally, Volker finally decided the “shoulder line” (the subtle crease above the rear fender) proved most controversial and problematic.

It might seem strange that something as simple as the placement and sweep of a body crease could cause so many designers many nights of lost sleep, but the new C-Class is intended to embody the current – and future – design language of Mercedes-Benz.  Plus, the C represents one of the first wholly fresh designs under the new regime of Design VP Gorden Wagener following the celebrated S-Class; a car Mercedes’ representatives repeatedly referenced in many discussions about the new C.

And the C-Class is an extremely important vehicle for Mercedes, being the marque’s sales leader on an international scale.  Since the 1982 launch of the compact 190E, Mercedes has sold over 8.5 million cars in this lineage.  With ever-improving competition not only from the Stuttgart firm’s domestic and Asian-brand rivals, but increasingly from former non-starters like Cadillac, Mercedes could ill-afford to misstep with the new C.

Seeing the C-Class out on the road amidst traffic, observers will need to do a double take to confirm they’re witnessing a C-Class and not an S-Class.  The new car has tremendous presence for an entry-level luxury machine – more so than is evident in photos.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge

In an attempt to maintain allegiance of traditional buyers and attract younger buyers alike, two distinct design languages are offered for the C-Class.  The first – Exclusive line – has its roots in the traditional Benz idiom with the three-pointed-star hood ornament atop the classic radiator grille.  But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a retro feature.  The grille bars actually have closing louvres to improve aerodynamics, lending to a best-in-class Cd value of 0.24.

Alternatively, buyers can opt for the sportier Avantgarde line dominated by the oversized logo affixed to the middle of the grille.  An AMG design package is also available with more aggressive cladding and body kits.

The interior is where the 2015 C-Class makes the most dramatic improvement over the 2014 models.  It is nothing short of remarkable and well deserving of the “Baby S-Class” moniker.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Click image to enlarge

The design and materials are a quantum leap beyond the old model, and launch the new C-Class to best-of-category status, especially when equipped with the sportier (and wonderfully comfortable) AMG-trim seats.  Dark-stained and matte-finish wood trims, contrasting aluminum accents, handsome stitching and an overall contemporary design will make occupants scrap the “entry” portion of the entry-level luxury classification.

The updated COMAND infotainment system features an effective rotary knob controller as well as a touch panel enabling simple “finger drawings” of characters and digits to facilitate easier operation of the system.  The speed and effectiveness of the navigation system was appreciated to help route us around Marseille’s notorious traffic congestion.

With 40 mm of added width and an 80 mm increase in wheelbase, passengers will have more space to enjoy all that luxury (trunk space also increases to 480 L) and the excellent (optional) Burmester audio system.

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