New C-Class worthy of admiring looks

By Liz Dobson

Mercedes-Benz's biggest seller gets luxury look and top safety features

Mercedes C Class 2015
Mercedes C Class 2015

Driving around a winding mountain road heading from Marseille, France through Provence in the factory-fresh Mercedes-Benz C-Class, a local on a scooter waves at me and gives me the thumbs up.

It was probably the 10th C-Class the rider had seen in the past few minutes, but I was impressed because the mid-sized sedan was still impressing the young Frenchman.

Just 24 hours earlier the fourth generation C-Class had its European reveal at the Geneva motor show, and I was one of the first journalists in the world to drive the sedan at the start of a two-week press launch by the German company in this picturesque region of France.

The C-Class is a vital product for Mercedes-Benz - accounting for one out of four sales in its range. There were 2.4 million of the previous generation sold worldwide during its seven-year run, while last year in New Zealand 300 of the cars were bought.

While it has the nickname of Baby S-Class, and it may have the styling, safety and technology features of Mercedes-Benz's luxury large sedan, it stands alone as a dynamic character.

It will slot nicely into Mercedes' revitalised line up in New Zealand that began with the A-Class hatchback, was added to with the E- and S-Class sedans and next month we'll see the GLA compact SUV here.

By September we'll gain four models of the C-Class: the C200 and C250 petrol and blueTEC diesels - all paired with a seven-speed auto transmission - before saying guten tag to the C300 blue diesel hybrid and the C63 AMG by the year's end.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with the Elegance grille, has been launched in Europe.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with the Elegance grille, has been launched in Europe.

The petrol C200 and C250 models a 2-litre engine with, respectively 135kW and 155kW output while the die el C200 and C250 have 100kW and 150kW of power.

It's the fuel efficiency of the diesel engine at will impress Kiwis drivers, with reported figures of 3.8L/100km for the C200 and 4.3L for the C250.

Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager, Ben Giffin, told Driven that the new C-Class was expected to start at the current series price - $69,990.

The New Zealand models would come with steel suspension with an Airmatic suspension system optional.

The Airmatic system allowed you five driving systems in the car with "comfort" mode the best around-town option and the sport mode giving a more responsive drive.

First introduced in 1993, the fourth generation C-Class was longer than the previous version by 95mm, giving it the measurements of 4.686m long, 1.810m wide and 1.442m high.

An increase in the wheelbase also saw the creation of more space inside the cabin while the boot had a 480L capacity.

Although it had increased in size, 100kg has been dropped from the previous version thanks to the 50 per cent aluminium body.

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has two grilles available, the Elegance with the badge on the bonnet and the Avantgarde (pictured).
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has two grilles available, the Elegance with the badge on the bonnet and the Avantgarde (pictured).

The new C-Class would also follow the likes of the E-Class by introducing a wagon and coupe, though the Mercedes-Benz bosses at the Marseille launch wouldn't be drawn on rumours of a convertible or hatch version.

But one executive in Marseille, Holger Jakobs, did tell Driven about the addition of louvres to the front grille to help with drag coefficient.

There are two grilles available for this latest C-Class: the traditional Exclusive with badge on the bonnet or the sport version with badge in a bold, more modern-looking grille.

But hidden in the Exclusive's grille were louvres that closed when driving to cut down drag and in cold climates helped the engine warm up faster.

Jakobs explained to Driven that the louvres would automatically open if the engine was too hot.

Whatever your choice for front grille, the car has appealing exterior looks.

It has a large road presence at the front though a more sculptured rear, but the lines in the side of the vehicle create a luxury appearance - and no wonder the scooter rider kept looking at the cars.

The C-Class is loaded with technology, including Intelligent Drive that includes autonomous braking, a semi-autonomous stop-go system ideal for motorway driving and high beam headlights that block out oncoming cars.

Inside, the car has a refined look with a sculptural dash and five vents below it while a free-standing central 7in display screen is perched on top, though I would have preferred it to follow the likes of Audi with a dropdown screen to give a cleaner appearance on the dash.

But like some Audis, the C-Class has a touchpad control on which you can write letters, numbers or special characters. It's great when you are trying to enter an address into the satnav system.

The interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is refined with five air vents and a touchscreen in the dash.
The interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is refined with five air vents and a touchscreen in the dash.

The touchpad sits in a handrest above the infotainment controller in front of the central storage area. It also works like a smartphone by allowing you to pinch or swipe to control such functions as next song on your playlist or a close up of your route in the satnav system.

However, the satnav system could have spent longer at Mercedes' R&D centre. The graphics and direction were slow to catch up when the programmed route changed unexpectedly and voice instructions came late, causing us to miss one motorway off-ramp.

Our drive route included winding roads with 70km speed limits, the famous Route des Crates coastal loop (unfortunately on a public holiday with plenty of slow locals on the road), the motorways around Provence with speed limits of 130km/h, and the cobbled streets of Marseille in rush hour.

Driving a variety of models - including the C250 petrol and blueTEC diesels on the Airmatic systems - I was impressed with how quiet it was in the cabin, though maybe our pitted roads will test the cars more.

As my Aussie co-driver and I hit the motorway on day two, we went past a signpost for Barcelona.

It was tempting to turn off the satnav guidance, ignore our flights home and instead head to Spain.

- NZ Herald

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