New Mercedes C-Class aims for the best of both worlds

Mercedes-Benz is hoping the C-Class will close the gap between its older and younger buyers, with help from technology such as its upcoming Apple system

Mercedes-Benz is hoping the C-Class will close the gap between its older and younger buyers, with help from technology such as its upcoming Apple system. Video: Micheal McAleer

Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 15:38

For Mercedes-Benz, the new C-Class is the bridge between old and new. It’s a car that is reaching for the old, established order represented by its flagship S-Class and E-Class models, and for the new, younger audience it hopes to lure with models like the new A-Class, CLA and GLA.

To please both camps is no easy ask, but the new car makes a valiant effort. In styling terms it reflects the look of the younger camp, with definite lines that are akin to the CLA. Inside it’s a mix of both worlds, with new tech – some of it migrating directly from the recently launched S-Class – housed in smart switchgear that wouldn’t put an S-Class owner off. In fact, it really shows up the E-Class interior as being boxy and outdated for the brand.

Technology plays a big part in the new C-Class, courtesy of the seven-inch colour screen that dominates the cabin and is controlled by a combination of the traditional Command dial and a new touchpad. The latter lets you move through features in a similar way to the control of a touchpad, but also allows you to write out the name of places for the sat-nav or songs from the media player using your finger. There is, of course, voice control for most of the features.

While it’s a funky new toy, it’s not quite as smart as the likes of the Lexus system, as there is no physical indication when you move from one control to the next. That means you have to look at the screen to see where the cursor is more than you may want to while driving.

The big news about C-Class is the introduction of Apple’s new CarPlay system into the car by the end of the year. In the meantime you can access the web and several apps – such as Facebook and some news sites – via the car’s current system.


Personalise the ride
Aside from the infotainment elements, other new tech features include an air suspension system that lets you personalise the ride and handling or choose between two sports modes or comfort. It’s an impressive feature but unlikely to be chosen from the options list by many Irish C-Class buyers.

In terms of safety the new car boasts the latest pre-collisions assistance system that will ultimately apply full brakes if the radar senses a collision but the driver doesn’t react in time.

Engines at launch will be the 2.1-litre C220 Bluetec diesel tested here, along with two petrol versions: the 1.6-litre C180 and the 2-litre C200. In September the estate version will arrive along with the C300 Bluetec Hybrid.

Next year sees another addition to the range with the plug-in hybrid, powered by an electric motor and a four-cylinder petrol engine. This is expected to feature a range of up to 50km on electric-only power before operating like a more traditional hybrid. At the other end of the scale, next year also sees the arrival of the range-topping full-blooded AMG version.

The new C-Class arrives in Irish showrooms at the end of May, with prices likely to start at €40,500 for the C200 Bluetec diesel. It’s expected that the walk-up between larger engine variants will be €2,000. The C-Class will come with four trim levels: a standard version, Avantgarde, Exclusive or AMG Sports pack. While both the standard and Avantgarde come with the badge incorporated in the grille, the Exclusive is aimed at more traditional buyers and so gets a bonnet-mounted badge.

Both Avantgarde and Exclusive will cost about €2,500 on top of the standard price and feature 17-inch alloys and leather/fabric interiors. This time, however, you can opt to just have either the interior or exterior upgraded to either Avantgarde or Exclusive. To get only the interior upgraded will cost €1,000, while an exterior upgrade will be about €1,500. Most cars in Ireland are likely to be sold with Avantgarde trim.

So does the C-Class offer the best of both worlds? Certainly younger buyers won’t be disappointed, but it does beg the question as to whether they might prefer to save some cash and opt for the smaller CLA. Rear seat legroom is much better in the C-Class but it depends on their everyday needs.


Overshadowed
Despite being the biggest selling Mercedes-Benz model globally, the C-Class has long been overshadowed on the Irish market by the likes of the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. This new take on the C-Class certainly closes the gap, sheds the rather musty smell that shrouded its image in the past and offers up an interior cabin that is better than the 3-Series and right up there with Audi’s A4. The standard powertrains are competent without sparkling and even the larger 2.1-litre diesel is better at munching through the mileage on motorways than tackling more challenging winding roads.

If prices firm up along the expected lines then it will be at the upper price bracket for the segment, something that may also persuade some buyers to opt for the CLA.

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