Inspired by the all-conquering, supremely luxurious S-Class and meant to take the expectations from the basic premium sedan segment to a new level, the new 2015 C-Class has impressed us right from the day it emerged in those first official images. From inside and out, the C-Class leaves no stone unturned in mimicking its exceptional limousine sibling, and in the process has created a template which would be extremely difficult for its direct rivals to emulate.
But is that visual magnificence perceptible from behind the wheel too? Does it cocoon and cosset those who would rather sleep comfortably in the back seat than make efforts to understand what goes into making that grand cabin. Does the new C-class have the dynamic brilliance of the segment benchmark? Is it really all-new from under the skin or is M-B just serving some old German beer in a bejewelled new bottle? We took the diesel powered C220 CDI for a 400 km drive to find out.
Images: Suraj Vishwanathan
Design and styling
Before we get started with the aesthetic aspects of the new C-Class, let’s peel its skin off just a little bit to see what its bones are made of. Like every subsequent generation of any car model these days, the new C-Class has grown in size, and substantially so. At 2840mm, the wheelbase is 8cm longer than the car it replaces. The new C-Class is also 95 mm longer and 40 mm wider making the cabin a lot roomier. The benefits have been passed primarily to the rear occupants with increased head, leg and shoulder-room.
Even with the increased size, the car has managed to shed 100Kg. This has been possible by employing an unusually high proportion of aluminium for a mass-produced car. The amount of aluminium in the chassis has gone up to a staggering 50 percent from a mere 10% on its predecessor. Those weight savings go a long way in making the new C a greener and nimbler car without compromising its crash worthiness even a wee bit.
Surgery over, let’s get back to the aesthetics. The new 2015 C-Class can be had with two radiator grille types. You may either have your much coveted Triple Pointed Star sitting atop the far end of the bonnet with a classic grille, or the sportier, Avant Garde version with the M-B logo taking a giant shape and giving the new car an athletic, sporty face.
We drove the C220 CDI in its Avant Garde version – a visual variation for for those who want their ride to look sporty. The big logo is flanked by twin louvers, finished in satin silver and inlaid by fine chrome. It’s by far the most athletic looking C-Class, and just like the S-Class, marks the youth-oriented shift in Mercedes-Benz’s design philosophy. Tight, pronounced lines on the bonnet flanks with a mild crease in the middle highlights the sedan’s shapely tendons.
Headlights get the signature Mercedes LED eyebrow with Orange LED blinker strip atop and LED headlamps beneath. The headlamps assembly gets twin angular LED elements apiece and is adorned by intricate chrome elements inside, thus making itself a very important, characteristic aspect of the new C’s fascia.
Down below, the bumper adopts a rather aggressive theme for two big, side air scoops with a pair of horizontally positioned chrome lines. The central air dam is narrower, with the registration plate sitting atop and covering a part of it. At the very bottom, a wing-like surface extending out of the bumper adds to the squat, sporty attitude with a fine chrome line forming the lowest lip.
The new C-Class’s face, as we mentioned before is manlier than any of its processors. That said, it hasn’t entirely shed its genteel aura. We’re tempted to liken it to one Roger Federer, one of the most athletically gifted sportsmen in the world, with the most gentlemanly face.
Moving on to the sides, the new signature creases, found on almost all new Mercedes cars, and strikingly evocative of the S-Class have been replicated here without many changes. The beltline, emanating from the eyebrows of those headlamps, start off in an extremely pronounced manner, as though pinched hard out of that metallic surface. And they diffuse gradually as they carry out their journey rearwards – like the smoky trail of a jetliner in a clear European sky with the faint, trailing cloud merging into the tail lamp. The prominent upper character line is complimented by another bottom crease spanning the two doors, duly completing the new family look for this M-B.
17 inch 5×2 alloy wheels for the C220 CDI fill up the wheel arches. They are visually connected by a chrome highlight running through the car’s door sills, and extending over to the rear bumpers. The entire greenhouse area is lined with thick, shiny chrome in typical M-B fashion. The short boot, which really isn’t as stubby as it looks, finishes off the visual affair in profile.
At the rear, the C-class’s deck-lid is strikingly reminiscent of the smaller CLA, while the tail-lamps somewhat mimic those of the bigger S class. The curvy boot lid carries the M-B emblem in the middle flanked by C220 and CDI badges on either side. A chrome slat sits atop the registration plate recess and covers the entire width of the boot-lid. At the bottom, a pronounced horizontal crease on the bumper emphasizes the car’s width, with beautiful horizontal pseudo exhaust vents on either side (ala E-Class) making the car’s rear look properly cool.
