Refined diesel engine, comfortable cabin loaded with S-Class-grade tech
Odd brakes, some cabin materials not up to scratch, that we don’t really know what it’s like to drive yet…
What is it?
It’s the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class – a hugely significant car for the three-pointed star, not least because it’s sold 2.5million of them since the fourth-generation car was introduced in 2014.
So what’s new? Not the platform – the new C sits on a heavily revised version of the outgoing car’s underpinnings, but is physically bigger in every respect bar height. Significantly the new C borrows much tech from the current-gen S-Class, including the basic layout and concept of its interior. The engines are all mild-hybrid four-cylinders, but plug-ins are coming soon.
WAIT, SO IT HAS THE SAME INTERIOR AS THE NEW S-CLASS?
Yup, the basic architecture of the new C’s dashboard is shared with Merc’s luxurious flagship. The 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen, pinched directly from the S-Class and standard on all UK cars, is pretty intuitive and packed with too many features to list. Merc’s ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant gets cleverer with every generation (it’s not quite Alexa, but it’s close), and is the safest way of operating the system while you’re driving. Over-the-air updates mean the system ought to get better as time goes by, too.
You’d expect a Mercedes to be comfortable, and the new C doesn’t disappoint. The seats and driving position are spot-on and it’s very quiet. Pity some of the interior materials let the ambience down, and that despite being generally bigger than its predecessor, the new C isn’t very spacious relative to its competition. More on all that in the ‘Interior’ section.
You’ll notice we haven’t mentioned ride quality. So far the only Cs we’ve driven have been fitted with adaptive dampers not available to UK customers. Same goes for the new rear-wheel steering system – our test cars all had it, but it’s not something you’ll be able to specify when this new Benz lands in Britain. The final judgement on the new C’s ride and handling will therefore have to wait. The ‘Driving’ tab has more.
WHAT ENGINES CAN YOU GET?
From launch there’s a choice of four – C200 and C300 petrols, and C220d and C300d diesels. The C300 petrol and both diesels have 2.0-litre engines, while the C200 makes do with a little 1.5.
All are mild-hybrids, but a plug-in hybrid with an electric range of over 60 miles will be here before the end of the year. A diesel plug-in will join the line-up in 2022. Other new Cs on the horizon include the AMG C63, which we already know will be an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid with north of 600bhp.
So far we’ve tried the 201bhp C200 and the 261bhp C300d. The former is fine but sounds a bit reedy when you’re pushing on, while the latter is arguably one of the finest 2.0-litre diesels you can buy right now. Refined and punchy – a great match for the new C and its standard-fit nine-speed auto, if not as lovely as BMW 330d’s straight-six.
WHEN DOES IT GO IN SALE IN THE UK?
Prices and final specs will be released in July ahead of the first cars arriving in the UK this autumn. Expect the new C to cost broadly the same as the competition (and a little more than the old one). Trim levels will follow the typical Mercedes formula – an entry-level ‘Sport’ model then various degrees of sporty-looking ‘AMG Line’ with more kit.
What's the verdict?
On first impressions the new C-Class appears to strike a good balance between the BMW 3 Series’ dynamism and Audi A4’s refinement and quality. But given our first go in the Mercedes was so brief, in cars that weren’t to UK spec and we don’t yet know how much they’re going to cost, we’ll wait until we can get all its rivals together in comparable specs before we pass definitive judgement on where the new C-Class Benz lands. So watch this space - that score is subject to change.
It ought to be a close-run thing, though, because there’s a lot to like about the new C-Class. It’s packed with S-Class-grade tech, rides and handles astutely (with rear-wheel steering and adaptive suspension that won’t be available in the UK, admittedly), has a comfy cabin and the electrified 2.0-litre diesel engine especially is one of the best around. That said the brakes are a bit odd, it’s not particularly spacious relative to its competitors and parts of the dashboard and interior trim feel disappointingly cheap.