2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The S-Class purified birth

"Nobody else in the category will offer what the new C-Class does," said Issam

"A luxury, sporty sedan"

"The new C is truly a mini S-Class for evident motives"

"The interior of the C-Class is pleasurable to live in"

I recall my first phase in driving; it was a C-Class. I used to snip the keys from my mother by telling her I wanted to wash it but not drive it. It was a 1996 C280. This is how I remember the best days of my adolescence, at 14 years old.

In the past, people used to climb the ladder for the sedan they wanted. The C-Class was the entry to Mercedes-Benz, then up one step is the E-Class and finally the S-Class. That hierarchy has changed with this car, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It might be so good that there's no need to climb any higher. This car has sold over 2.2 million vehicles and is definitely the cash cow for Merc's execs!

Exterior
On a visual level, the new C-Class represents a bold departure from its predecessor. Its emotional, sensuous surface geometry deliberately displays a degree of tension and as a result, appears muscular and full of character. At the same, time the design showcases its high-tech character in a purist, clear and exciting fashion.

The design of the new C-Class is a statement of this current Mercedes-Benz's style of design. On the one hand, modern aesthetics were the source of inspiration for the new saloon's sensuous lines and surfaces, whose harmony and dynamic spirit touch everyone directly. On the other, the designers have created minimalist, purist forms for the C-Class which emphasizes its intelligent technology and engineering. Consequently, progressive and emotional highlights underscore the ground-breaking design style of the new C-Class and demonstrate sensuous clarity.

A long bonnet, a passenger compartment sitting far back and short overhangs characterize the classic, balanced Mercedes-Benz Saloon proportions of the C Class. The distance from the front wheel arch to the door opening, which is a measure of comfort, is unusually large for this segment in the case of the new C-Class. Large wheels emphasize the rear end and create the impression of stylish sportiness. Visually the car has a powerful road stance.

The clearly defined surfaces also deliberately display a degree of tension, lending them a modern and at the same time emotional character. A strong indent in the C-pillar forms a powerful shoulder, which is distinctly sculpted and gives the impression of an athletic muscle. It is emphasized by a soft edge that trails off in the tail lamp. All in all, the vehicle body appears powerful but defined by engineering, and conveys dynamic sportiness.

Precise lines and sculptural surfaces create lively light and shadow effects. Viewed from the side, the dropping line highlights the vehicle's proportions as a hallmark Mercedes signature. In tandem with a counter-line rising in the lower part of the vehicle from the front wheel, it creates a formal sense of tension. The counter-line makes the vehicle appear longer, encompasses the rear and ultimately flows over the sides and into the bumper creating a sense of balance.

A high, tense beltline serves as the third side line and visually reduces the height of the side windows. A non-continuous trim strip in the area of the rear window with a consequently high-quality appeal emphasizes the C-pillar. The AVANTGARDE and EXCLUSIVE lines are upgraded in addition with a trim strip above the door that tapers off towards the front.

A large selection of light-alloy wheels with diameters between 16 inches and 19 inches underscores the stylish sportiness of the new C-Class.

Depending on the exterior design and equipment line, customers can choose from different front-end designs - with a striking, wide sports grille and central star or with a classic radiator grille with the star on the bonnet.

•The standard equipment and AVANTGARDE design and equipment line include the sports grille with twin louvers, which emphasizes the long bonnet and therefore the vehicle's power and dynamic nature.

•The classic radiator grille, which is reserved solely for the EXCLUSIVE line, stands for status, refinement and modern luxury. Its slightly taller radiator grille, in which three horizontal louvers and one vertical louver appear to float, is framed by a three-dimensional chrome surround. The commanding Mercedes star on the bonnet underscores the effortless superiority.

Large air intakes in the bumper hint at the high air flow requirements of the performance engines and underscore the sense of width and sportiness of the front end.

