The all-new Mercedes C-Class has been revealed at the Detroit motor show.
Mercedes is hoping the new car will steal back customers from the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. It gets a host of new technology and a cabin with luxurious materials. It's also lighter than the old car, to improve fuel economy.
The new C-Class is the first Mercedes to sit on the company’s new rear-wheel-drive chassis set-up, called MRA (Modular Rear-drive Architecture). It’s around 10cm longer than the model it replaces, at 469cm; that’s 6cm longer than a BMW 3 Series.
The new model is also 4cm wider than the outgoing version but despite its increase in size, the C-Class is also lighter by as much as 100kg.
The exterior styling is unmistakably C-Class. The bonnet looks particularly long, a trait perhaps caused by the very short front overhang of the new chassis layout. The boot carries the looks of the C-Class’s bigger brother, the S-Class, and while the tail-lights do encroach on the aperture of the load bay, they’re not as intrusive as they are on the style-focused CLA.
What are the engine choices?
The best sellers will all be diesels, though, taken from a line-up that will ultimately consists of C180, C200, C220 and C250 CDIs.
At launch, the C-Class will come with a choice of three engines – two petrols and one diesel. The diesel will be a 168bhp 220 CDI Bluetech, which will emit 103g/km of CO2 and average 70.7mpg. It will also be capable of 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds.
The two petrols will be a 154bhp C180 and a 181bhp C200. The smaller petrol will manage the 0-62mph dash in 8.2 seconds, while CO2 emissions are set to be 116g/km, with economy averaging 56.5mpg. The C200 gets to 62mph in 7.5 seconds, averages 53.3mpg and emits 123g/km.
A smaller 1.6-litre diesel engine will be added later in 2014, as well as a 2.2-litre diesel. The 1.6-litre is expected to come in two power outputs – 113bhp and 134bhp, with the less powerful engine expected to have emissions of just 99g/km.
The 2.2-litre is expected to have a range of outputs, from 113bhp to 201bhp.
Most of the C-Class range is expected to come with an automatic gearbox, while the basic 1.6-litre is likely to have a manual 'box only.
There will also be a C300 diesel hybrid that emits less than 100g/km of CO2 with an auto. A nine-speed automatic transmission is in the works, incidentally; it’ll be introduced in the middle of 2015.
What’s it like inside?
The cabin builds on the styling that we’ve already seen on the recent A-Class, with Mercedes’ signature circular air vents. You’re likely to notice the additional width, which appears to have been transferred into more shoulder-room across the front and rear cabins. The feeling of space is increased further in automatic models, because these do away with a central gearstick and adopt a steering column-mounted system.
Rear-seat passengers will get more leg- and kneeroom than in the current car, although the C-Class in our photos had a panoramic glass roof that reduced rear headroom. Boot space is up by just five litres to 480 litres, which is exactly the same as the current BMW 3 Series offers. However, the rear seat now splits 40/20/40, allowing long items to be accommodated more easily.
The fascia is dominated by the large central console, which has a much cleaner, simpler layout than the current C-Class’s button-heavy design. On auto models it’s made out of a single piece of material; dark, grained wood in our photo car, although piano gloss, light-coloured wood and carbonfibre finishes will also be available.
There are half a dozen buttons for the air-conditioning and heating systems, and simple switches to take you to the most important parts of the infotainment system.
The rest of the car’s functions are controlled by a dial and touch-pad between the front seats. The pad recognises when you’re just resting your hand on it and when you’re swiping numbers or letters; it can be used to input names and postcodes.
All models will get at least a seven-inch screen. Choose the Comand infotainment system and you’ll get an upgrade to the 8.4-inch widescreen pictured here.
From autumn 2014 the C-Class will have a greater level of built-in connectivity. The car’s own data connection will allow it to dial the emergency services automatically if the airbags are deployed, and to upload data to an owner information service that can be accessed via either a web page or a smartphone app.
It will allow the owner to check the car’s systems remotely, including fuel and fluid levels, and to activate the in-car heating system from outside the vehicle.
What’s the standard equipment?
The C-Class gets several features from the recently introduced S-Class flagship. Most notably, it will be offered with optional E air suspension, the first car in its class to be available with this feature. It also gets the S-Class’s air purification system and many of its safety features, including Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which includes autonomous braking from up to 20mph if the car detects an imminent accident.
The car in our images is in AMG line trim; this is likely to be the more upmarket of two regular versions sold in the UK, with SE as the entry-level. AMG line models get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, along with a deeper chromed front splitter and an integrated rear diffuser with twin tailpipes. Regular editions will sit on 17-inch wheels, although eco-focused versions may use 16-inch wheels. Up to 19-inch alloys will be offered as an option.
UK dealers should open order books for the car in late spring, with first deliveries due in the summer. Mercedes hasn’t confirmed any prices, but we’d expect only a modest increase over the current model’s starting figure of £29,000.
The saloon will be the first edition of the new C-Class to arrive, with the Estate that’s due on sale in autumn 2014. Coupé and Cabriolet versions will follow in 2015.
By John McIlroy