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Mercedes 'pulls out stops' for C-Class

  • C-Class gets 'most extensive' update
  • More efficient engines, more kit
  • On sale in March
Words ByWhat Car? Staff

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Mercedes is kicking off 2011 with what it calls 'a comprehensive modernisation' of its top-selling C-Class saloon and estate. More than 2000 new components support the argument that this is more than the usual mid-term refresher.

The biggest changes are to the engine range, helping to slash fuel consumption by up to 31%, but substantial effort has also gone into upgrading the driver assistance features.

There is also a new telematics system in a higher-quality cabin, while the redesigned front end now incorporates an aluminium bonnet to save a bit of weight. The rear of the car gets a new look, too.

'We have pulled out all the stops,' said Dr Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes' head of sales and marketing. 'This is the most extensive (update) in our entire model history.'

With the all-important business market in mind, it is the new engine range that will capture most attention.

Engine stop-start becomes a standard feature, while cars ordered or fitted with automatic transmission now have the fuel-saving 7G-tronic seven-speed 'box that is cropping up in every new or revised Mercedes.

The result is more power with lower fuel consumption and emissions across the board, led by the C220 CDI diesel. In manual form it now tops 64mpg in the official EU test, with CO2 emissions of just 117g/km.

At launch there will be three diesels C200 CDI, C220 CDI and C250 CDI all with 2.2-litre four-cylinder engines, and two 1.8-litre direct-injection turbocharged units in the C180 and C250. These were introduced in 2009 but are new to the C-Class.

In summer they will be joined by the C350 with a brand-new 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine, and a V6 diesel model, the C350 CDI. Inevitably, a replacement for the high-performance, V8-engined AMG version will be added at some point.

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More driver safety systems
Altogether, 10 new driver assistance systems have become available. Using a combination of sensors, radar and cameras, they either warn of impending danger or automatically intervene if the driver fails to react.

They include everything from Attention Assist - Mercedes' way of recognising tired drivers and advising them to take a break - to active systems to prevent you from steering into the path of an overtaking vehicle. Headlights which adapt themselves to where, and how fast, the car is being driven are also on offer.

The new telematics system is the centrepiece of a smart new dashboard in a sportier-looking cabin. It sets out to be clearer to read and use, and allows SMS text display and internet access through a data-enabled mobile phone.

The revised models were unveiled at a private ceremony on the eve of the Detroit motor show, but their public debut will not take place until the Geneva show in March.

They will arrive in the UK together in March, in SE, Elegance and Sport packages, depending on engine. Prices start at 25,515 for the saloon and 26,715 for the estate increases of around 1.5% over the outgoing models, but you'll be getting more equipment as compensation.

However, the reductions in CO2 output and, therefore, company car tax are likely to prove the biggest attractions for a range which has already found more than 80,000 UK customers in less than four years.