The C-Class is reborn! But, it's quite controversial...
Mercedes have revealed the new C-Class. All is well and good, except a few very controversial things like the engine range...
All images courtesy of NetCarShow.com
THE W206 MERCEDES C-CLASS
Elegant, sporting and very handsome. But, is it a bit too common?
Mercedes have revealed the fifth generation of their best selling model, the C-Class. This new W206 is taking on the likes of the G20 3-Series and the B9 A4, so some pretty tough rivals. But, in recent years, the competition has increased. Among saloons, there's the Alfa Romeo Giulia and the recently refreshed Jaguar XE. But, that's not the problem. The problem arises when we look at the expanding market and the decrease in the popularity of the saloon car. Now, cars like the C-Class are also challenged by electric cars such as the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2. And, there's the ever famous SUV craze that's taking the world by storm for some years now. The rivals are adding up and the popularity of the executive saloon is fading. But, can the C-Class reverse this?
With over 2.5 million sales of the W205 model, Mercedes showed how popular the car was. It was their best selling model, in fact. But, the fame of such cars is dwindling. The new C-Class aims to fight this by offering S-Class tech and sporting new looks in-line with other models in the range. Rather than do something evolutionary and minor (which could push buyers away even further), Mercedes have taken the best that they've got and revolutionised the new C. We can expect a number of trims, exciting looks, clever standard technology and a heap of luxury. Will all of this be enough to counteract the ever-changing automotive landscape? Read on to decide for yourself.
POWERTRAINS, GEARBOXES AND CHASSIS
Four-cylinders. Nothing more, nothing less. The best or nothing? Not so sure...
The W206 C-Class sits on the Mercedes Rear Architecture (MRA). Therefore, it's the same platform as on the outgoing model but for this new car, it has been heavily revised. Use of this updated platform has already found it's way to the S-Class meaning that the C-Class is borrowing some very expensive toys from it's older brother.
Perhaps the most controversial element of the new C-Class is it's engine range. You see, Mercedes have decided to make the C-Class four-cylinder only. That goes for the AMG versions, too. Every model will now come equipped with an electrified four-cylinder unit, no matter the fuel choice you go for. Electrified you ask? Let me explain. The new C-Class will arrives with a 48 Volt belt-integrated starter generator (BISG). It supports the internal combustion engine by providing a 20HP boost when the need is found and helps to reduce emissions while also improve efficiency in a number of ways. In heavy traffic, it makes the start-stop procedure seamless and at a cruise, it allows for a sort of coasting feature. Clever stuff. No matter the model you go for, this BISG will be present.
The engine range, so far, is as follows:
C180 - Uses a 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder which produces 170HP and 250NM of torque. It completes the sprint to 60MPH in around 8.5 seconds and will reach a top speed of around 145MPH.
C200 - Uses the same unit as the C180 however here power rises to 200HP and 300NM of torque. Here, the 0-60MPH time is around 7 seconds. Top speed here is in the regions of 150mph.
C300 - So far, the powerhouse of the petrol range. The C300 uses a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder producing 255HP and 400NM of torque with a 0-60MPH time in the region of 6 seconds.
The diesel range uses a revised version of the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder unit from the outgoing C-Class. The capacity has risen by 42cc, too.
C200d - 160HP and 380NM are offered here, this is the entry-level diesel.
C220d - The popular 220d model provides drivers with 200HP and 440NM of torque.
C300d - 260HP and 550NM of torque make this model the fastest internal combustion engine model of the C-Class range with a 0-60 time around 5.5 seconds.
The C200, C300 and C220d are all available with optional 4Matic four-wheel drive. The system has been developed and can now send more power to the front end than ever before, improving performance. Thanks to work within the transfer case where friction has been reduced, the new system is more frugal. 4Matic is lighter overall, too. No matter the model you go for, a nine-speed automatic is standard. This all goes according to Mercedes' gradual removal of manual transmissions. This new auto' box is also lighter and more efficient than previously.
Mercedes' AMG Formula 1 team assisted with the development and introduction of a new turbocharger. Thus, they've created a unit which is both more responsive and efficient. In terms of said efficiency, said turbocharger and the BISG give the new C-Class some pretty good WLTP scores. The petrol cars achieve a WLTP average of between 36-46mpg depending on the car's spec while emitting 141-180g/km of CO2. The diesels sit closer to an average of 60mpg with emissions from 131-152g/km of CO2 depending on the model.
