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It’s all about the ‘upgrade inside’, say the
Mercedes people at the reveal of the new C-Class. Actually, ‘reveal’ is
stretching it a bit, as the picture above makes clear. While Merc is happy to
show the interior, the C’s exterior is obscured by a dark room and
some sticky camouflage. Even so, it’s obvious that the splendid new S-Class will heavily influence the looks of the new C.

And that’s true inside, too. While the S-Class offer a full-on IMAX screen, the C-Class makes do with a top centre-console mounted display of either 7 or 8.4 inches. There’s also a central screen between two conventional dials in front of the driver, and, if you’ve dipped into the options list, a head-up display for yet more information.

There’s much talk of ‘sensual purity’, which to a normal person simply means ‘fewer buttons’. Functions are now accessed via a smart new touchpad hand-controller, nestling over Merc’s traditional rotary dial controller on the transmission tunnel.

The touchpad will recognise those pinch-twist-touch inputs we’re all familiar with from touchscreen smartphones, the rotary dial being a belt-and-braces approach for customers less au fait with gesture control. It works well too in left hand drive, but takes a bit of learning if you’re sat on the correct side - unless you’re a southpaw.

That touchpad will be rolled out across the ‘Benz range in time, insiders admitting it’ll be included in facelifts and model renewals where it works. Its position will need shifting if you’re one of the 5 per cent of Merc buyers who goes for a manual box, moving down and sideways on the centre console to fit alongside a stick and pair of cupholders. The door bins are now Big Gulp friendly too, as demanded by soda-guzzling Americans.

Short range radar features in both bumpers, a long range radar in the front grille and multi-mode rear radar in the back bumper scanning up to 200 metres ahead and behind to spot cars, pedestrians and trees. Tick a lot of option boxes and, like the S-Class, the C-Class should be nearly impossible to crash and will virtually drive itself. Virtually.

Oh, but there’s more. The climate control system that recognises tunnels via GPS and re-circulates air accordingly. The C also offers the ‘Air Balance’ system that recently debuted on the S, promising “feel-good ionised air”, devoid of viruses, bacteria and spores in the cabin. Which implies every other car on the market is crawling in disease-ridden creepy-crawlies. Nice.

So what else do we know about the C-Class? It will be around 70kg lighter due to extensive use of aluminium, offer variable damper suspension or full Airmatic air suspension optionally, with the driver being able to select a number of drive modes via the central screen.

Merc isn’t talking about engines yet, but expect a heavily revised line up of the existing range, including a plug-in hybrid and the option of four-wheel drive on some. Prices should be just a couple of per cent higher than the outgoing model, these being revealed nearer its June 2014 market launch…  

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