Mercedes’ new rival to BMW's 3-series is now bigger and lighter than before, with S-class tech and a high-quality cabin
Mark Tisshaw
13 January 2014

The new Mercedes-Benz C-class has been revealed in full at the Detroit motor show ahead of a planned arrival in UK showrooms in June. Prices are set to rise marginally over the outgoing model. 

The new model, Mercedes’ global best-seller, has a dramatic new look inside and out, a 100kg weight reduction and a more efficient engine line-up that includes a model with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions for the first time in the fiercely contested compact premium saloon segment. 

Other features of the new W205-generation C-class include the option of air suspension (another segment first), a more agile chassis, greater use of aluminium in its structure and a whole suite of advanced driver-assistance systems shared with the recently-launched new S-class.

Underpinning the C-class is the new lightweight modular rear-drive MRA (Mercedes Rear-drive Architecture) platform that will underpin all core rear-drive models from the C-class and above, including saloons and SUVs.

This new platform will be rolled out across a C-class line-up that will extend to include estate, coupé and AMG variants as well as a new cabriolet version and 4Matic all-wheel-drive models that will be sold in the UK for the first time from the end of next year.

The new C-class is 4686mm long, 1810mm wide and 1442mm high, the length and width growing by 95mm and 40mm respectively over the current car and the height reducing by 5mm. The wheelbase is up by 80mm to 2840mm. 

The increase in size is due to the recent arrival in Mercedes’s line-up of the CLA, a model that closely matches the current C-class in length. The fifth-generation C-class has thus grown longer and wider to distance itself from the CLA.

Visually, the new C-class shows a clear family resemblance to the latest S-class and recently revised E-class, as well as the smaller A-class family. Following Mercedes’ ‘sensual purity’ design theme, the fundamental classic rear-drive saloon proportions, including a long bonnet and set-back cabin, remain, but the Mercedes design team, headed by Gorden Wagener, have reduced the overhangs, raised the beltline, narrowed the glasshouse and added sculpted, flowing lines and surfaces that taper back to give a more classic profile inspired by the Streamliner models from the 1920s and 1930s.

This ‘soft’ treatment, which includes front and rear ends that avoid sharp edges and creases by curving into the car’s sides, contributes to the C-class’s class-best drag coefficient of 0.24.

The overall result is a more modern-looking C-class that Mercedes hopes will appeal to a much younger audience without alienating the more traditional C-class buyer.

The new look for the modern, luxurious interior is bolder still than that of the exterior. Its ‘wraparound’ dashboard design is derived from that found in the A-class family and the new S-class and features three central circular air vents, greatly reduced switchgear on the centre console and improved overall fit and finish.

A free-standing screen on top of the dashboard displays key information and infotainment options and is controlled by a standard rotary controller, or an optional touchpad that mimics the controls of a touchscreen smartphone.

In the rear, the longer wheelbase means back-seat passengers get 25mm more legroom, while the increase in overall width further boosts space. Boot capacity is up by five litres over the outgoing C-class, to 480 litres. 

The structure of the new C-class is now almost 50 per cent aluminium, contributing to an overall weight reduction of up to 100kg, model to model. This not only helps to reduce fuel consumption but also improves strength, ride and handling characteristics and safety performance.

The new C-class’s chassis has been tuned to offer a more sporty and agile drive without compromising ride comfort. Stiffness has been increased by around 20 per cent. 

The suspension consists of a four-link set-up at the front and a five-link arrangement at the rear. A steel suspension system with selective damping is fitted as standard in three different versions, including a sports set-up lowered by 15mm in AMG Line models.

The big news, however, is the option of AirMatic air suspension, the first time it has been offered in this class. This fully adaptive, self-levelling system offers four driving modes, from Comfort to Sport+, or allows the driver to tailor his own preferences in the Individual mode. The steering set-up, meanwhile, is a speed-sensitive electro-mechanical system.

All engines in the C-class range are Euro 6 emissions compliant, come with stop-start as standard and offer up to 20 per cent better economy than the previous line-up but with no loss of performance.

The engine range at launch includes a 168bhp 2.1-litre turbodiesel in the C220 Bluetec, a 154bhp 1.6 petrol in the C180 and a 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the C200. 

A series of other engines will be rolled out soon after launch, including a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel co-developed with Renault. It will be offered with power outputs of 113bhp and 134bhp and will see the C-class’s CO2emissions dip below 100g/km in its most frugal form. Other variants of the familiar OM651 2.1-litre turbodiesel will also follow, with power outputs ranging from 113bhp to 201bhp. 