The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) option is also returning. Shortly after the new C-Class arrives, a PHEV model will be introduced namely as the C300e. The electric-only range rises to 62 miles according to the WLTP tests and this is thanks to a new 25.4kWh battery pack. Previously, the range was only 34 miles from a 13.5kWh pack. Here, it's mounted under the boot floor.
The C300e will use a 130HP electric motor which, combined with a 200HP petrol engine, delivers 304HP and 550NM of torque. Therefore, the PHEV model will be very dynamic while also being very efficient. Driving using the electric motor alone can occur up to 87MPH. When the juice runs out, the car can be charged in 30 minutes via a 55kW fast charger. This car is very clever, as it can recharge the battery on the move. It can do this at a rate of up to 100kW through an intelligent energy recuperation system. It does this when the car is coasting or decelerating.
The car gains a route planning function which utilises the intelligence of the latest satellite navigation system. When coupled with topography and traffic data, the C300e can determine the most efficient route, prioritising the electric motor in built up areas where it needs to be greener. Clever stuff.
Note that a diesel PHEV is also coming, but no details have been revealed yet. Expect this car to use the C300d as a basis using similar tech to the C300e. It'll probably be called the C300de and, before the AMG models arrive, may well be the fastest model on offer.
As mentioned previously, the C-Class sits on a heavily revised MRA platform shared with the S-Class. Similarly to the S-Class, the C-Class gains optional rear-wheel steering for improved manoeuvrability at reduced speeds. The turning circle in such models is quoted as 10.43 metres. Then, at speeds of 37MPH and above, the rear wheels turn up to 2.5 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels to improve stability at high speeds. This means reduced steering input in the twisty stuff and generally improves cruising, too.
In terms of suspension, the C-Class will have a revised four-link setup up front and a rear multi-link system. Together, these systems improve driveability and increase comfort levels to highlight the C-Class' range of abilities. Steel springs are standard but pay a little more and you can have adaptive air suspension which will give you added comfort and dynamics. Plug-in hybrid models get rear air suspension as standard while sports suspension and adjustable dampers being optional across the range.
To me, this is also a controversial element. I don't think this new C-Class is as good looking as the W205. Sure, if you didn't spec the upgraded headlights in the old one, it looked cheap and as if you bought it for the sake of buying a Mercedes. And, it was probably a C180d with a Renault 1.5L DCi unit, a manual gearbox and very little in the luxury department. But, the general shape, layout and design was great. If you had the proper lights, even the base models looked decent. The AMG-Line cars did the trick and really looked good, especially in blue. But this new car? I'm not so sure.
From the front, it's very much a Mercedes, but this basically means the A-Class. Every new Merc evolved from the latest A-Class. Think about the year 2013. We had an A-Class, a C-Class, E-Class and CLS-Class to name some specific examples. Each one of these were clearly a Mercedes - Elegant, mature and stylish with exquisite and dynamic design features. CLS was a particular highlight, especially in Shooting Brake form. But the main point? They weren't similar aesthetically. They differed. They captured the brand image perfectly and employed enough differentiation that they didn't all resemble the same car. Today, most Mercedes cars appear to be an A-Class of various sizes. The new S-Class with it's larger grille is a bit of an exception, but it still shares a great deal with the A-Class. The A-Class saloon now looks almost identical to the freshly-revealed C-Class. And I have an issue with this. If I'm paying more money for a larger, more mature and more expensive car, I want it to stand out above the entry level model. I don't want it to be based on one. Sure, the dimensions are different but everything looks the same, only wider or taller or longer. I think Mercedes need to go back to the drawing board and think of a new design language. There's hope in the future with EQ electric cars. We've seen the EQC and EQA, and they are different. Similarities, sure, but they're different and have an individual personality - The EQC is very much a mature car, full of presence. The EQA, on the other hand, is smaller, more angular and dynamic. So, if they can manage it with the EQ cars, why can't they manage it with their mainstream models?
