MARSEILLES, FRANCE – With the arrival of its new young sibling, the CLA, as Mercedes-Benz's entry-level sedan, the C-Class has been allowed to both grow up and move up slightly in the company hierarchy.
It is a significant vehicle for Mercedes-Benz. The new 2015 C-Class, introduced to the world's media here in the south of France and arriving in Canada this fall, will continue a tradition dating back to 1982. Since then more than 8.5 million have been sold around the globe.
The 2015 C-Class (W 205 in Mercedes-speak) is 9.5 cm longer and 4 cm wider than the outgoing W 204 model. It rides on a wheelbase that is 8 cm longer, allowing more rear seat room and cargo space.
Despite the increased dimensions overall, it is 100 kilos lighter, which, combined with a pair of new engines, results in increased fuel efficiency.
Weight is the enemy when it comes to everything from performance and handing to fuel efficiency and braking. Thanks to the extensive use of aluminum (roof, doors, deck lid and strut housings), the engineers were able to shave 100-kilos out of the C-Class.
Fully half the body panels are formed from the lighter metal compared to 10% on the current version.
One look at the new C-Class and you know it came from the same design studio as the flagship S-Class, especially its front end.
The three-pointed star rides atop the hood in some markets but in North America it is found in the middle of the grille, which in some cases will have active shutters to aid aerodynamics, helping contribute to an overall 20% fuel economy improvement.
The new C-Class has grown not only in size, but also in the number and calibre of features offered, many of them, as well as its looks, transferred directly from the recently introduced 2015 S-Class.
More upmarket interior
There is a lot of S-Class inside the new C-Class too. The interior is decidedly more upmarket than in the outgoing C-Class, not only in design but also in materials and craftsmanship.
The air vents and controls, both major and minor, are all similar to those in its bigger brother. And the seats have the same door-mounted controls partnering the speakers of the same Burmeister audio system (when so equipped).
Propped up on the instrument panel is a high-res screen, like an i-Pad on edge, that serves the navigation, back-up and surround-view cameras, among many other functions.
Two engines initially
A wide variety of smaller gasoline and diesel engines, as well as a hybrid and a manual transmission will be available in C-Class models sold in other markets.
When it crosses the Atlantic this fall, it will be available here with a pair of turbocharged direct-injected engines – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder in the C300 and a 3.0-litre V-6 in the C400.
The four-cylinder produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, a considerable hike from the current C250 four-cylinder’s 201 horsepower and 228 lb-ft. The V6’s output of 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque similarly tops the 302/273 figures,respectively, from the outgoing 3.0-litre six.
A diesel version, probably wearing the C250 designation, will arrive about a year later than the others as the company struggles to keep up with diesel demand globally.
Perhaps by then we will also get the C63 AMG with a 4.0-litre V-8.
All engines to be sold in Canada will be mated with the corporate seven-speed automatic transmission and the latest iteration of 4Matic all-wheel-drive.
Also crossing over from the S-Class are a number of safety and other features including Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe brake, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist, Pre-Safe Plus rear-end collision protection, steering assist and BAS Plus with cross-traffic assist.
Jekyll and Hyde personality
I drove three versions of the new C-Class through the winding coastline of southern France and was impressed with the readily-available power from the gasoline four, the gobs of torque from the diesel and the refinement and performance of the six.
The new suspension provides the C-Class with a Jekyll and Hyde personality when used in conjunction with the Command Drive system. You can select from eco, comfort, sport and sport plus modes with increasing levels of suspension stiffness, throttle and transmission response and engine braking.
There is a distinct difference at each level. I found the sport setting about perfect on the smooth roads here with comfort too soft and sport plus too jittery.
Pricing has not been finalized this far in advance of availability but the company expects it to come in at about the same level as the current model, adjusted for the added equipment and features.
One thing is for sure - when it arrives here this fall, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will raise the bar for vehicles in its this class.