The launch petrol line-up will be expanded with further versions of the M274 engine already familiar from its transverse application in the A-class. In the C-class, it will be offered with power outputs of up to 235bhp. A V6 petrol engine is also planned. 

The C-class will be offered in a C300 Bluetec Hybrid version, which mixes a 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine with an electric motor and comes with a provisional 72.4mpg claimed economy figure. Also planned from 2015 is a plug-in petrol-electric drivetrain in the C350. 

Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A nine-speed automatic has also been rumoured for introduction further down the line. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive being offered later in the year on selected C-classes for the first time. 

A whole host of technologies derived from the S-class is also being offered on the C-class. These include a level of autonomous driving at low speeds and in traffic jams, along with drowsiness detection, steering assistance, lane assistance and numerous parking assistance systems.

Read more Detroit motor show news.

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2007-2014

The Mercedes C-Class marks a return to the company's old-school values of all-round quality and maturity

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Comments
39

16 December 2013
It's got that same 'droopy bottom' look of the CLA. Allowing the side swage-line to droop down at the rear of the vehicle, combined with that reduced glasshouse, gives that same kind of inverted banana shape of the CLA. Plus, cramming S-class styling references into a C-class wheelbase adds to that plump banana look. BMW must be sighing with relief and along with their superior engine-tech and handling must be pretty confident that the 3-series will firmly remain top-dog in the sector.....

BertoniBertone

16 December 2013
I like it a lot actually, the outside at least. That touch screen looks badly out of place. I was in a merc showroom last week, and the one on the A/B-class looked dreadfully cheap. You know those chinese andriod tablets that sell for around 40 quid new? Like one of them. It is a shame really, because the rest of the interior looks really good.

16 December 2013
I like the interior as I find it more interesteing to look at than the new S-Class. I am not a big fan of circular vents but they do look good in this new C-Class. As for the large infortainment screen, I actually don't mind its location. I agree it would look more graceful if it appeared out of the dash but on the whole, I like it. As for the exterior styling, I'd have to see one in the metal but it doesn't really garb my attention to be honest

16 December 2013
[quote=BertoniBertone] BMW must be sighing with relief and along with their superior engine-tech [/quote] I don't see a 3-Series with sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions. Nor do I see one capable of 70mpg, yet at least two engines in the C-Class will be capable of that, one of which has over 200bhp! The days of BMW leading in terms of engine tech are well and truly over I'm afraid. Also, the 3-Series crashes about quite a bit, while a C-Class with AirMatic suspension will glide over bumps like a BMW never will. As for the styling, I think it looks amazing. Can't decide whether I prefer the AMG Line or luxury model (Executive SE?). The interior looks top-notch.

16 December 2013
[quote=Ray60][quote=BertoniBertone] BMW must be sighing with relief and along with their superior engine-tech [/quote] I don't see a 3-Series with sub-100g/km of CO2 emissions. Nor do I see one capable of 70mpg, yet at least two engines in the C-Class will be capable of that, one of which has over 200bhp! The days of BMW leading in terms of engine tech are well and truly over I'm afraid. Also, the 3-Series crashes about quite a bit, while a C-Class with AirMatic suspension will glide over bumps like a BMW never will. As for the styling, I think it looks amazing. Can't decide whether I prefer the AMG Line or luxury model (Executive SE?). The interior looks top-notch.[/quote] I don't see a C-Class till june next year with a sub 100g/km or 70mpg. So there is time to play with for BMW if they see the need to fill the 3 series market with a comparable emitting car. Also I'd find that the most efficient cars from both BMW and Merc will be about the same MPG in real world. BMW have a 4 cylinder diesel that produces 218hp and the model below is 184bhp. They also have the six cylinder diesel with 250bhp+. So this is all now with BMW. You need an airmatic suspension when the average merc driver has a bad hip to think about. The 100kg had to be found as the old C Class was a portly number. Stylewise and with the right options I think you can always make Merc look the business, but looks are subjective.

16 December 2013
Ray60 wrote:

...the 3-Series crashes about quite a bit, while a C-Class with AirMatic suspension will glide over bumps like a BMW never will.....

None of the tests of the 3-series that I've read found the car to "crash about"! If anything, the tests have found it to be a more than decent riding car, especially given its sporty handling.

As for the new C-class, really like its new interior, but I find the nose design of the car, on the dark blue version of the car in this article's photos, somewhat heavy looking.