Clearly drawn headlamp contours round off the strong character of the trademark front of the new C-Class. The LED daytime running lamps are integrated into the headlamp in the modern torch design of Mercedes-Benz, giving this element the effect of an eyebrow that lends the new C-Class an energetic, confident "gaze".

The new C-Class comes with H7 halogen headlamps as standard. Two energy-saving LED headlamp variants are optionally available: a static and a dynamic version with LED Intelligent Light System and Adaptive Highbeam Assist, which for the first time makes driving with permanent high-beam possible by masking detected road users in the cone of light. Their characteristic night design lends the new C-Class its very own distinctive look in the dark, too.

The clear design emphasizing width and the powerful shoulders give the new C-Class a decidedly athletic appearance from the rear. A soft edge which merges into the tail lights accentuates the indent in the C-pillar which is essential for the powerful shoulder. A strongly vaulted spoiler lip on the boot lid has a positive effect on the Cd value, and also characterizes the appearance.

The horizontally oriented tail lights are precisely embedded in the side wall and the bumper and wrap around the edges of the vehicle's rear end.

As a result, they visually emphasize the width of the vehicle. The brake lamp is positioned between the rear reflector and the tail lamp. Its light intensity varies between daytime and nighttime within legally permissible limits. The two-beam-look of the night design is very distinctive and gives the rear end an unmistakable identity in the dark as well. The tail lamps are available with partial or full LED technology. 

A horizontal chrome strip as a styling element emphasizes the license plate recess positioned between the tail lamps in hallmark Mercedes fashion. Three-dimensional tailpipes integrated flush into the bumper have a high-value and sporty appeal, and add the finishing visual touches to the vehicle. Together with the lower wing they form a single unit and thus create a special effect, making the rear end a true eye catcher.

Interior
The Mercedes-Benz designers have styled the interior on a level which is rarely found even in higher vehicle categories. This applies to the painstaking choice of select, 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 perfectly combines sensuousness and clarity with dynamic sportiness and contributes to the extraordinary high-class appeal of the interior.

The designers pick up key traits of the exterior inside the vehicle in order to achieve this overall objective. This applies above all to the scintillating play of contrasts between the clearly sculpted lines and surfaces which grow organically from them. The hallmark contemporary Mercedes-Benz design idiom of the dropping line sloping to the rear is, for instance, picked up in the doors. At the same time, the style-defining new interior of the new C-Class meets the most discerning design expectations which are today characterized by devices such as high-end smartphones and tablets.

Mercedes-Benz not only raises the character and perceived value of the interior to a new level for this category with the new C-Class, but also at the same time, the premium brand consciously demonstrates through the interior styling the courage to embrace the new in many respects and to adopt a forward-looking vision, thus making an almost radical break with the previous norms in this hitherto rather rational category.

Infotainment touchpad
The touchpad in the new C-Class developed by Mercedes-Benz marks an evolutionary step. As on a smartphone, all the head-unit functions can be operated using finger gestures.

The 65 x 45 millimeter control surface of the new touchpad made out of scratch-resistant material is built into the hand rest on the central control panel and bordered by a high-quality metal support - a design feature with a high-tech feel which exudes luxury at the same time.

While other solutions with a touch-sensitive surface only support selected operating steps, the driver and front passenger can use the touchpad in the new C-Class to control all the functions in the central infotainment control panel using the kind of single and multi-touch finger gestures familiar from smartphones and tablet PCs. Slow and fast gestures are possible. The touchpad also permits letters, numbers and special characters to be entered in handwriting - in any language supported by Audio 20 or COMAND Online. The user receives clear tactile feedback when operating the touchpad control surface. Characters entered using the handwriting function can also be read aloud by the system, thus supporting blind operation. The acoustic output also ensures that drivers do not need to take their eyes off the road, keeping distraction to an absolute minimum.

