Two years ahead of its planned UK introduction, Mercedes’ engineers have begun honing the next generation C-class in a bid to see it better the class benchmark, the new BMW 3-series. Along with the four-door saloon, the new car’s platform will be used underneath a five-door estate, the three-door Sports Coupé, CLK coupé and cabriolets, and the X-class, a compact 4x4 rival for the BMW X3.
Our computer-generated rendering reveals the C-class’s sharp new appearance. It borrows styling cues from the next S-class, due this September, with tauter surfacing, greater flaring of the wheelarches and prominent swage lines. The headlamps switch from today’s double-rounded form to a trapezoidal shape, while the tail lamps take on a more dynamic form.The car will ride on a newly developed chassis with a longer wheelbase and widened tracks. The four-link (front) and multi-link (rear) suspension will continue, but with altered pick-up points, revised geometry and increased travel. It is allied to a stiffer body shell and redesigned platform structure – both using laser welding techniques for greater strength and tighter production tolerances.However, Mercedes-Benz’s AirMatic air suspension and Active Body Control have been ruled out on cost grounds, as has the troubled Sensotronic brake control which will be replaced by a fully hydraulic system.Direct injection will be made standard across Mercedes-Benz’s four-cylinder M271 engine family for increased output and improved fuel consumption. All of the new C-class’s four-cylinder engines will have the same 1.8-litre capacity but will be offered with 150bhp, 170bhp and turbocharged 190bhp outputs.
Stuttgart’s new M272 naturally-aspirated 24-valve V6 engine family will supply 204bhp 2.5-, 231bhp 3.0- and 272bhp 3.5-litre powerplants for the C-class. At the top of the line-up will be an AMG flagship, expected to retain the existing car’s 5.4-litre V8, but with a power output up from today’s 367bhp to around 410bhp.Work is also well advanced on a redesigned 2.2-litre four-cylinder common-rail diesel. This should remain in the line-up for at least three years, enhanced by the incorporation of efficient piezo fuel injectors boosting power by 13bhp to 163bhp.The 3.0-litre V6 diesel will be offered in two different states of tune: 190bhp and 224bhp. Also under development is a performance-oriented version of this engine with three turbochargers and claimed to deliver 286bhp along with a hefty 467lb ft. It could be sold under the AMG name.