EVERY vehicle manufacturer has one particular vehicle that it considers to be its bread and butter; the one car that outsells the rest of the range and maintains profitability. For Mercedes-Benz, this has been the C-Class since its introduction in the early 80s.
The latest generation ‘Benz in the premium medium-luxury segment is now in South Africa. It’s an all-new car and the good news is, all our local C-Class models will still be produced in East London, meaning ample stock and parts availability. The vehicle itself is thoroughly modern and makes use of aluminium in its construction making it as much as 100kg lighter than its predecessor. In addition to the weight saving the aerodynamics are also improved with a slippery drag coefficient of 0.24cd.
The design itself makes the new C-Class look like a smaller version of its bigger S-Class sibling. There’s a long bonnet with a passenger compartment set well back. To add to the level of customisation two different front-end designs are available across the four exterior styling packs. There’s both a central star grille as we have seen in the A and CLA-Class and the classic sedan radiator grille with the Mercedes-Benz star on the bonnet, “a la S-Class.” The new C-Class comes with H7 halogen headlamps as standard while two other headlamp designs are available.
To put the new design into perspective, there’s an 80mm increase in the wheelbase (2 840mm) compared with the previous model and it is 95mm longer (4 686mm) and 40mm wider (1 810mm). This means, a more spacious interior and a bigger boot which now stands at 480 litres.
The interior is certainly much improved. In vehicles with automatic transmission there’s a large one-piece centre console panel from the centre air vents to the armrest while on vehicles with manual transmission, the centre console is slightly steeper and features two separate trim elements. There’s a free-standing central display as in the A and CLA-Class models which is either seven or 8.4 inches, depending on the specification.
Having spent some time with various models I can report that the new C-Class interior is a great place to be, with superb levels of refinement, high quality finishes and intuitive infotainment functions. The touchpad in the hand-rest above the controller on the centre tunnel will have smart phone owners smiling as it mimics the operation of our beloved devices to control the head-unit.
I also noticed that the vehicle is compatible with many media devices; there’s iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and USB. However, this USB was able to read the contents of my phone and play the media on my Android device without the use of Bluetooth, which was impressive. There’s even a heads-up system which displays important information directly in the driver's field of vision. Three different design and equipment lines for the interior each offer scope for individualisation in addition to the standard equipment.
Powertrain options include the familiar 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine which provides 125 kW/400Nm as well as three turbo petrol variants. The entry-level C 180 models get a 1.6-litre 115kW/250Nm engine while the C 200 and C 250 get 2.0-litre units with 135kW/300Nm and 150kW/350Nm respectively. In addition to the four models offered at launch the C 250 diesel with the C 300 is due later this year and the monster C 63 arriving early in 2015.
The C 180, C 200 and C 220 models come as standard with the six-speed manual transmission while the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission is an optional extra but is standard on the C 250
The suspension is well sorted. I had the opportunity to put the vehicle through its paces at RedStar Raceway and can say, the new C-Class is a very neutral car that exhibits very little under or oversteer. The suspension set-up responsible for this is a four-link front axle which is known to help with grip and higher cornering forces.
There are three direct control suspension options with selective damping systems available namely, the Comfort suspension, the Avantgarde suspension (which is lowered by 15mm) as well as a Sports suspension (lowered by 15mm). For the first time, the C-Class is available with an Air suspension. The Airmatic system means the driver can choose between, Comfort, ECO, Sport and Sport+ as well as Individual suspension settings.
Standard feature on all models include, Direct-steer system which combines road-speed-dependent power assistance from the speed-sensitive power steering system. There’s also the Attention Assist, which warns the driver of inattentiveness and fatigue. Adaptive Brake Assist, which offers protection from collisions from speeds as low as 7km/h and Collision Prevention Assist Plus are also standard.
The new C-Class comes standard with a six-year/100 000km maintenance contract with no customer contribution and the option to extend.