The arrival of the W204-series C-class in January 2007 was a landmark for Mercedes-Benz, which had spent much of the previous decade seeing its hard-won, and previously unimpeachable, reputation for quality and mechanical integrity going up in smoke. The previous all-new Mercedes model, the W211 E-class, had been riddled with problems and the model’s innovative electric braking system had to be abandoned mid-stream.
Desperate to get itself back on track, Mercedes went to exceptional measures with the W204. It created what was then the world’s most advanced digital simulation of the whole car which could be tested in ‘cyber-space’ to iron out most problems before the real-world testing regime began. That regime was also far more rigorous than Mercedes had indulged in before, covering millions of miles in virtually every real-world condition. Mercedes also put a huge effort into debugging the electric systems.
In the years since the car was unveiled to the press in Stuttgart, the C-class has lived up to Mercedes’ hopes, in service it has proved to be among the most bulletproof of the company’s models. The C-class underwent a serious facelift and re-engineering in spring 2011, with around 2000 components being either redesigned or re-engineered. For 2013 and to combat the new BMW 3-series, the C-class has received more gentle tinkering. Along with a new engine for the C180, there is a rebranded entry-level model, the Executive SE, and the previous Sport trim has been expanded into AMG Sport and AMG Sport Plus options.
The facelift model got more curvaceous headlamps, reprofiled bumpers, a slightly more contoured aluminum bonnet and revised rear lamps. The changes inside are similarly subtle, led by a new upper dashboard fascia with a cubbyhole to house the monitor for latest Comand control system.
The biggest changes were under the bonnet. Every engine was upgraded and combined with a range of so-called BlueEfficiency features, including automatic stop-start. Chassis modifications were intended to make the new model a more engaging drive without ruining the compliant ride. The autobox got seven speeds.