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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - C-Class

Revealed: New-gen Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Stepping up: The new C-Class has better aero than before, is lighter and more frugal, faster and better-equipped, and is on the way to Australia by the middle of 2014.

Brand new C-Class outed, Benz to bring hybrid and AWD versions to Australia

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Mercedes-Benz logo17 Dec 2013

MERCEDES-BENZ is set to offer both diesel-electric hybrid and all-wheel-drive versions of its volume-selling C-Class mid-sizer in Australia for the first time.

The company last night revealed the fourth-generation of its most popular global model – and arch nemesis for the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – claiming to have set new high-water marks for fuel economy, active safety, lightweight body design and cabin quality.

Australia will see the first regular rear-drive petrol and diesel versions touch down in local showrooms around July 2014, led by the 125kW/400Nm C220 diesel and 135kW/300Nm C200 petrol, both with 7G dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Over time, the range will grow to accommodate two diesels, three petrols and the aforementioned super-frugal hybrid. AMG and two-door versions will emerge at a later date.

Called the C300 BlueTEC, the hybrid pairs a diesel engine with an electric motor for a combined output of around 170kW and claimed combined fuel economy of 3.9 litres per 100km – equal to a Toyota Prius. BMW’s faster, petrol hybrid ActiveHybrid 3 Series uses 5.9L/100km.

According to Mercedes-Benz Australia Pacific senior manager of corporate communications David McCarthy, the relative success of the E-Class diesel-electric hybrid among engaged early adopters helped prompt the decision to push for the C-Class version here as well.

All launch vehicles will sport the familiar rear-drive configuration, but the new C-Class platform – also set to underpin the next GLK crossover SUV – will for the first time accommodate 4MATIC permanent AWD and a right-hand-drive configuration simultaneously, and Benz Australia is keen to bring it here.

Mercedes has sold a record 40,000 of the current-generation C-Class, and despite its age, the outgoing model still outsells all rivals in its segment. In fact, the car is regularly Australia’s second most popular mid-sized vehicle of any stripe behind the Toyota Camry, although the new-generation Mazda6 has recently overtaken it as well.

Mr McCarthy says on current stock levels, MBA should have enough of the departing model to see it through until this (once again) German-built new one arrives, with forward orders filling up the shortfall. The company has been plagued by stock shortages on the new A-Class and CLA in recent times.

Styled to loosely resemble the new S-Class limo – and equally aerodynamic at 0.24Cd – the new C-Class is up to 100kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to its new architecture and aluminium hybrid body, but is also longer in the wheelbase (+80mm), longer in the body (+95mm) and wider (+40mm), meaning more cabin room.

Nine large die-cast aluminium (an unusual configuration) components are integrated into the hybrid aluminium-steel body, with aluminium forming 39 per cent of the structure that is also clad with stamped aluminium outer panels such as the fenders, doors, boot lid and bonnet.

Under the skin lies a newly designed four-link front axle that promises greater agility, plus a five-link independent rear setup. Steel springs with adjustable dampers are standard, though AIRMATIC air suspension can be optioned. The electric steering system has a conventional rack-and-pinion rather than a steer-by-wire configuration such as that found on the new Infiniti Q50.

There’s also a greater array of Intelligent Drive active safety technology, including an autonomous braking system that works at speeds of up to 200km/h, and can stop in response to stationary vehicles at speeds of up to 50km/h. At these speeds, it will only reduce the severity of impact, but below 40km/h, Benz says it will avoid them completely.

The Distronic radar-guided cruise control system has a new feature that allows it to ‘lock on’ to a car ahead in traffic, meaning the C-Class can (apparently) obediently flow with traffic, with no driver inputs, even without lane markings present.

There’s also a 360-degree camera, anti-dazzle high-beam automated headlights, a robot parking tool called Active Parking Assist and new-generation Lane Keeping Assist and Brake Assist systems. There are also airbags in the outside bolsters of the seats and for the driver’s knees.

Other high-tech wizardry includes a system that uses the sat-nav and GPS location to automatically set the air-conditioner to re-circulate when driving through a tunnel. The central screen also displays Google Street View as part of the map software.

The ‘connected’ cabin includes a WLAN hotspot, meaning the car can take one tethered handset and beam it throughout the cabin, live traffic updates, a range of apps, new-generation LINGUATRONIC voice recognition and digital TV and radio.

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