A quality interior, terrific comfort and strong on-board tech mean that the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is deeply impressive.
Over recent years, the popularity of traditional petrol and diesel sedans like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been on the wane. High-riding SUVs continue to capture the hearts of buyers, and it’s a trend that hasn’t been lost on Mercedes-Benz because it has redoubled its efforts with the latest C-Class to deliver improvements across key areas to help it stay competitive. Exterior styling, on-board tech, ride and comfort have all been thoroughly revised.
The new C Class launches in Australia with just two models, for now, being the C200 and C300. Both feature new 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, F1-derived ‘segment’ turbocharging and an integrated starter generator that now sits between the engine and the nine-speed auto. The entry C200 has a 1.5-litre petrol engine producing a healthy 150kW and 300Nm, although you can upgrade to the more potent 2.0-litre C300 with 190kW and 400Nm.
The 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance uses an integrated starter/generator that recoups energy lost under braking and then uses a small electric motor to help boost the efficiency of the combustion engine when you accelerate. In a world of hybrid cars, the system is not terribly complicated, but the tech works away unobtrusively out on the road, allowing you to focus on driving.
Underneath, this new generation Mercedes C-Class uses a heavily revised version of the previous model’s MRA architecture, called MRA2. This set-up also supports the new luxury S-Class, with the smaller compact executive benefitting from an overhauled suspension system and improved ride comfort that is more in line with its larger comfort-oriented sibling.
There are five individual driving modes to choose from: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. Each mode is tailored to suit a particular driving preference, with the softer Comfort setting being our choice for everyday driving. Eco mode adjusts the throttle, climate control and other settings to help reduce overall fuel consumption, while also automatically shutting off the engine when you come to a standstill.
Switching to Sport and Sport+ means you’ll benefit from sharper steering and throttle responses, along with a firmer suspension set-up; a better option if you’re taking on a twisty B-road which we experienced on a drive north of Melbourne, and enjoyed. The nine-speed automatic transmission, which has been rejigged, works intuitively and isn’t caught out either.
Mercedes has managed to improve the C-Class’s dynamic performance too, but it isn’t tailored to enthusiasts in the way that an AMG is. Keen drivers will find that the brakes don’t offer fine detail and feel, and the steering could be more communicative, despite the various drive modes on offer. But that is all minutia and the fact is the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is an enjoyable car to drive in a widespread of circumstances. For semantics, the C300 sprints from 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds flat, while the C200 accomplish the same feat in 7.3 seconds.
It’s the interior where the real improvements are clear to see. Plush materials and a first-class fit and finish to the cabin feel suitably premium, while the view forward from the driver’s seat is like sitting in a junior S-Class limo. The cleaner dashboard layout is dominated by a huge 11.9-inch infotainment screen, while a 12.3-inch digital instrument display is standard for all models.
The graphics are clear and there is now a fingerprint reader for security. The system is also upgraded with the latest software that brings an even more intuitive MBUX that can learn plenty of your habits that will make driving and staying connected a little easier.
One new function, ‘augmented reality,’ adds an overlay of the front camera when using navigation so that directions (such as turning) is shown ‘in real life. Live music streaming services are also available on board, allowing owners to hook up to services such as Spotify and play songs via the car’s infotainment set-up, while the latest MBUX system means that over-the-air updates will now download automatically.
Once sat in the driver’s seat you can really start to appreciate the comfort on offer in the C-Class. Comparisons to the S-Class luxury limo are not without merit, with entry-level C200 featuring leather upholstery, heated seats and climate control, along with increased electric adjustment to enable you to find the perfect seat position.
The new fifth-generation C-Class is a bigger car overall than the model it replaces, increased in length by 65mm to 4751mm and 10mm extra in width to 1820mm, although it sits 7mm lower. The wheelbase has grown by 25mm too, which helps provide a little more room in the cabin.
Room up front in the C-Class is good for both the driver and passenger, while those travelling in the back benefit from more head and knee room. Four adult occupants can be accommodated with ease, with an extra fifth passenger in the back perhaps best left for shorter journeys.
At 455 litres, the C-Class’s boot falls short of the 480-litre space found in both the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, but the Mercedes should be practical enough for most needs.
Euro NCAP hasn’t yet crash-tested the latest C-Class, which means ANCAP does not have any Australian rating. But with a raft of standard safety kit, we’d expect nothing less than a top five-star score which ANCAP would adopt locally. All C-Class models feature 10 airbags, active radar cruise control, distance control to following traffic on all roads, AEB, active lane-keeping assist, active lane-change assist,automatic adaptive high beams, and 360 degree cameras.
Mercedes-Benz has also taken pedestrian safety into account by fitting its Active Bonnet tech to the C-Class: if an imminent collision is detected, the bonnet raises up to create a cushion between itself and the engine, helping to prevent injury to the pedestrian.
The long list of equipment, the new technology and the new engines do command a price rise over the old model. The C200 starts now at $78,900 before on-road costs and the C300 starts from $90,400 before ticking options, such as a panoramic sunroof, head up display or the augmented reality system. Competition to win over buyers in the prestige sedan market is stronger than ever too, with the C-Class not only facing up to German rivals the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, but also rivals such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia from Italy and the Genesis G70 from Korea.
But the latest Mercedes C-Class sedan has given buyers looking for a comfortable executive car much to think about. It offers a sharp new look, heavily inspired by its bigger E-Class sibling, outstanding levels of comfort and strong on-board technology and equipment. Buyers get all this, plus the C-Class features interior quality that puts much more expensive models to shame. If you factor in the improved efficiency via the punchy new engines, the C-Class makes a compelling case for itself and should be one to consider.