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.