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Driven: Mercedes takes C-Class to higher plane

Significant update set to reinvigorate all-important Mercedes C-Class range

Mercedes-Benz logo28 Sep 2018

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific is confident its all-important C-Class premium mid-size model range spanning sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible body styles will continue to dominate their segments with the significant overhaul to the series launched in regional Victoria this week.

 

Billed as the biggest update for the C-Class yet outside of a generational change, the modest facelift belies extensive changes wrought inside the cabin and under the skin, and should – but is no certainty in the current climate – arrest the sales decline that has seen the sedan and wagon range fall 34 per cent this year and lose its long-held position as the number-one-selling model in Mercedes’ stable.

 

In a sign of the times, the GLC mid-size SUV is now out in front, although C-Class still dominates the premium mid-size sedan and wagon segment ($60,000+), holding a 30 per cent share and sitting well ahead of its nearest rivals in the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

 

The coupe/convertible pairing similarly dominates its sportscar class ($80,000+) with a 33 per cent share, despite a 40 per cent downturn in sales to the end of August.

 

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific managing director and CEO Horst von Sanden said the company was unconcerned that C-Class sales were falling as a direct result of the GLC’s popularity but would work to ensure it maintained its position as the dominant force in class.

 

“We don’t really care whether we sell more of one or the other; we make both cars to be successful,” Mr von Sanden told GoAuto. “We certainly are ambitious to have a certain market share in both segments, but we don’t create an internal competition.

 

“Growth is driven by the market. We expect to keep, and to achieve a certain share, out of an available market, but unfortunately we can’t influence the market.”

 

Arriving four years after the fourth-generation W205 C-Class was launched, the revised series brings with it a vastly improved “electronic architecture”, including fully digital instrument and media infotainment units across the range.

 

Mechanical highlights include the first application of a mild-hybrid powertrain (dubbed EQ Boost) for the entry C200 variants, a new 2.0-litre diesel engine for C220d and a power boost for the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol in the muscular C43 AMG.

 

On non-AMG variants, dynamic body control suspension with three-stage adjustable damping is now available as an option, or alternatively, in what Mercedes describes as a first for this segment, an air suspension system can be ordered.

 

Exterior revisions home in on the front and rear fascia, light-alloy wheel designs and the colour palette, and lighting performance goes up a notch with redesigned LED headlights fitted to non-AMG models, while the AMGs now come with multibeam LED lamps with ultra-range high beam.

 

These advanced multibeam lights are optionally available on other models and comprise 84 LEDs per headlight and, when on high beam, throw out as far as 650 metres ahead.

 

Inside, the cabin now features a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, a larger 10.25-inch media display and a new multi-function steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls.

 

The latter is a first for C-Class and allows the driver to navigate both digital displays using smartphone-like swiping gestures.

 

Speaking of which, all C-Class variants come with full smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – along with digital radio and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming – while the latest generation of the Comand multimedia operating system is now optionally available or fitted standard, depending on the variant.

 

This situation also applies with Mercedes’ latest ‘driving assistance package’ (standard from C300 up), which takes the sophisticated C-Class to an even higher plane in terms of advanced driver-assist safety technology.

 

Among the new or upgraded systems, some of which depend on the fitment of the Comand package, are traffic-sign assist, active lane-keep assist, active blind-spot assist, evasive steering assist and, as part of the Distronic intelligent cruise control function, active distance assist.

 

On the latter, Distronic will now continue to operate in stop/start traffic when the vehicle is stationary for up to 30 seconds.

 

Some other notable elements in the revised C-Class interior include the standard fitment of Mercedes’ interior ambient lighting that enables the driver to switch between 64 colours, while buyers of most variants (again, from C300 upwards) can option a new ‘Energizing Comfort Control’ system that combines music, temperature and fragrance to create pre-set “moods”.

 

Wagon variants also now have a 40/20/40-split rear seat with push-button electronic backrest unlocking.