The front end of this new C-Class is very much sporting a dynamic design. The headlights are thinner, sharper and more aerodynamic than before. The grille is no longer drenched with circular chrome elements to give a diamond effect. Instead, they're tinny little three pointed stars. Perhaps this is just to make it very clear that you're driving a Mercedes? I thought the massive logo up front was enough, really. The air vents are, well, fake but they do add to the aggressive design language. A few bulges and character lines on the bonnet further improve the overall aesthetic and the colour presented in the gallery above is stunning. The new headlights are all LED units as standard but you can option a Digital Light system which brings 1.3 million pixels of resolution per headlight. This gives it the ability to do all of the things you'd expect such as blank out the beam to prevent dazzling other drivers. But, it also allows for the projection of warning symbols and guide lines on the road.
From the side, its very much an executive saloon and retains that C-Class shape. The surfaces are smooth with one chief line along the bottom of the car. Nice wheels! Really good design on those rims. This seems to be an AMG-Line car, presented with a black door trim as opposed to a chrome finish. The headlights look angry and slim from the side, further enhanced by the almost-mirroring taillights which too come round in a thin fashion. Effective design, only so common on Mercedes cars.
The rear end, I don't like. The outgoing car had a much better setup in terms of design. I don't like this new rear taillight design on any of the Mercedes saloons. The outgoing generation of cars was supreme in this department, while this new one is all A-Class saloon. However, I can't complain about the quality of these taillights. They're exquisite in terms of technology and the LED elements add a great deal. Notice the dual exhausts and tiny air vents toward the bottom, all supported by a minor diffuser.
Generally speaking, this car isn't ugly (apart from maybe the rear) - It's a very well executed design, with plenty of elegance. I just wish it was more individual, more unique. It's clearly a Mercedes, but this rant about looking like an A-Class is now over. We just have to live with it for now and, while it's a shame that there isn't some differentiation, the cars are still very much handsome and the interiors are otherworldly.
INTERIOR AND TECHNOLOGY
Borrowing toys from the bigger brother applies to the inside of the C-Class, too. The interior is taken almost entirely from the S-Class in terms of design and layout. Evidently, the infotainment system and steering wheel are the chief elements taken from the flagship. Mercedes have gone away with the stuck-on tablet look of the outgoing car and replaced it with a 'free-floating' iPad style display orientated in portrait form. It measures 10.25 inches as standard with an optional 12.3 inch screen available. This infotainment screen is angled ever so slightly toward the driver for improved visibility and usability while driving. Analogue dials have been ditched for a digital cluster and both screens offer customisability in the form of different styles and colours. Discreet setting is a reduced setting, providing only the essential information and disregarding that which is excess. Also available is a Classic setting which is the familiar, standard setting. Then there's a more dynamic option for those who want red everywhere and a centralised rev counter display.
Three operating modes are also available with Navigation, Assistance or Service. While mood lighting comes on the C-Class, an optional fibre-optic system is also available and offers some incredible visuals. A colourful HUD (Head Up Display) is optional, too, however it isn't as clever as the system in the S-Class. There, augmented navigational images (mainly arrows) are displayed ahead of you to ensure that you're navigated properly and don't miss the road you're meant to be on. Here, though, the HUD is pretty standard, showing basic driving information. But, those clever arrow prompts are displayed in the digital driving display instead. So, while not as effective as on the S-Class' HUD, the navigation prompts are still present on the C-Class.
In terms of the infotainment itself, the C-Class is the second model which utilises the second generation of MBUX. Here, a developed version of the 'Hey Mercedes' function is present alongside various smart home functions and integrated music streaming platforms such as Spotify. Songs can be selected via the 'Hey Mercedes' digital assistant making selection very simple indeed. Accounts can be paired so that the playlists you love are stored within the car's infotainment. The central screen can display a visually augmented image of the car which aids driveability and improves hazard perception, making the navigation of tight car parks a doddle. Wireless updates are a thing, too, meaning that as soon as there's an update it downloads automatically, adding to that user-friendly experience. No need to visit your local dealer. MBUX is unlocked via a fingerprint scanner below the screen, adding an element of security if, um, your Spotify playlist is top secret. Mercedes also offer the MBUX Smart Home function. Here, the car can connect to smart home appliances such as lighting or heating and can give drivers control over them. Cold day? Warm your house up on the way home from work via the car. Clever stuff, and very useful. But, I suspect most of us don't have such smart homes. Yet.
