To differentiate it from the recently launched, and very stylish, entry-level CLA-Class, Mercedes has positioned the new C-Class as a miniature version of the company's flagship S-Class. Not only will buyers be offered a wide range of body styles and models, from economy to performance, the automaker will offer options on the new baby-Benz that had only been reserved for its most premium models in the past, such as air suspension and head-up displays.
Its official Detroit Auto Show reveal is still many hours away, but a quick walk-around on a crowded stage made it very clear that the C-Class is ready to go head-to-head with the BMW 3 Series, the segment's current benchmark. The new Mercedes four-door looks great from just about every angle, and the interior is a major step forward in both design and materials.
While the new C-Class won't be in showrooms until next September, check out the early gallery we shot tonight.
C-Class at its best
The all-new C-Class heralds a new chapter in the Mercedes- Benz success story and sets new standards in the premium mid-range class. Thanks to an intelligent lightweight design concept boasting weight savings of up to 220 lbs, excellent aerodynamics and new, economical engines, the C-Class establishes new benchmarks in its class. A host of new assistance systems offer safety of the highest standard, while a new suspension, optionally air-sprung, provides for exemplary ride and driving comfort as well as nimble and agile handling. In terms of appearance the new C-Class adopts a progressive approach with its clear yet emotional design and its high-class interior. Many other innovations and interior touches underscore the sedan's luxurious comfort and refined sportiness. In all, the perceived quality of the new C-Class feels like an "upgrade to a higher class of travel."
The C-Class is the top-selling model series from Mercedes-Benz. Sales of the preceding model, which was launched in 2007, total over 2.4 million. The new C-Class offers sensuous and clear design and a host of technical innovations as well as a comprehensive scope of standard equipment and exemplary emission and fuel consumption values. The U.S. market launches with two C-Class models: C300 4MATIC with a 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection in-line fourcylinder engine with preliminary power figures of 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque and a C400 4MATIC with a 3.0L turbocharged direct-injection V6 at 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque.
"Mercedes at its best - that's the new C-Class, which sets new standards for the mid-range segment on many fronts," says Prof. Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development. "It is characterised by an emotional yet clear design which is continued in the high-quality and modern interior. Its efficient and high-performance engineering provides the basis for a high standard of driving enjoyment."
Ola Källenius, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing Mercedes-Benz Cars, adds: "The new C-Class embodies Mercedes-Benz's claim 'The best or nothing' in uncompromising style. This is immediately apparent when encountering our new Saloon for the first time, as it creates the impression that one is sitting in a higher class of automobile. I am sure that our customers will be delighted by the high-class appeal and agility of the new C-Class."
The C-Class has grown to take account of people's increasing average height. With a 3 inch increase in the wheelbase (112 inches) compared with the previous model, the vehicle is 3.7 inches longer (184 inches) and 1.6 inches wider (71 inches). The resultant additional space benefits first and foremost the rear passengers, who now travel in even greater comfort. The new C-Class also increases its trunk capacity to 17 cubic feet.
Sensuous clarity and purist forms
On a visual level, the new C-Class represents a bold departure from its predecessor. Its striking, dynamic design exudes sensuous clarity and arouses emotions. Nature was a source of inspiration for the new sedan's aesthetically sensuous lines and surfaces, whose harmony and dynamism create an immediate effect. The designers have created minimalist, purist forms for the C-Class which emphasize its intelligent technology and engineering. The clearly defined surfaces deliberately display a degree of tension, lending them a muscular and sensuous character. Precise lines and sculptural surfaces create lively light and shade effects.
As Gorden Wagener, Vice President Design Daimler AG, notes: "The new CClass showcases automotive passion by way of a contemporary design idiom. Progressive and emotional highlights underscore the ground-breaking design style of the new C-Class and demonstrate sensual clarity. The new C-Class interprets modern luxury on a new level."
In the side view a long hood, a passenger compartment set well back and short overhangs define the C-Class's classic, well-balanced Mercedes-Benz sedan proportions. Large wheels emphasize the rear and communicate a stylishly sporty character.