Users can input commands reliably with their hand sitting firmly on the ergonomic hand rest without any need for hovering fingers. A new hand rest detection feature also increases operating safety and helps prevent incorrect inputs. To this end, the system analyzes a sensor signal in three dimensions, thus detecting whether the hand is simply being placed on the hand rest or is actually inputting data. The icons on the control surface are illuminated in the dark to help the user locate the various functions.

Three touch-sensitive buttons are arranged behind the touchpad which can be used to operate key functions quickly and directly (back function, switch to favorites menu, audio quick menu). The touchpad in the C-Class thus offers an additional, fully fledged and innovative input option to complement the existing controller and the LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control system. Users can choose at any time which input method they prefer.

Head-up display
A head-up display is a new feature in the C-Class. As in a fighter jet, it projects important information directly into the driver's field of vision on the windscreen, ensuring that there is less distraction from the road ahead. The system informs about vehicle speed, posted speed limits, navigation instructions and DISTRONIC messages.

Previous model series  New C-Class  
Aluminum (sheet metal and cast)   9% (4%)  48% (24%)
Hot-formed steel parts 3% (4%) 8% (12%) 3% (4%)   8%
Ultra high-strength steels 3% (3%) 4% (4%) 3% (3%)  4%
Figures in percent of surface area (percentage of weight)    

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 axle. 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 a switch to select between the various damper characteristics: Comfort, ECO, Sport and Sport Plus. The additional "Individual" setting allows the driver to configure the vehicle to suit personal preferences.

AIRMATIC also features all-round self-levelling for optimum ride comfort even with the vehicle loaded. It controls the ride height automatically in dependence of the speed and reduces fuel consumption on the motorway by lowering the vehicle, for example. This also improves safe handling. Furthermore, the ground clearance can be increased at the push of a button using the ride-height adjustment switch on rough roads or awkward ramps.

Since neither the air suspension struts at the front axle nor the free-standing air spring at the rear are responsible for wheel location and absorbing cornering forces, AIRMATIC offers outstandingly comfortable driving characteristics which are otherwise the reserve of the luxury segment. It smooths out expansion joints, asphalt patches and undulating asphalt caused by trucks braking at traffic lights.

Without impairing comfort, the adjustable damping can deliver a high level of dynamic handling. During evasive maneuvers, the system adjusts, for instance, the damping forces to the vehicle's driving dynamics in fractions of a second.

Driving Impressions
For my first drive with the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class, I flew to southern France to the city of Marseille. I took my first turn at the wheel in a white C400, and it was instantly obvious that the S-class genes continued to the interior: five round vents, the middle three resting atop a one-piece center console that terminates just below the infotainment screen. My first stop was at the Mediterranean coastal village of Cassis, a mere one hour's drive. I then picked up the keys for a stunning silver C250 with an AMG line exterior. How was the drive? It was smooth and pretty quiet, and it has to be said the 2.0L BLUETEC engine in the C250 offers plenty of torque and great fuel economy.

There is less weight overall, roughly 100 kgs by Mercedes' sum, and a new four-link front and five-link rear suspension to support it. There is also an aerodynamic package that delivers a level of auditory comfort incomparable in this class.

Verdict
My quick verdict: why upgrade to the midsize E-Class? The C-Class now nearly outplays the larger Benz in relation to the exterior and interior. As for the rivals, I think they should be warned since this C-Class is an enormous step forward for Mercedes-Benz. Could it lead the segment, leaving other vehicles out the game? Prices will do the talking. 

Rivals: Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50
Pros: Gorgeous new look, high-torque engines, better-quality interior
Cons: Excessively silent cabin
One word: Respect

Specs

Model

Displacement

hp

Nm

0-100 km/h

in sec.

l/100 km

C 180

1.6L Turbo

156

250

8.2

5.0

C 200

2.0L Turbo

184

300

7.5

5.3

C 250

2.0L Turbo

211

350

6.6

5.3

C 400 4MATIC

3.0L Turbo

329

480

-

7.8

7-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

1542 kg - 1723 kg
Top Speed: 210 kph

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