SEATTLE, WA. While the S-Class may be the flagship, it is the C-Class that is the cornerstone upon which the passenger car division of Mercedes-Benz is built.
The largest volume-selling car in the Three-Pointed Star fleet, the attraction of the C-Class is that it makes Mercedes-Benz quality and build-integrity attainable for the great majority of us who don’t have luxury-lined wallets.
Now being built in the United States, the 2015 Mercedes C-Class has never been more significant nor making greater inroads into the North American market, where the bad old fiscal meltdown days are over and people are buying new luxury cars in record numbers.
When it arrives in September, we will initially get two versions, both with 4Matic all-wheel-drive, starting with the C300 4Matic with a 2.0-litre, turbo four-cylinder producing 235 hp and 273 lb/ft of torque. It will have a starting price of $43,000.
The other model is the C400 4Matic with a twin turbo direct injection V6 with 329 hp and 354 lb/ft of torque. Starting price will be $51,400. Shipping fee for both is $2,075.
At this writing fuel consumption numbers were still being calculated.
The C-Class is bigger in every way with a three-inch longer wheelbase, as well as 1.6 inches wider and 3.7 inches longer, which allows for a larger cabin and an increase of 17 cu ft of cargo volume. Total trunk volume is 480 litres.
Visually, it looks more slender thanks to the passenger cabin being set further back than the outgoing model, further accentuated by larger wheels and shorter front and rear overhangs.
The suspension is totally new with a four-link front axle system separate from the spring strut. The result is more grip that increases lateral input response from the driver. At the rear there is a five-link independent setup.
Buyers will have a choice of standard steel suspension, or optionally, the first air ride in the segment at all four wheels.
Standard is Agility Control that offers the driver a choice of five damping modes: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. The latter allows the driver to dial in a variety of personal settings. All this is made possible by a simple rocker switch on the centre console.
The new C-Class is loaded with techno wonders, but perhaps the most significant (at least to me) is the touchpad set into a hand rest that juts over the controller on the centre console.
Like a smartphone, the pad is sensitive to finger gestures, but it also recognizes letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting. The user receives clear tactile feedback when operating the touchpad’s control surface, which boosts its intuitive nature and makes it much easier for the driver to learn to the point it becomes second nature.
Also new to the C-Class is a heads-up unit that displays a wide of range of real time information on the windshield in the direct ahead line of sight of the driver.
I drove both versions of the new C-Class in the Seattle area and discovered that, as I am finding on other German luxury cars, the new breed of air suspensions is the way to go.
Besides simply lowering or raising body height depending on conditions, air suspension reacts more positively, not to mention more quickly, to whatever road surface is being encountered.
That four-cylinder in the C300 may be small, but it is lusty in power delivery, thanks to the near instant arrival of turbo power to the four wheels.
But, the V6 in the C400 raises the C-Class into a sports sedan to reckoned with, not just for the straight-line power, but also for the way the 4Matic takes torque and applies it to the pavement.
The roads leading up to Mt. Rainer can be very challenging even for experienced drivers, but the twists and bends were taken in stride with the C400.
Being a Mercedes-Benz, buyers have come to expect more than just the legally mandated safety aids such as ABS, traction control and electronic stability control and the C-Class does not disappoint.
Standard safety features begin with Pre-Safe that can detect when an accident is imminent and begins by tightening the safety belts and closes the side windows and sunroof if a rollover is sensed.
This is part of the Collision Prevention Assist Plus system that gives a visual and sound warning when a crash is sensed and works within a speed range of 7-250 km/h. In addition, if the driver does not react between 7-105 km/h, the autonomous partial braking steps in to slow the C-Class.
Another standard feature is Blind Spot Assist, which uses short-range radar along the side and rear of the C-Class and shows a red warning symbol on the exterior mirror if another vehicle moves into the blind spot zone. If the driver ignores the symbol, or the other car moves closer, there is an audible warning sound.
Lastly, Attention Assist monitors the behaviour of the driver by looking for signs of inattentiveness. If that occurs, both a visual and audible warning are displayed/sounded, letting the driver know it’s time to pull over. The system works in the 60-200 km/h range.
I won’t go into the many packages available, but suffice it to say just the way the base cars sit, the C300/400 come with $2,000 of standard content over the models they replace.
The C-Class offers and contains so much undreamed technology from just a generation ago, yet, with a price that many can afford.
Mercedes-Benz Canada will have no problem selling as many of the new C-Class as it can get.
If you are considering a step into the entry-level luxury sedan segment, the new C-Class just might be for you.