There is a choice of two different faces: sporty with centrally positioned star or the classic sedan radiator grille featuring the Mercedes star on the hood. The fins of the radiator grille can be closed completely to optimize the vehicle's Cd value, highlighting the status of this cultivated sedan in duly self-assured style.
The new C-Class comes with H7 halogen headlamps as standard. In addition to the standard-fit headlamps, two energy-saving LED variants are available: a static system and a dynamic version with "LED Intelligent Light System." The characteristic night design lends the new C-Class its very own distinctive look in the dark, too. The rear lamp and brake light in the tail lights feature LED technology in all headlamp versions.
High-class interior with fine details
The Mercedes-Benz designers have styled the interior on a level which is rarely encountered even in higher vehicle categories. This applies to the carefully chosen high-class materials and their pleasant touch and feel as well as the precision of the finely crafted details. The interior also embodies a new design idiom which combines sensuousness and clarity perfectly with dynamic sportiness and contributes to the quality feel of the interior.
The driver and front passenger enjoy plenty of space and luxury in a discreet, modern guise on board the new C-Class. This gives rise to a feel-good atmosphere which is new to this class of vehicle – settling into your seat in the C-Class is akin to the uplifting feeling of being upgraded from economy to business class on an airplane.
The interior design demonstrates a bold new approach by Mercedes-Benz. Here the designers combine in accomplished style the architecture of Mercedes- Benz sports cars with a totally new center console featuring flowing lines. A large one-piece center console panel performs an elegant sweep from the center air vents to the armrest. These seamless clear-cut lines create a sense of open space and convey a thrillingly purist and modern feel.
A centrally positioned free-standing central display is the main eye-catching feature across the center console – with a screen diagonal of 7 inches or 8.4 inches if Multimedia Package is selected.
Five round air vents lend the dashboard a sporty touch. With their metallic cool-touch effect they create a fascinating, tangible contrast to the warm look of the other materials – such as the wood in the center console or the leather on the dashboard. The "upgrade" feel duly continues with the controls. All switches feature a high-quality, three-dimensional design befitting a luxury vehicle and benefit from a clear layout.
The innovative touchpad in the handrest over the Controller on the center tunnel marks a further evolutionary step developed in-house at Mercedes-Benz. As on a smartphone, this provides for very simple and intuitive operation of all the head-unit functions using finger gestures. The touchpad also permits letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting - in any language. The user receives clear haptic feedback when operating the touchpad's control surface, which is highly conducive to genuine intuitive use.
A head-up display is also new to the C-Class. Like in a jet fighter, it displays important information directly in the driver's field of vision on the front windscreen, thus providing for clear legibility and ensuring that the driver is distracted less from the road ahead. The system provides information on vehicle speed, speed limits and navigation instructions and displays messages from DISTRONIC PLUS.
Robust yet lightweight bodyshell
The body-in-white of the new C-Class provides an innovative basis for reduced weight, outstanding rigidity, including introduction rigidity for excellent handling, combined with optimum noise and vibration characteristics and a high level of crash safety. Thanks to intelligent and innovative lightweight construction, the aluminum hybrid body is around 154 lbs lighter than a conventional steel body. The vehicle's overall weight is even reduced by around 220 lbs. As such, the new C-Class leads the "lightweight rankings" in its segment. This spawns numerous benefits: the lightweight construction of the new C-Class cuts fuel consumption by up to 20 percent without any loss of performance, while at the same time enabling a lower center of gravity, which in turn gives rise to the vehicle's noticeably sporty and agile handling.
Mercedes-Benz achieves this feat of lightweight construction by various measures, including a completely new structural design and the use of an unusually high proportion of aluminum for a mass-produced range. The share of aluminum has risen compared with the successful predecessor from under 10 percent to almost 50 percent.
In keeping with Mercedes-Benz traditions, the body is designed for exemplary crash safety. As a result, the Sedan complies not only with all current national laws but also with all rating requirements, as well as meeting the more stringent internal Mercedes-Benz safety standards based on what actually happens during accidents.
