Mercedes needed to do something to keep its C-Class
So Mercedes needed to do something to keep its C-Class – its biggest-selling car – at the top of its game.
The German firm says this is the biggest model update in the car’s history, with 6,500 parts being changed.
Not that you can tell from the outside, with only the keenest of Mercedes enthusiasts being able to spot the new LED headlights on the higher trim levels.
Other than that, the changes are all under the surface in the form of new engines and, more interesting than it sounds, a new “electronic architecture” that matches the S-Class luxury saloon for complexity – which means the C-Class can indulge itself in the latest high-tech driver assistance systems.
It’s surprising that Mercedes has chosen to do so little to the C-Class from a visual point of view.
It’s a smart enough design, but there’s nothing that marks out old from new.
The new engine range comprises two turbo-diesel and three turbo-petrol engines.
The entry-level diesel, the 158bhp 1.6-litre badged C200d, is the only model that comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox as the rest of the range gets a nine-speed auto.
That includes the 191bhp C220d diesel with a 2.0-litre engine and the 195bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the C200. Both come in rear or four-wheel drive, and with a 254bhp 3.0-litre petrol model, while there’s also a 385bhp C43 AMG model on its way.
The most efficient version is the C200d, starting at 108g/km and 64.3mpg, while the C200 petrol gets as low as 136g/km or 44.1mpg.
Mercedes claims fuel efficiency is improved by around 10 per cent over the outgoing car.
The C200 petrol engine is fitted out with mild hybrid technology, which means there’s a 40kW battery in addition to the 2.0-litre petrol engine, helping performance and economy.
That’s especially true in the Eco setting, where the car will shut the engine down and run on battery only on downhill stretches to increase economy.
That’s the good news. The less good news is that the all-new engine doesn’t feel like it’s got anywhere near the power that it claims on paper.
It’s lacklustre, and when worked hard makes more noise than the forward motion justifies.
The new C Class will cost from £32,920 to buy
It’s not helped by the nine-speed automatic gearbox that has a habit of holding on to gears longer than is strictly necessary.
The overall driving experience isn’t the refined one that a C-Class might be expected to provide.
Better are the diesels, though they are still hampered by the slightly slowwitted gearbox, but the refinement and power delivery are more impressive.
The ride quality is also pretty good too, especially on the adaptive suspension that is now standard on the Sport and AMG-Line trim levels and helps to avoid the slight crash and wobble the regular SE model suffers over more severe bumps.
Inside is where the differences are more pronounced, compared to the almost unchanged exterior.
The 10in central screen still looks like somebody has glued a tablet to the dashboard, rather than the more integrated approaches of rivals, but there’s a new steering wheel which has a raft of buttons built in, though it’s not easy to see which button does what.
The interior of the latest generation C Class
The pads to control the two displays are innovative, and being able to control the main central screen from the wheel is especially novel and clever, but it does add another dimension to concentrate on when driving.
The level of technology in the C-Class is impressive, especially regarding safety kit, though much of it is an optional extra in the £1,695 Driving Assistance package.
Clever tech including Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist that can change lanes with “minimal” driver input, Stop&Go Pilot, Presafe Brake with pedestrian detection and Brake Assist Plus are among the systems included, as well as a cruise control system that will automatically bring the speed down for bends, junctions or roundabouts.
It’s just a shame so little of it comes as standard – only the collision prevention system is fitted to all cars without stumping up more money.
And money is an important detail for this revised C-Class, because Mercedes has taken the chance to put prices up significantly.
For the entry SE trim, the figure is £2,500, and the rest of the range is up by £2,155.
Which is a lot, and puts the car well clear of like-for-like Audi A4, BMW 3-Series or Jaguar XE rivals.
The C-Class is mildly updated and still very competent, but not to the extent where it can match the class-leading Audi A4 for refinement or all-round quality, and the new BMW 3-Series could pose further problems for the Mercedes later this year.
Price range: £32,920-£49,675
Engines: Turbo-petrol – 1.5, 2.0, 3.0-litre; Turbo-diesel – 1.6-litre, 2.0-litre
Power: 0 to 60mph in 4.7 seconds, 155mph limited top speed (3.0)
Average fuel economy: 65.7mpg (1.6TD)
CO2 emissions range: 108-213g/km
Rivals: Audi A4, Jaguar XE, Lexus IS, BMW 3-Series