The new C-Class is 4,686-mm (184-in) long (+95mm/3.7 in), 1,810-mm (71.3-in) wide (+40mm/1.6in). It has also a 76-mm (3 in) longer wheelbase, at 2,840mm (112 in) compared to the previous model. The rear passengers benefit the most from the increase in size, while the trunk volume of the C-Class has grown to 480 liters (17 cubic feet).
Despite getting bigger, the new C-Class is up to 100 kg (220 lbs) lighter, thanks to an intelligent lightweight design concept. That’s largely due to the aluminum hybrid body, which is around 70 kg (154 lbs) lighter than a conventional steel body. The share of aluminum in the C-Class’ body has risen from under 10 percent in the previous model to almost 50 percent.
As a result, fuel consumption has dropped up to 20 percent in the new model, and handling has improved, thanks to a lower center of gravity.
On the design front, the C-Class brings no surprises, given the series of leaked photos we’ve seen so far. It features the brand’s new design language and you’ll be forgiven if you mistake it for an S-Class by looking at the photos: the exterior really looks like a downsized version of Mercedes’ flagship sedan – even the headlights and LED taillights are very similar.
On the inside, the layout reminds more of the CLA than the S-Class, with Mercedes-Benz priding itself for the quality of the materials and the level of craftsmanship “rarely encountered even in higher vehicle categories.” The new center console features flowing lines and is made of a large one-piece panel stretching from the center air vents to the armrest. The centrally positioned free-standing display is offered in a 7-inch size as standard (8.4 inches if Multimedia Package is selected). The leather on the dashboard and the fine wood contrast with the metallic cool-touch effect of the five round air vents and of the controls.
The C-Class gets the innovative touchpad from the S-Class that allows intuitive operation of all the head-unit functions using finger gestures, as well as a head-up display. For the first time ever, the C-Class can be ordered with an Airmatic air suspension too.
At launch, the C-Class will be available in Europe with three engine variants: a diesel (C 220 BlueTEC) and two petrol models (C 180 and C 200).
The 2.1-liter diesel produces 168 hp (170PS) and is the most economical, averaging 4 l/100 km (58.8 mpg US). The C 180 features an 154hp (156PS) 1.6-liter engine that returns 5 l/100 km (47 mpg US), while the C 200 has a 2.0-liter unit producing 181 hp (184PS) and averaging 5.3 l/100 km (44.4 mpg US). The C200 is also the fastest C-Class, sprinting from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.5 seconds.
Soon after the market launch, Mercedes will roll out new engines, including a small 1.6-liter diesel with either 114hp (115PS) or 134 hp (136hp), as well as more versions of the 2.1-liter diesel with up to 201 hp (204PS).
Five four-cylinder petrol engines rated at 154hp (156PS) to 235hp (238PS) will also be available, including the special C 180 ECO Edition model. A six-cylinder petrol engine rated at 329 hp (333PS) will follow later, as well as the C 300 BlueTEC Hybrid pairing the 201hp 2.1-liter diesel with a 20kW (27hp) electric motor for an average fuel consumption of 3.9 l/100 km (60.3 mpg US).
Four-cylinder engines are mated as standard to 6-speed manual transmissions, with the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox offered as optional.
In the U.S., the new C-Class will be available with two gasoline powertrains at launch: the C300 4MATIC with a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine producing 235 hp and 273 lb-ft (370 Nm) of torque and a C400 4MATIC with a 3.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection V6 churning out 329 hp and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque.
The C-Class is available to order in Germany from €33,558 ($46,200) for the entry-level C 180. The C 200 starts from €36,414 ($50,090), while the C 220 BlueTEC is priced from €38,675 ($53,250).
U.S pricing has not been announced yet, and even though Mercedes did not mention this, it is very likely that the C-Class will debut at next month’s Detroit Auto Show.
By Dan Mihalascu