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Driven: Benz fires first salvo in C-Class rollout

Just for starters: Mercedes-Benz’s new-from-the-ground-up C-Class sedan uses the German company’s latest rear-wheel-drive architecture.

All-new C-Class sedan arrival heralds a year of launches for Mercedes’ vital model


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22 Aug 2014

MERCEDES-BENZ’S staggered rollout of the most important new model in its range, the new-generation C-Class, started in Australia this week with a red-carpet dealership blitz to introduce potential customers to the car that many pundits are describing as a “downsized S-Class”.

Only the mainstream four-cylinder petrol and diesel sedan variants will be available at first, with the company planning regular additions right through until this time next year when the all-new C-Class Coupe is expected to land in Australia.

The top-selling base petrol C200, more powerful C250 petrol and C250 BlueTEC diesel sedans will be followed by the matching Estate wagons in November.

The first-ever C-Class hybrid – the diesel-electric C300 BlueTEC Hybrid – will land in December, followed by the entry level diesel, the C200 BlueTEC, in the New Year.

The thundering C63 AMG flagship, with its all-new bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8 packing 375kW of power and 650Nm of torque, will arrive in the second quarter.

And although Mercedes-Benz Australian Pacific is not talking about it, you can also expect another first in the C-Class range: a fiery twin-turbo V6 AMG Sport some time in 2015.

The latest C-Class sedan will be made in South Africa for Australia, and Mercedes-Benz is betting the long-time luxury car champion will quickly find its feet to resume its sales dominance over the rival BMW 3 Series that has been nipping at its heels of late.

Priced from $60,900 (plus on-road costs) for the 2.0-litre turbocharged C200, all models in the new range are $1000 dearer than the corresponding superseded variants, but Mercedes promises higher specification, with items such as electric seats, LED headlamps, automatic wipers, bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, digital radio and sport Avantgarde styling as standard equipment on even the most basic model.

All up, the extra features are claimed to add $10,000 in extra value.

New C-Class pricing is line ball with the 3 Series but slightly dearer than the front-wheel-drive Audi A4 that starts at $55,500 for the 1.8 TFSI sedan.

The new C-Class – dubbed W205 – is built on the German company’s new light-weight MRA (Mercedes Rear-drive Architecture) platform that it will share with bigger Benz models such as the E-Class and GLK SUV.

Its new body is 48 per cent aluminium, trimming 40kg from its waistline for better performance and improved fuel economy.

Outwardly, the C-Class sticks to its tried and true four-door, rear-drive, five-seat format, but it is fresh from the ground up.

The wheelbase grows 80mm to release an extra 26mm in rear legroom, while the overall length grows 95mm to 4686mm – as big as the E-Class a couple of generations ago. Shoulder room is more generous too, while the boot is five litres more voluminous, at 480 litres.

Suspension is new, front and back, with a unique four-link front set-up that decouples the wheel suspension from the spring strut for what Mercedes says is better grip and more nimble steering. Air suspension is an optional extra – a first in this class.

Like most cars these days, steering is electric-assisted for fuel savings and better ‘feel’ at various speeds and driving styles.

Inside, Mercedes has moved the ambience firmly upmarket in its design and textures, using some of its sportscar cues such as big round metal-finished air vents.

It includes innovative features such as the new console touch pad that not only controls various infotainment actions but also can record handwriting when accompanied by the matching optional software package. Like a smart phone, a pinching movement by the fingers will even zoom the sat-nav screen.

Next to that control, a simple toggle switch operates the Agility driving mode system that offers five selections that adjust suspension, throttle and steering inputs – economy, comfort, sport, sport+ and individual.

The base engine is the petrol 135kW/300Nm 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder that powers the C200 to 100km/h in 7.3 seconds and drinks 6.0 litres per 100km of petrol – about 0.8L better than the equivalent model of the previous generation.

Like all C-Class four-cylinder models, the C200 gets Mercedes’ tried-and-true seven-speed automatic transmission as standard, along with steering-wheel-mounted paddles.

A more sprightly 155kW/350Nm version of the turbo 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the $68,900 C250, gunning it to 100km/h in a respectable 6.6 seconds – 0.4 seconds slower than the similarly priced BMW 328i.

The Benz’s fuel economy is slightly better than the Beemer, however, at 6.0L/100km.

The entry level diesel – the $62,400 C200 BlueTEC – has a diminutive 100kW/300Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine that is slower than its petrol brethren – 0-100km/h in 9.4 seconds – but considerably thriftier, at a claimed 4.0L/100km on the combined test cycle.

The premium four-cylinder diesel, the $70,400 C250 BlueTEC, has the biggest four-cylinder engine – 2.2 litres – almost matching the power of the petrol 250, at 150kW, but pushing out considerably more torque at 500Nm.

Acceleration of this turbo diesel matches that of the petrol 250 – 6.6 seconds – while sipping just 4.5L/100km.

With its electric motor assistance, the ‘mild hybrid’ $74,900 C300 BlueTEC Hybrid is even more abstemious, drinking a claimed 3.8 litres of diesel per 100km while churning out a maximum 150kW of power and 500Nm of torque. It is also slightly faster than the standard diesel on the sprint too, at 6.4 seconds to 100km/h.

Apart from the standard features mentioned above, the base C200 and C200 BlueTEC variants get satellite navigation, ambient lighting, keyless start, electric parking brake, Artico pseudo leather upholstery, active park assist, five-mode Agility Select driving system and anti-collision technology, among other things.

In another first in class, the climate control, air-conditioning uses sat-nav guidance to turn off the air intake in fume-filled tunnels. And if that is not enough, the C-Class customer can even order an option that injects your fragrance of choice into the air system.

Among the many safety features bolted into every C-Class are collision warning, autonomous braking below 80km/h, driver fatigue warning, blind spot warning and no fewer than nine airbags.

The C250 models – as well as the upcoming C300 BlueTEC hybrid – adds items such as an upgraded keyless entry system, 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, proper leather upholstery, privacy glass, hands-free boot closing and an S-Class-style driver assistance package with lane-keep assist and the Pre-Safe Plus system.

A number of extra-feature packages are available, including a Vision package that provides panoramic glass sunroof, auto LED lights and head-up display.

A Comand package swaps the standard seven-inch LCD screen for an 8.4-inch device with an upgraded infotainment system that includes a toffy Burmeister audio system.

The AMG Line adds sports seats and a bunch of other niceties from Mercedes’ sportscar partner for up to $4490 (depending on model), while the Exclusive package adds a stitched leather-look dash, up-market seat upholstery and analogue clock in the dash, among other things.

2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class pricing*
C200 (a)$60,900
C200 Bluetec (a)$62,400
C250 (a)$68,900
C250 Bluetec (a)$70,400
C300 Bluetec Hybrid (a)$74,900
*Excludes on-road costs.

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