 

The C200 swaps out a 135kW/300Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine for a 1.5-litre turbo that produces the same 135kW of power and a slightly inferior 280Nm of torque, but makes up for the shortfall by adding a 10kW/160Nm 48-volt belt-driven electric motor that kicks in under acceleration.

 

Mercedes points to various advantages such as fuel efficiency and “agility and comfort characteristics” but official figures show that the C200 sedan, for example, is a little slower to 100km/h (+0.4 seconds) and is not really any more economical, with accurate comparisons elusive due to different testing protocols.

 

Driving the rear wheels through Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission, the C200 sedan can reach 100km/h from standstill in 7.7s, on its way to a 210km/h maximum speed. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is 6.4L/100km and CO2 emissions 145g/km.

 

The C220d’s new diesel is a 1950cc unit that produces 143kW/400Nm – up 18kW, with the same peak torque compared to the previous 2.2-litre unit introduced only a year ago. With the nine-speed auto doing the shift work, the sedan can reach 100km/h in 6.9s, topping out at 240km/h. It consumes 4.7L/100km and emits 122g/km.

 

Arriving in showrooms during October, the C300 continues to use an uprated version of the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, now developing 190kW/370Nm (+10kW), and with the standard 9G-Tronic the sedan can reach 100km/h in 5.9 seconds. Top speed is equivalent to C200 at 210km/h, while local economy/emissions data is still to be released.

 

Other than the mild hybrid, and with the C63 S not arriving until January, the headline act at launch is the new-look C43 AMG that arrives with a punchier 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 now mustering 287kW (+17kW) and the same 520Nm as before.

 

Driving all four wheels through an AMG Speedshift TCT version of the 9G-Tronic and Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, the C43 sedan hits 100 clicks in 4.7s and has a 250km/h V-max. Consumption and emissions come in at 9.4L/100km and 214g/km respectively.

 

The flagship Mercedes-AMG C63 S due early next year sticks with a 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine, driving the rear wheels through a new nine-speed dual-clutch transmission (up from a seven-speed unit) with wet start-off clutch for sharper response.

 

The C63 S sedan can reach 100km/h in 4.0s, and see 290km/h on the gauge, while returning 10.4L/100km in mileage terms and 237g/km of CO2.

 

There are a wide variety of other detail changes in standard and optional equipment across the broad new C-Class range, which in general terms combines a high level of specification commensurate with the asking price.

 

As previously reported, the new hi-tech powertrains on C200 and C220d have brought a $1500 price rise, starting at $63,400 and $64,900 plus on-road costs respectively.

 

C300 pricing released this week similarly show prices rises of $1500 for the sedan and wagon, now starting at $69,900 and $72,400 respectively, while the coupe kicks off from $83,900 (+$1000) and the cabrio $101,900 (+$1660).

 

C43 variants, starting at $107,900 for the sedan, incur a price hike of between $5660 and $6060, depending on the body style, while C63 S has actually fallen in price between $1660 and $3060, now starting at $159,900 for the sedan.

 

2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class pricing*

C200 Sedan (a) $63,400
C220d Sedan (a) $64,900
C200 Estate (a) $65,900
C220d Estate (a) $67,400
C200 Coupe (a) $67,900
C300 Sedan (a) $71,400
C300 Estate (a) $73,900
C300 Coupe (a) $84,900
C200 Cabriolet (a) $88,400
C300 Cabriolet (a) $101,900

*Excludes on-road costs

 

2018 Mercedes-AMG C43 pricing*

Sedan (a) $107,900
Estate (a) $110,400
Coupe (a) $111,900
Cabriolet (a) $124,900

*Excludes on-road costs

 

2019 Mercedes-AMG C63 S pricing*

Sedan (a) $159,900
Estate (a) $162,400
Coupe (a) $164,900
Cabriolet (a) $182,900

*Excludes on-road costs


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