A high-strength safety passenger compartment forms the core of this concept. It is surrounded by specifically configured and field-tested deformation zones which ensure maximum safety for the occupants by virtue of optimized force paths and a combination of aluminum castings and ultra-high-strength materials. An outer skin consisting almost completely of aluminum provides a protective shell for the body.
Leading the field in aerodynamics and quiet running
Low drag is crucial to achieving outstanding efficiency. From a speed of just under 43 mph, aerodynamic drag exceeds the sum total of all other driving resistance factors. As such, drag constitutes a major parameter in efforts to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The wind noise level, which was already very low in the preceding generation of the C-Class, has been lowered still further.
The engineers have also devoted painstaking attention to optimizing other potential sources of disturbance which may have an adverse effect on the driver's and passengers' well-being and concentration, even though they may not consciously notice the effects. NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) is the technical term for such nuisance factors. The specialists have optimized the noise characteristics of the interior blower, the power windows, the seat adjustment functions and many other actuation and operating noises, for example. As a result, the new C-Class occupies a benchmark position in its segment.
Optimized drive train
Smooth automatic gear shifting is provided by the 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission, which has undergone further development at Mercedes-Benz in the interests of enhanced environment-friendliness and driving pleasure.
The 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system serves to improve traction and driving stability in the C-Class, too, while additionally underscoring the vehicle's refined sportiness.
Suspension – sporty yet comfortable
The suspension on the new C-Class is a totally new development. It provides for nimble and agile handling that makes driving a great pleasure on winding roads while also offering the highest standard of ride comfort in the segment.
A newly designed 4-link front axle plays a major part in the agile handling characteristics. Thanks to the 4-link principle, the front independent suspension is fully decoupled from the spring strut. The resultant favorable axle kinematics allow more grip and higher lateral stability. As a result, the suspension responds more sensitively to steering movements and allows a sporty, agile driving style. An optimized multi-link independent rear suspension with 5-link concept ensures unsurpassed wheel location qualities and supreme straightline stability.
The new C-Class Sedan is fitted as standard with a steel suspension. Two suspensions with selective damping systems are available:
- a comfortable yet sporty base suspension
- a sports suspension lowered by .6 inches as part of the optional Sport Package
First air suspension in this category
Alternatively, the new C-Class is the first vehicle in its segment that can be fitted with an air suspension (AIRMATIC) on the front and rear axles. Thanks to electronically controlled, continuous variable damping at the front and rear, it offers outstanding road roar and tire vibration characteristics even with the vehicle loaded. The driver can use the AGILITY SELECT switch to choose between the various characteristics: "Comfort", "ECO", "Sport" and "Sport+." The additional "Individual" option enables drivers to configure their vehicle according to their own wishes. AIRMATIC also features all-round self-leveling for optimum ride comfort even when the vehicle is loaded.
The new C-Class also comes with an electric parking brake as standard. This brake is released automatically when the driver ends parking mode with the aim of moving off.
Steering with a sporty character
All models of the C-Class family will feature the electromechanical Direct Steer system as standard in future. This combines road-speed-dependent power assistance from the speed-sensitive power steering system with a steering ratio which varies according to the given steering angle. The power steering assistance provided by the rack and pinion steering gear is controlled on-demand, thereby contributing towards efficiency.
Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive: The intelligent car
It is the declared aim of Mercedes-Benz to make the highest standard of safety available to everyone. To this end, the new C-Class incorporates almost all of the new assistance systems with a host of enhanced functions which celebrated their world premiere in the S-Class and E-Class only a few months ago. The assistance systems enhance both comfort and safety. Mercedes-Benz calls this Intelligent Drive.
The new C-Class offers numerous innovative safety and assistance systems. It is fitted as standard with ATTENTION ASSIST, which can warn the driver of inattentiveness and drowsiness. On motorways, the COMAND system navigation function flags up nearby break options as stopovers, providing the system has been specified in the vehicle. The ATTENTION ASSIST function offers an adjustable level of sensitivity and can inform the driver in a separate view in the instrument cluster about their level of drowsiness and how long they have been driving since their last break.