Furthermore on the design, the old air vents have been replaced with a more square, jet-engine inspired design. They're distinctive and beautifully organised. The gear shifter and rotary dial for infotainment have both been removed so most infotainment functions are now diverted to the touchscreen display and can also be controlled via touch-sensitive elements on the steering wheel. The split-folding central armrest (amazes me every time I see it) has been redesigned slightly but retains its pleasant padding. The window and lock controls have been relocated to the door's grab handle and there's a new 'floating' panel which houses the seat controls and door handle. A range of high quality interior trims are available. Notice the gallery above, there's two presented. One has a cool texture with horizontal lines (almost mimicking AMG grilles). The other is a carbon trim which works incredibly well with the brown leather. That would be my spec. Notice how the interior controls for the windows and seats are metal, further adding to the luxurious appeal of the C-Class. These little things really make this interior a step above, almost making up for the mediocre looks. I remember when the outgoing model came out - The interior was revolutionary and truly masterful. But this? This takes it to a whole new level.
Technologically, there's a great deal going on here in the C-Class. Firstly, the rear seats are now optionally heated and can offer deep massage functionality. The Driver Assistance Package has been upgraded, too, delivering an advanced Active Distance Assist (ADA which is just Mercedes' way of saying smart cruise control) which has a 360 degree multi-lane recognition system which assist the Active Steering Assist (lane keep). Automatic traffic-sign recognition exists, too. ADA can accelerate, brake and steer the car for you at speeds of up to 130mph. Great in Germany, not so useful elsewhere. That multi-lane recognition system I mentioned spots the signs and adjusts your speed to suit. In the event that you don't notice a broken down car on the side of the road, at speeds of up to 60MPH the system will help you to manoeuvre around the hazard.
Mercedes have also revealed the estate version of the C-Class. The makeover of the estate is very much similar to the saloon but here, the taillights work. The general shape has increased the length and width but decreased the height, making the car look more dynamic on the road. Really like this car's blue paint, too.
Since we're talking about the estate, it's worth talking about the body styles and practicality. The estate is the only other body that joins the party as Mercedes have scrapped the coupe and convertible models. Perhaps they'll make a C63 coupe? Who knows. Generally, something to do with cost cutting and boosting profits. But, today, saloon or estate is all you're having. The C-Class is generally bigger all over, adding 13mm of headroom in the back with 35mm of extra knee room. The saloon's boot is now 360 litres but if you desire more room, the estate has you covered with 490 litres. This is a 30 litre jump over the outgoing C-Class estate but falls slightly short on the Audi A4 Avant. However, fold those rear seats down in the estate and you've got a massive 1510 litres on offer which trumps the Audi. An automatic tailgate will be standard, too.
CONCLUSION AND PRICE
Beautifully crafted, quality product. Excellent.
No official word on pricing, but expect the new C-Class to start around £35,000. The estate will be a little more, perhaps in the regions of £36/37,000.
The new C-Class is a wonderful car. The interior is class-leading if you ask me, full of technology, quality and design that outshines dull competition. The upmarket options such as the advanced mood lighting and rear heated and massaged seats add to the C-Class' position as the must-have executive saloon. However, the aesthetics are not top drawer if you ask me. The C-Class that preceded this model eats it alive in terms of aesthetics, but this is what we've got and have to accept it. Even though it isn't unique, it's still very mature and offers many dynamic touches. The standard LED headlights mean that the looks are top notch. Headlights play a massive part in a car's design if you ask me, and the more impressive the better. This is a good touch and definitely outshines (see what I did there?) the base model W205 cars by a country mile.
To answer the question from the beginning - I think the new C-Class is a positive addition to the executive saloon offering. It does a great deal to combat new competition from electric cars and SUVs, providing a load of potential. The technology and interior borrowed from the S-Class really does a lot for the new C. It's perhaps the most important change that the car has received as there's no competition which competes in terms of design, if you ask me. It's just a shame about that exterior. But, since SUVs like the GLC will probably base their design from the C-Class, it might draw people back to the saloon. Why? Because the SUV will probably look, well, unexciting to put it lightly.
Amazing work on the interior and technology Mercedes. Next time work on the design a little more. (If someone from Mercedes is reading this, the design is fine - Just boring since it looks like every other Mercedes saloon and the A-Class!)