Interestingly, there is no exhaust outlet peeping out from beneath the new C-Class’s bumper. The exhaust pipes have been nicely concealed and are visible only when you look at the car from a low angle.
As a whole, the design of the C-class somehow looks and feels familiar. A deliberate attempt by Mercedes to keep the tradition of making the C look like a baby S has succeeded. The new C-class echoes the design of M-B’s flagship offering in a very evident way. And it’s never, ever a bad thing to emulate the best.
Interior design, quality and cabin features
The interior of the new C-Class, like the exterior, makes every effort possible to try and mimic its superlative sibling, the S-Class. The dashboard is instantly reminiscent of the luxury limo’s opulent interior. In the first look, one would be left wondering as to how this relatively basic, fast-selling sedan can afford to have a trim-level as lavish as the very best in the M-B range.
Upon closer inspection you would realize that it’s an illusion of sorts. So while visually the new C looks like the bigger S, there is a world of difference in the quality of materials used. While the bigger limousine abstains from the use of any plastic materials inside its cabin and employs only high-quality steel, leather and glass for the trim, the C-class doesn’t have any such reservations.
Take for example the A/C vents with a frosted, silvery look. In all honesty, they look smashing and work extremely well too. You wouldn’t know of the material they are made of as long as you are looking at them or even using them. Knock them with your knuckles, though, and you would realize that they are made of plastic, unlike the solid, steely bits on the S. Similar is the story of the buttons on the central console, which unlike the steel units of the S-are made of plastic, but given a metallic finish so well, it’s difficult to tell by merely looking.
The dashboard is finished in a two-tone scheme with a black top and beige lower portion divided by a classy satin silver inlay in the centre. The wooden panels, buttons and switches are ornamented generously by chrome and satin-silver inlays giving the interior a rich, opulent look.
The C-Class replaces the button-heavy traditional Mercedes centre console with an electronic, menu driven system which reduces clutter and feels more intuitive. The centre console finished in a high-gloss brown lime-wood for the diesel variant underscores a blend of old tradition with the latest in automotive tech. Another touch of tradition is the analogue clock in the middle of the centre console bearing the three pointed emblem.
The beautifully crafted, gently sloping centre console flows seamlessly into the space between the front two seats and merges into the front armrest. There is a push to open compartment below the A/C controls which contains twin cup-holders and a 12v power socket. There’s also a two-pin socket to let you charge your cell-phone directly using your everyday charger.
The first row of controls on the central panel is taken up by the buttons for the Thermotronic three-zone A/C. The new age, sci-fi AC uses a GPS signal to detect tunnels and automatically changes recirculation settings to ensure you are breathing the freshest air. The second row comprises quick controls for media, navigation, radio and telephone, along with a quick access button to vehicle settings. These controls sit right below the slot to insert a DVD disc.
Infotainment is taken care of by a 7 inch freestanding screen featuring COMAND control system. You can navigate through various menus using the rotary dial and other toggle switches between the front seats. The menus are intuitive, and don’t take much time getting used to. The animation on the screen representing various functions is also top of the line, and adds to the luxury experience. The hi-resolution graphics, however, sometimes become a tad too heavy for the electronic brain and freeze momentarily.
Another great addition to the input systems is the innovative touchpad in the handrest over the controller knob. The touch unit can be used for many operations on the central screen, for example to input an address for the sat-nav, or to find a contact in the phone book. You can draw letters, numbers and special characters with your fingers on the pad in any language. The user also receives clear haptic feedback when operating the touchpad’s control surface. While the feature looks great and is a welcome addition, we have seen and used similar systems on rival cars which identify characters better and work even more intuitively.
In addition to the input controls for the infotainment system, the control unit between the front seats also comprises an Agility control toggle (more on this later), a button to turn auto start/stop on or off, volume control, control for the rear blinds and a button to turn parking sensors on or off.
Moving on to the instrument console, there is a hi-resolution screen sitting amid the analogue speedo-tacho pair. The screen offers wide ranging information from vehicle settings, telephony, tyre-pressure to the playlist – more details in the images below
These just are just few of the screens from the central instrument display. Head over to the gallery for all the settings
Space inside, thanks to the increased wheelbase has increased significantly and the cabin comes across as a much airier and open place to be. There’s a sunroof too, though the C-Class misses out on the panoramic type.
In addition to the extended acreage, the car also has plenty of small spaces to store stuff. The centre console has a pair of cup-holders at the bottom. Door panels can store a big water bottle and more, there is a sun-shades holder above the front windscreen and the space inside the glove box isn’t too bad either. What really helps a lot is the space underneath the front arm-rests, which really can accommodate a whole bunch of small items. The cavity is also home to twin USB slots.