In addition to Adaptive Brake Assist, which offers protection from collisions from speeds as low as 4 mph, standard-fit COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST PLUS also features an additional function: when a danger of collision persists and the driver fails to respond, the system is able to carry out autonomous braking at speeds of up to 124 mph, thereby reducing the severity of collisions with slower or stopping vehicles. The system also brakes in response to stationary vehicles at a speed of up to 31 mph, and is able to prevent rear-end collisions at speeds of up to 25 mph.
New assistance systems and existing assistance systems with a host of enhanced functions from the new S-Class and E-Class are also optionally available, combining data from various sensor technologies as part of the Intelligent Drive concept to enhance comfort and safety substantially:
DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist is a semi-automatic traffic jam assistant which at speeds under 37 mph is able to follow the vehicle ahead even where lane markings are unclear or completely lacking, thus providing a safe and convenient means of following the flow of traffic.
The BAS PLUS Brake Assist System can now also detect crossing traffic and boost the braking force if the driver fails to apply the brakes sufficiently; the PRE-SAFE® Brake can detect stationary vehicles as well as pedestrians, brake automatically if the driver fails to react, thus preventing accidents up to 31 mph and mitigating the severity of collisions at speeds of up to 45 mph. In flowing traffic the PRE-SAFE® Brake provides assistance according to the same mode of operation throughout the speed range from 4 to 124 mph.
Enhanced Active Lane Keeping Assist can now also prevent the vehicle from unintentionally drifting out of lane when broken lane markings apply and a risk of a collision arises, e.g. as a result of vehicles overtaking at high speed, parallel traffic or even oncoming traffic, by applying the brakes on one side.
The numerous assistance systems also include
- Active Parking Assist, which enables automated parking with active steering and brake intervention in both parallel and end-on parking spaces,
- a 360° camera, which is able to show the vehicle and its surroundings from various perspectives, including a virtual bird's eye view,
- Traffic Sign Assist with Wrong-Way Alert, which warns of speed limits and alerts the driver to no-overtaking zones and no-entry signs,
Airbags for safety
In addition to 3-point seat belts with pyrotechnical belt tensioning and belt force limitation for the driver, the front passenger and those in the outer rear seats, numerous airbags serve to protect the vehicle's occupants in an accident. These include:
- Pelvis bags for driver and front passenger
- a newly developed window bag
- side bags for the outer rear seats
- a knee bag for the driver
The front passenger seat is fitted as standard with automatic child seat recognition, which dispenses with the previous transponder in favor of a weight mat. This enables any child seat to be used. The airbag is automatically deactivated when a child seat is fitted and reactivated once it has been removed.
Air conditioning: signals from space
Mercedes-Benz has undertaken systematic further development and substantial improvement of the air conditioning system in the new C-Class. This applies in particular to the control quality, performance, efficiency and air quality. The new C-Class is also the only vehicle in the segment to offer tunnel detection via satellite navigation. It uses the map information from the navigation system and the GPS location data to close the air recirculation flap automatically when the vehicle enters a tunnel, subsequently re-opening it when the vehicle emerges from the tunnel.
Another highlight contributing to a feel-good atmosphere is the AIR-BALANCE package with active fragrancing, air ionization and more efficient filtration than is available on the standard model.
A completely new multimedia generation offers intuitive operation in the new C-Class, featuring elaborate animations and visual effects which present all the functions in a clear and highly attractive manner. The new C-Class is also equipped with the unique Frontbass system. This avant-garde acoustic systems uses the space within the cross-member and side member in the body structure as a resonance chamber for the bass speakers to conjure up a listening experience almost on a par with a concert hall. A Burmester® surround sound system is optionally available.
The navigation system presents its contents in interactive mode. Its features include an animated compass, a "Drive Show" with information for passengers similar to the on-screen presentations on board airplanes and Google Maps displayed on the head unit.
COMAND not only offers a larger display with a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels and a special bonded glass cover such as is familiar from consumer devices like the iPhone or iPad.
The new C-Class will also include mbrace2 connected car technology, including the available option to have over twenty Mercedes-Benz Apps integrated into the COMAND system.