When Mercedes added the wildly successful entry-level CLA to their lineup last year, we knew they would have to move the C-Class more upscale. What we didn?t realize was how far upscale they would go.
Previous generations of the C-Class are very fine cars, but they were still entry-level versions of the brand and did not have the full dose of ?Mercedes? sophistication and elegance. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 we drove recently does, in fact it reminded us of the Mercedes flagship S-Class sedan. It seems that the C-Class is now a car for shoppers who want the luxury and performance of the S-Class only with a smaller footprint or perhaps as a less ostentatious package.
The all new C-Class styling is evolutionary — with a more dramatic flair, exaggerated lines, larger air inlets and a more forceful look. The new car is 3.7-inches longer and 1.6-inches wider than the 2014 model but it is about 200 pounds lighter thanks to a body shell made from about 50 percent aluminum. The trunk is also increased to12.8 cubic feet.
The C400 interior is exceptionally well finished with high quality materials, soft leathers and a beautiful expanse of wood extending over the doors and from the top of the center stack sweeping down to the console. Controls have a precision feel and there has been careful attention to practical placement.
Although it might look like an iPad bolted to the top of the center stack, the seven-inch high resolution screen has a perfect location to allow the driver to only glace sideways to see the screen to control entertainment, mbrace Mercedes communications suite, vehicle adjustments, and the optional navigation system. The screen is controlled by a large knob, buttons and a unique curved touchpad controller mounted above the other controls on the center console. The touchpad responds like a smartphone screen to swipes, pinches and even handwriting commands. The knob controls carousel-style on-screen menus which mimic the movement of the rotary knob making selections easy and intuitive.
Another screen in the center of the instrument cluster allows the driver to make adjustments to many of the same features using steering wheel mounted controls. In addition, many of the controls are accessed by voice commands for owners that prefer to talk to their car.
Like all Mercedes models the shifting is controlled by a short stalk on the right side of the steering column and the steering wheel mounted shifter paddles. We liked the feel of the fat contoured steering wheel with the flat bottom.
Rather than trying to do the same thing as the mid-level sport sedan competitors from BMW, Audi, Lexus and Infiniti, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is taking on a more luxury sedan persona. Comfortable, opulent, nicely balanced are better terms to describe the new C-Class than sporty, nimble and aggressive. However, ?fast? is still needed to describe the C400 we drove.
The C300 is powered by a 241-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine. The C400, which we tested, has a new 329 hp 3.0-liter bi-turbo direct-injection V-6. Both engines drive all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission. As the initial C-Class sedans arrive at dealers from the Tuscaloosa, Alabama plant, they will all be all-wheel drive 4Matic. A rear-wheel drive version of the C300 will be launched in the first quarter of 2015. The AMG version has not yet been revealed.
All three of the models are equipped with an ECO Start/Stop system which stops the engine while the car is waiting for a stoplight or similar periods of inactivity. The engine starts again quickly and smoothly when the driver lifts a foot off the brake. The C400 we tested has an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. We averaged 24.2 mpg during a week of spirited driving. The V-6 engine is fast ? buff magazines are listing a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.7 seconds, about a half second faster than the usually conservative Mercedes published time. The top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph.
Handling may not be razor-edged, but it?s still better than most midsize sedans on the road, it?s just that the emphasis seems to be more on luxury as opposed to getting caught up in that ?who?s the fastest? game.
Like all Mercedes models, technology is also prominent with available advanced features like a jet fighter-like head-up display, automatic cruise control, LED headlights, Air Balance with custom cabin fragrances and an air suspension.
The Airmatic electronically air suspension is on the front and rear axles. It delivers variable damping and helps dampen road noises, too. By flipping the console-mounted Agility Select switch the driver can choose between “Comfort”, “ECO”, “Sport” and “Sport+” or a custom setting ? each position changes the complexion of the car?s handling.
Mercedes wants to have the safest cars on the road, and for the new C-Class that means the availability of advanced features like Attention Assist to warn the driver of inattentiveness and drowsiness; Collison Prevention Assist Plus that includes autonomous braking at speeds up to 124 mph when a collision is sensed; Distronic Plus which allows the driver to automatically follow the car ahead, plus it does automatic stop and go traffic at speeds under 37 mph; and BAS Plus Brake Assist for detecting and stopping in the face of crossing traffic.The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic sedan pricing starts at $41,325, including destination charge. The C400 4Matic, which we tested started at $49,515, and with the massive list of options, it could go as high as $70,000. Our test car which included options like Parktronic, panoramic sunroof, head-up display, air suspension, lighting package, multimedia package, hands free access package and the driver assistance package topped out at $63,705. That sounds like a lot for a C-Class, but it seemed more like a more modest sized S-Class for a lot less money.
We like that Mercedes-Benz is not playing follow the leader in an effort to show that they have the fastest car, they?ll leave that task for the upcoming AMG model. This is a smaller Mercedes for customers that want a true luxury car that just happens to go pretty fast, too.