At the back, the rear passengers get a central armrest with twin cup-holders, front seat mounted pockets and big bottle holders in the rear door panels. Rear seats can be split folded in a 40:20:40 ratio. The rear arm-rest comes equipped with a pop-open lid to reveal a flat, wide space capable of storing small articles such as wallets and cellphones. Boot space at 480 liters is larger than the previous version, too.
Front seats are extremely comfortable and supportive, with powered adjustments, lumbar support and three-slot memory function for both front occupants. Mercedes prefers calling the styling of the front seats as ‘Cobra Look’. Our test car also came equipped with extended thigh support, a feature hitherto seen only on cars from a couple of notches above.
So while the seats up front are almost as good as it gets, the same cannot be the said about the back bench. While we don’t have any issues with the head, knee and shoulder room for the C’s rear seats especially for a car in this class, we really believe it could have done with a bit more thigh support.
The transmission tunnel at the rear is quite pronounced and does affect the legroom available to the central passenger. Rear occupants also get their own A/C vents in hi-quality frosted silver finish as the front vents. The panel also gets controls for temperature and flow control along with a 12V socket. The rear bench also gets blinds on all three corners.
The classy, three spoke steering wheel gets satin silver and chrome inlays along with controls for the infotainment system. The car also comes equipped with steering mounted gearshift pedals as standard. The driver can choose from as many as five drive modes to tune the character of the car as per his convenience.
Ambient lighting, as a mini-me version of the bigger S-class offers 3 light colours as opposed to the bigger car’s 7 shades. Front door sill panels on the diesel variant come adorned with ‘Mercedes-Benz’ lettering that glows in dark. Seats are upholstered in ARTICO man-made leather.
The diesel version gets Adaptive Highbeam and Headlamp Assist Plus, which, with its anti-dazzle function responds to the traffic and automatically adjusts the headlamp range and intensity. Mercedes claims that with this technology you no longer have to go off the main beam.
The Mercedes-Benz key can be used in two ways to turn the ignition on or off. You can either insert the key-fob into its slot, and give it a twist to bring the engine to life, or cover the slot with a snap-on start-stop button to make it work like a push button start/stop system. The car also gets a reversing camera which in our test car was complemented by a few more to give us an all-round view of the car.
The C-Class comes equipped with a sat-nav too and we were pleasantly surprised to see some really small restaurants and other points of interests listed clearly on the display.
Audio and video playback is possible from various sources including Bluetooth, iPods, iPhones, SD cards, USB sticks or via CD/DVD. Our test car came equipped with an optional hi-performance Burmester surround sound system. For some reason, we did not find the output as supremely crisp as we have come to expect from the high-end (and expensive) brand.
Safety and security features are top of the line with as many as 7 airbags including pelvis bags for both front occupants and a knee bag for the driver. The front passenger seat can now automatically detect the deployment of a child seat and deactivates the front passenger airbag. The rich list of safety and assistance features includes, but is not limited to ATTENTION ASSIST, PRE-SAFE, Hill hold control and many more.
The cabin of the new C-class has truly set a new standard in its segment. The new cabin with the fantastic looking and equally functional, fresh layout and great quality for the class will be a tough act to follow for the rivals. As things stand, the C-class’ is the best cabin in its segment, and by some margin.
Engine, transmission and performance
We drove the C220 CDI variant of the new C-Class, powered by a 2143cc four-pot turbo diesel which did duty on the previous generation version of the car as well. In its newest iteration, this engine has been refined and made more powerful and efficient. Power and torque is rated at 168 bhp @ 3000 rpm and 400Nm respectively. Of those figures, the torque is produced at a ludicrously low 1400 rpm making the new C class extremely tractable with a strong low to mid range punch and a resultant fuel efficiency of an impressive 19.27 kmpl as per ARAI. Refined and sophisticated at low to mid revs, the engine gets a tad too noisy towards its upper band, and that’s where the power starts fading too.
The car comes equipped with a stop/start system as standard which is intelligent enough to figure it out when you’re stuck in a traffic jam and keeps the engine running when the car is being brought to a halt frequently.
While a 6-speed manual transmission is available in the international markets, for India, the C-Class, like all other Mercs will be available only with an auto box. Transmission duties are taken care of by the trusty old, buttery smooth 7G Tronic 7-speed auto, which of late, has been given a Plus suffix to underline the improvements it has received. We have always loved this transmission for its almost imperceptible silky smooth shifts, and the unit remains as likeable as ever for practical, real-world driving on the new C-Class as well. It may not be as lightening quick as some of the other transmissions employing a twin clutch setup, but it really can hold its own when it comes to performing seamless, imperceptible shifts which suit the character of luxury cars really well.
