The all-new Mercedes C-class has 'broken the mould' by moving dramatically away from the traditional recipe for the company’s smallest rear-drive model, according to company bosses.
It’s also claimed that the new aluminium-steel hybrid architecture also sets new standards in global crash tests – some of which are more onerous than those used by Euro NCAP.
The new model – which arrives in the UK next Spring – gets an all-new aluminium and steel platform, all-new suspension – with a new four-link, double-wishbone system upfront and a much more 'dramatic and expressive' interior design.
The W205-series C-class will also offer executive car options including air suspension (unique in this segment, Mercedes claims), 360deg radar sensors, front and rear stereo cameras, a climate control system offering filtered and ionised air, and a head-up display.
Inside, the C-class's interior is much more dramatically styled, leaving behind all the influences of the classic W124 model. The interior quality is also claimed to have been improved markedly over the current car.
All versions of the C-class (even the five per cent of sales that are expected to leave the factory with a manual transmission) get the new-generation central controller, which combines a smartphone-style touchpad with a control wheel. The touchpad can also be used a rest for the driver’s wrist without being activated.
This week in Munich, Mercedes engineers revealed some of the key structures in the new C-class platform, including the front and rear cast aluminium suspension mounts and the new cast aluminium rear axle mount. The latter component replaces the current C-class's sub-assembly, which is made up of 13 different steel pressings as well as being nearly 40 per cent lighter.
The front suspension tower is also cast in one piece, replacing the three-part steel assembly used on the W204 C-class. The cast suspension mounts are bonded, riveted and screwed to the adjacent steel pressings with the layer of glue acting as a barrier to prevent the corrosion that would normally occur between steel and aluminium.
Overall, the body-in-white is 70kg lighter than that of the current C-class, mainly because the new structure is '24 per cent aluminium by weight'.
Mercedes safety engineers told Autocar that the new C-class architecture – which is not related to the new S-class structure or that of the upcoming new-generation E-class – was designed to excel in the world’s most demanding crash tests.
The company displayed part of the rear structure of a prototype W205 C-class, which had undergone one of the US-standard crash tests. This sees the car hit from the rear at 50mph with an 80 per cent overlap of the Mercedes’ rear and the front of the impacting vehicle.
A live video from inside the crash test car showed the Mercedes’ rear overhang crumpling right up into the rear wheel arch, but no further than the rear axle mounting point, despite the huge forces involved.