17 December 2013
Well, we've all been here before with promissory engine performance. Shall we stick to actual engines you can drive right now ? Have you driven the 'bag 'o nails' 2.1 MB diesel and compared it with BMW's 2.0 'less than bag o'nails' diesel ? I have and the BMW's is better. Plus, where's MB's equivalent to the 'here & now' 335d BMW engine.....?? I am still waiting. Perhaps they should refer to technical engine partners, Renault, whose engine prowess has resolutely failed to trickle down from F1 for over a generation. Now, what was the Renault production engine we all lusted after in the last 10 years....Mmmmm, let me see. Can't think. If you removed the AMG magic-dust you'd have a engine line-up that runs from mediocre to acceptable, at best. And let's not talk about their stuttering 7-speed double-clutcher which doesn't really work.....

So, if you're happy buying an A-series and being fobbed off with a MB-badged Renault engine clattering away in the nose, then, Ray60, full yer boots ol' chap :-))

Plus, all that glitters is not gold. These swoopy new MB interiors look great in the pics, don't they...... but if you've any kind of inbuilt quality radar you'll spend 5 minutes in a CLA and then head straight for your Audi dealer.....

I'm afraid MB has an uphill struggle to prove its quality is not just skin-deep to satisfy the blingtastic Far East......

BertoniBertone

17 December 2013
BertoniBertone wrote:

Well, we've all been here before with promissory engine performance. Shall we stick to actual engines you can drive right now ? Have you driven the 'bag 'o nails' 2.1 MB diesel and compared it with BMW's 2.0 'less than bag o'nails' diesel ? I have and the BMW's is better. Plus, where's MB's equivalent to the 'here & now' 335d BMW engine.....?? I am still waiting. Perhaps they should refer to technical engine partners, Renault, whose engine prowess has resolutely failed to trickle down from F1 for over a generation. Now, what was the Renault production engine we all lusted after in the last 10 years....Mmmmm, let me see. Can't think. If you removed the AMG magic-dust you'd have a engine line-up that runs from mediocre to acceptable, at best. And let's not talk about their stuttering 7-speed double-clutcher which doesn't really work.....

So, if you're happy buying an A-series and being fobbed off with a MB-badged Renault engine clattering away in the nose, then, Ray60, full yer boots ol' chap :-))

Plus, all that glitters is not gold. These swoopy new MB interiors look great in the pics, don't they...... but if you've any kind of inbuilt quality radar you'll spend 5 minutes in a CLA and then head straight for your Audi dealer.....

I'm afraid MB has an uphill struggle to prove its quality is not just skin-deep to satisfy the blingtastic Far East......

Mercedes seem to lag behind BMW with their engines, petrol or diesel, as is the case with their transmissions. While looking for a new car, I compared the F20 520d with an E220CDi. Both were very comparable, with each being better in one area or another compared to the other, while I found the interior quality of both to be more or less equal (and on a par with an A6). However, it was the Merc's engine and transmission that was a major let down. And this seems to be the case with Merc's other engines compared with BMW's, unless it's a V8 or AMG powerplant, which are quite magnificent. Everything else is poor in comparison.

16 December 2013
Actually I also like both the exterior and interior design, except for a few details: - firstly, the grille on the non-Avantgarde version (i.e. with the 3-pointed star on the bonnet) seems too large; - I agree I would prefer a screen that is either fitted more flush with the dash, as in the S-Class, or that folds away when not in use (although probably it's going to be in use most of the time, with all that tech...). - I think it's grown too much; if you want more space more of the time, then get an E-Class. Also, I simply don't buy the excuse that they want to distance it from the CLA - the CLA is a style-driven saloon that is not very commodious for rear passengers, certainly less so than the current W204 C-Class; - now this is a very minor thing, but something which still annoys me - I don't like how there seems to be a slot for an extra button on the door (right next to the seat warming button) that's simply left blank, as if reminding you that you were too cheap to get the feature associated with that button. Thing is, from previous photos, there may actually be no option in the saloon that makes use of this button, because it seems to be reserved for the 'Airscarf' feature on the convertible version... All in all though, a great effort and I'll wait to see it in the metal before giving it my final judgement.

 

- Follow your own star -

16 December 2013
It may be just me but I am increasing underwhelmed by the new model launches from BMW and MB etc. Each car is just a careful evolution of its predecessor with a bit more size and promises of " 100kg less weight " always caveated by " model for model" Apart from trying to meet the Eu 2020 CO2 goals I can't really see where all their huge R+D spending is going, certainly not into any significant leaps in design. I don't know about MB but in the last two years BMW seems to be making more cars but less total profit which is s worrying sign. The new C class interior looks better but for the HUGE sat nav. etc. screen - it looks like they have anticipated driverless cars too soon so the screen takes priority over looking out the windows!

CADDY06

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