The C-Class means mass market prestige
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.
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.
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.
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