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Upping the Ante!

S. Muralidhar | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on May 29, 2014

The Merc C-Class’ new avatar is young and classy.

Loaded package The bonnet of the Exclusive line has controlled radiator shutters for reducing drag. S.MURALIDHAR

The new Mercedex C-Class is almost confusingly similar to the new S-Class.

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The Merc C-Class’ new avatar is young and classy. Competition should be worried

Not very long ago, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was the most distinguishable, even though it may not have been the most distinguished, luxury car on Indian roads. That was when Mercedes-Benz was a near monopoly in the segment.

Then, of course, came choice and the competition relegated the C-Class to the bottom half of the ladder both in appeal and volumes. It was overshadowed even by its larger, pricier sibling – the E-Class. But, the market performance of the BMW 3-Series and the Audi A4 have showed that young, first-time luxury car buyers are reshaping the market for these cars in India.

The economic slowdown has meant that affordability and the compact size of sedans in the C-Class category is now a big positive amongst buyers globally. And younger buyers are in the driver’s seat both literally and figuratively. Mercedes has been working hard trying to shed its perceived stodgy image and reinvent itself as a younger brand, and if the new A-Class and B-Class were the starters from its new buffet of cars, the new C-Class promises to be the scrumptious main course.

Design

The first observation about the new C-Class that you will make is that it seems to have grown in proportions and that it is almost confusingly similar to the new S-Class. This is not the first time that the C-Class design has influences from the ‘E’ or ‘S’. The previous generation C’s design drew inspiration from the W221 S-Class.

But this new generation C-Class almost seems to have been given miniaturised features borrowed directly from the new S-Class. The LED tail-lamps, the bonnet grille, the roof-line and even part of the headlamp seem like they are meant to visually refer to the S-Class. We are sure no C-Class owner is going to complain.

The new ‘C’ also continues to stay true to classic Mercedes design with its long bonnet, the pushed back passenger cabin and the stubby boot. The almost semi-circular roof-line gracefully ends onto the short boot lid. The sloping sides at the rear give the new C-Class pronounced haunches and also give it a bit of a coupe-like profile.

Large air intakes in the front fender, the flared wheel arches and the prominent body side lines give the new ‘C’ much needed aggression and youthfulness in design. For us, finally it seemed like Mercedes has a winner in its hands, though we were yet to get behind the wheel.

Under the skin

The new 2014 C-Class has grown bigger to potentially accommodate the increase in buyers’ average height. Basically, if the increased dimensions outside has led to an increase in cabin space, there will be all round cheer. The new C’s wheelbase is now 80mm longer and the width is now 40mm more. This has allowed Mercedes engineers to not only increase the amount of room available for rear passengers, but also to accommodate the new larger front axle and make room for future hybrid tech under the bonnet. The boot volume is also larger at 480 litres. In fact, many of the interior dimensions are about as much as in the previous generation E-Class.

To capture more efficiency without compromising performance (all the car brands are in this game) engineers in Stuttgart have also adopted a mix of aluminium and steel for the chassis and structural components. The light-weight aluminium hybrid body has contributed to a lower vehicle weight of up to 100 kgs. This has also lead to a 20 per cent boost in fuel efficiency and also enabled lowering the new C’s centre of gravity.

Plush cabin

If the exterior design drew some ‘oohs and aahs’ from us, the cabin of the new C-Class simply blew us away, more because the huge step up in quality was so unexpected. Gone are the dull moulded soft-touch plastics and over-square elements. In their place, there are real, full-grain wood trim, matt-metal parts and the turbine-inspired, chrome-plated aircon vents which we have seen in the A-Class.

Everything inside the new ‘C’ is fresh and well-thought-out. The buttons and knobs are clean and within easy reach. There is double-stitched manmade leather on the instrument panel and even an analog clock on the centre stack. Most of the cars that Mercedes had put together for our test drive were all of the top trim, but the feature list for the lower trim models also look impressive.

A 7-inch or 8.4-inch central display serves as the information and control centre. Depending on the trim-level, there are a number tech goodies like the head-up display, the touch-pad controller in the hand rest above the rotary knob (in case you want to just scribble alphabets and pull up commands) and there is also the high-end Burmester audio system which seems seriously close to creating a concert-like atmosphere in the new C-Class.

The quality of materials used makes the cabin feel like that of a car from many segments above the ‘C’. Rear seat passengers should be comfy with enough leg room and dedicated aircon vents, but the fairly tall centre tunnel could mean that a third (middle) passenger will be uncomfortable, if it is an adult. The noise levels in cabin are surprisingly low in the petrol models. The diesel C220 CDI is a little more raucous and some of that noise at hard revs is heard in the cabin.

Performance

The engines on offer include a fairly wide spread range of four cylinder units. A 6-cylinder petrol engine rated at 333bhp is expected in the future. But the cars we chose during the international test drive in Marseille were the C220 CDI and the C250. The 2.2-litre diesel engine in the 220 CDI is carry over from the previous model, but it gets new tech and an uprating. Depending on the model the output rating of this engine could range to 204 bhp.

The petrol C250 is the more refined mill with an output of about 208 bhp. The engine is super refined and there is enough power and torque available through the gears. The engines are paired with the 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission and there is the option of a 6-speed manual too. Gear shifts are buttery smooth and there is a new optimised ratio that seeks to reduce fuel consumption too.

Bottomline

The new C-Class handles much better than the predecessor model too. The steering is light and easy to use in slow speeds, but stiffens up and is super precise at high speeds. The new ‘C’ handles like a Pro and some of that new confidence comes from the lower CG and the new suspension set up. The new suspension includes a 4-link front axle and a multi-link independent rear. There is also the optional air suspension. Ride quality is typically Mercedes – rigid, but not too bouncy.

Mercedes has packed a lot more into the new C-Class. There is a whole complement of safety tech borrowed from the E and S models, including autonomous braking. Unfortunately some of the radar-based safety tech won’t make it to the India-spec versions.

The new C-Class will be launched here soon and our initial impression is that it has the potential be a runaway success. The only worry at the back of our minds is that this loaded new package is going to be substantially more expensive than the current model.

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Published on May 29, 2014
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