Ev­ery­man limo

The C-Class means mass mar­ket pres­tige

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOSHUA DOWLING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR joshua.dowling@news.com.au

WANT proof the Aus­tralian econ­omy is healthy? For­get mar­ket analy­ses and bank­ing fore­casts, this is all you need to know: the na­tion’s favourite mid-size sedan af­ter the Toy­ota Camry and Mazda6 is a Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes C‒Class is not only the top-sell­ing lux­ury car in Aus­tralia ahead of the equiv­a­lently sized Audi and BMW but it’s also more pop­u­lar than much cheaper ri­vals.

More people bought a Mercedes-Benz last year than a Honda Ac­cord, Subaru Lib­erty, and Ford Mon­deo. The list goes on. And now a new model is just around the cor­ner.

The first all-new C-Class in seven years has just gone on sale in Europe and ar­rives in Aus­tralian show­rooms in June.

VALUE

Prices are yet to be an­nounced but, if his­tory is a guide, Mercedes-Benz tends to hold the RRP of the old model and add equip­ment. The cur­rent C‒Class range starts at $59,900 but the more pop­u­lar mod­els start from about $70,000.

In­ter­est­ingly, sales of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion C‒Class have in­creased de­spite the car reach­ing the end of its model cy­cle — cus­tom­ar­ily the op­po­site is true. No doubt its Ger­man ri­vals will be con­cerned about the ar­rival of some fresh metal.

DE­SIGN

Honey, I shrunk the S‒Class.

The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the pop­u­lar C‒Class and Benz’s flag­ship are not co­in­ci­den­tal.

The cars were de­signed in the same stu­dio barely me­tres apart, af­ter a com­pe­ti­tion among Mercedes’ five de­sign cen­tres in Ger­many, the US, Ja­pan, China and Italy.

The fin­ish­ing touches and the fi­nal de­sign — in­clud­ing the sculpted flanks and smooth lines — were com­pleted in Benz’s de­sign head­quar­ters in Ger­many.

In the metal, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the C and S are more ap­par­ent. It’s smaller than the top-line sedan yet the new C‒Class is big­ger than be­fore, grow­ing in ev­ery cru­cial di­men­sion. It is al­most as big as the E-Class was, two gen­er­a­tions ago.

If the ex­te­rior is stun­ning, the in­te­rior is a rev­e­la­tion com­pared to to­day’s car (and the com­pe­ti­tion), with sim­ple yet el­e­gant de­sign mated to func­tional, user-friendly con­trols.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Not only does the new C‒Class look like a smaller ver­sion of Benz’s limo, it shares most of its tech­nol­ogy and even has some of its own. Us­ing the built‒in nav­i­ga­tion, the air­con­di­tion­ing au­to­mat­i­cally switches to re­cir­cu­late be­fore en­ter­ing a tun­nel, to keep diesel fumes and other nas­ties out­side the cabin.

The new C‒Class is dot­ted with cam­eras (rear view and over­head view), radar beams (to pre­vent a crash if you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion), lane de­par­ture warn­ings, and LED head­lights for a brighter beam.

There are also a head‒up dis­play re­flected into the wind­screen of the more ex­pen­sive mod­els (sim­i­lar to that of­fered in BMWs for al­most a decade) and a new, much more in­tu­itive cabin con­trol dial and touch­pad that al­lows you to draw letters and num­bers with your fin­ger­tips (an Audi fea­ture since 2009).

The grille on the base model has lou­vres (vis­i­ble from the out­side) to im­prove aero­dy­namic ef­fi­ciency by di­rect­ing air­flow around the car’s body. Some cars have a sim­i­lar fea­ture, but the lou­vres are hid­den be­hind the grille; Mercedes claimsa world first in mak­ing it a de­sign fea­ture.

These activate au­to­mat­i­cally at free­way speeds and only at lower tem­per­a­tures.

The other sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment is the new C‒Class’s alu­minium body and light­weight sus­pen­sion com­po­nents. The bon­net, roof, doors, front fend­ers and boot lid are all made of alu­minium, as are the sus­pen­sion arms and at­tach­ment points on the body.

This is a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in this class of car and has led to a mas­sive weight sav­ing of 100kg all told (which, in turn, helps fuel econ­omy).

One last bit of hi-tech trick­ery: Benz is the first car in its class to be avail­able with air sus­pen­sion, an op­tion pre­vi­ously re­served for the

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