Performance is brisk, if not blistering with a claimed sub-8 second timing for the 0-100km/h dash and a top speed of 233 km/h. Redlined at 5000 rpm, the engine pulls cleanly from low revs and builds pace as a reassuring rate. There is a steady gush of torque flowing through the mill from lower to mid revs, endowing the diesel powered C-Class with an ability to handle overtaking manoeuvres with utmost ease. The blustery torque can be best felt between 2500 to 4000 rpm, though the linear nature of the engine doesn’t quite let the existence of those loopy pipes attached to the engine very evident.
The driver can use the AGILITY SELECT switch to choose between various modes including “Comfort”, “ECO”, “Sport” and “Sport+”. The additional “Individual” option enables drivers to configure the steering and transmission to suit their driving style – though the suspension cannot be tweaked (more on this later). The C Class, via the ECO mode also keeps a tight check on the energy consumption by air-conditioning and limits its use to extract the maximum from every drop of the oil at its disposal.
The performance of the C-Class power-train, thus, is of a refined, linear and reassuring nature. It’s not a brown shot of Jagermesieter with Red Bull that brings a grin on your face almost instantly. It is, however, a frosty long glass full of authentic German Weissbier – frothy, sparkling and ever so refreshing, though it would never get you smashed.
Ride and handling
The New C-Class features a new 4 link independent front suspension with a 5-link rear setup. Fully decoupled from the spring strut, the front unit is tuned to endow the new C-Class with better lateral grip and a dynamic character. The rear 5-link setup on the other hand works towards delivering great straight line stability. The new C-Class, for the first time also gets the AIRMATIC air suspension as an option in the international markets. Unfortunately, though, the feature is not available in India, which explains the inability of the Agility control system to let you tweak the car’s suspension. For India, the ground clearance has been increased, along with a few other minor tweaks made to ensure the car takes in stride our ‘special’ roads without any hiccups.
From behind the steering wheel, the new C-Class feels like a bigger, self-assured car right from the word go. The car has grown in size, along with an increase in wheelbase and track, and the difference is very evident for the driver. The electromechanical Direct Steer System feels light in a middling way, but gathers weight rather well as the car picks pace. The steering feels sufficiently weighted and with its variable ratios for variable input angles is fairly precise and enjoyable for the class.
The suspension setup even after having been raised for the Indian version feels a tad bit on the stiffer side. While the stiffer springs have lent the C-Class a perceptibly more dynamic feel which includes more confidence around corners and decidedly superior straight line stability, it doesn’t quite have an all-absorbing, supremely supple ride quality. The car feels slightly edgy while handling rough surfaces. Pronounced bumps translate into vertical body movement for the car rather easily.
While it’s all still within the tolerable boundaries, the all new C-class was expected to surpass its predecessor in terms of absorption qualities, which, unfortunately it doesn’t quite do. Maybe an optional AIRMATIC suspension on this baby would have shown us what it’s capable of – but we are left a bit wanting with the car as regards ride quality as of now. The wind noise has been very well contained, though the stiff suspension lets the granular road surfaces be felt inside the cabin a tad bit more than ideal.
In true Mercedes-Benz fashion, the C-Class has taken the game a level higher in terms of in-cabin luxury, trim and premium feel. The incomparably opulent cabin of the C-Class is enough to make most buyers in the segment lean towards it. It looks good, is incredibly efficient in the diesel guise and is significantly more engaging to drive than the model it replaces. For someone who’s looking for the best overall package in the segment, probably the C would have little or no competition.
It isn’t however the car with the most exciting engine; nor does it offer the best ride. If you’re looking for a focused driving tool in this segment, you have some better options. If you are, however looking for an all rounder with unmatched luxury inside the cabin, look no further, even if it costs you a few lakh extra.
Price as tested:
C-Class 220 CDI Sport: Rs 43 lakh ex-showroom
C-Class 220 CDI Style: Rs 40 lakh ex-showroom
|Arrangement/no. of cylinders||Inline / 4|
|Total displacement (cc)||2143|
|Max. engine output (bhp @ rpm)||168 @ 3000 – 4200|
|Max. torque (Nm @ rpm)||400 @ 1400 – 2800|
|Approx. top speed (km/h)||233|
|Acceleration 0 – 100 kmph (s)||7.4|
|Tyres/wheels||225/50 R 17 and 225/55 R 16|
|Kerb weight (kg)||1655|
|Perm. GVW (kg)||2135|
|Luggage compartment capacity (l)||480|
|Turning circle diameter (m)||11.22|
|Fuel efficiency under standard test conditions (kmpl)||19.27|