In spite of what automobile pundits say about the Indian car market, nothing has fazed Mercedes-Benz, a manufacturer which is set to launch its 10th product and also the most important for the Indian market, the fourth generation C-Class. The importance of the C-Class in India can’t be questioned as we are among the first few to get the right-hand drive model. While it has been the entry to the coveted three pointed club for the whole of last decade, the C-Class has now grown and is no longer Mercedes’ entry-level model in India. Justifying its upward movement in positioning is the car itself, the new C has been heavily influenced from the new S but how good a thing is that?
EXTERIORS AND LOOKS
Not surprisingly, when it comes to exterior styling, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class seeks inspiration from the new S-Class. It has similar silhouettes as an ‘S’ with a long bonnet, coupe-like roofline and stub tail, but is only smaller in terms of proportion — truly justifying the ‘baby S-Class’ tag.
The Indian version comes with a more distinct Avantgarde face with a bolder two-slat grille which houses a large TriStar Mercedes emblem. The front bumper flaunts an intricate design, including large flared-wing-like air dams and aero lip. But the jewel on the crown is the complex layout of the full LED, adaptive headlights with delicately set Daytime Running Lights.
The muscular side profile shows off prominent light reflecting character lines, intense wheel arches and a thin chrome strip that runs till the rear bumper. The details on the LED taillights are equality impressive. I particularly like the integrated spoiler and chrome diffusers at the back which not just look striking, but also help bring down the new C-Class’ drag coefficient value to an impressive 0.24. The only disappointing bit is the 17-inch 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels which resemble the ones from the outgoing model. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz does manage to deliver an upscale and desirable design as expected from a car of its class.
INTERIORS AND CABIN
As the first interior developed in Mercedes’ Italian design studio, the C-Class cabin artfully blends modern high technology with evocative classic design. One of the few questionable elements is the tabletlike infotainment screen mounted atop the dashboard, but its perfect placement in the driver’s sight lines makes up for any awkwardness. Opting for the panoramic sunroof also reduces headroom, though 6-footers will still have enough space.
Materials quality is excellent, whether you stick with the standard MB-Tex simulated leather upholstery or upgrade to genuine leather. The center stack is particularly attractive, as it’s cut from a single wood veneer sheet. The cabin also gets high marks for usability thanks to Mercedes’ COMAND infotainment interface. The dial controller is very intuitive, but the trackpad hovering above it does take some getting used to. The trackpad uses smartphone gestures (pinch, taps and swipes) to operate some of the features, but it’s not initially clear when to use them.
Front seats provide excellent support and a wide range of adjustments for all-day driving comfort. The sedan also offers adequate room for rear passengers; only the tallest riders will wind up feeling cramped in the backseat. However, the two-door’s rear seats are cramped by comparison, and only smaller passengers may be comfortable back there.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
Do you like having plenty of engine choices? Well then good news! The C-Class offers a wide range of engines. The base engine (in the C300) is a turbocharged four-cylinder. For many drivers, this engine should have all the power they’ll need. It feels potent, and it also gets good fuel economy.
AMG C43 models feature a twin-turbo V6 that has better power and acceleration – but worse fuel economy – than the four-cylinder. For the best possible performance, you’ll want one of the high-performance AMG models. The AMG C63 and C63 S each feature a twin-turbo V8. The C63’s engine puts out over 450 horsepower, and the C63 S’ has over 500 horses. Mercedes claims that both AMG models will go from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds or less, and test drivers report a quick response whenever you press the gas.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The familiar 2.1-litre diesel in the C 220 and C 250 BlueTEC has been fettled for economy and silence, and just mumbles gently while serving useful overtaking performance (although it can get raucous when revved, and isn’t the quietest from cold). The steering gets more direct off-lock and the calibration is terrific. Thanks to the weight cut of 100kg or so, the car never feels bloated. The C isn’t set up to be power-interactive in bends – the attitude is always mild understeer at road speeds – but it’s ultra-faithful and capable. The ride is supple too. OK it pogoes a bit if you nudge the ‘agility control’ switch towards the sporty settings, but you can opt for ‘individual’, and set chassis and powertrain eagerness independently.
The ultimate C is the C63 S, with an M3-beating 517bhp for 0-62mph in 4 seconds. There’s a lesser 483bhp AMG too, but you have to go full fat.
And of course the C is a brilliant cruiser. Driver-assist options use radar, stereo camera and ultrasound to figure out what’s going on all around, further taking the load off the driver. It can look for – and take action to avoid – vehicles, people and other obstacles coming from pretty well any direction except outer space
Most luxury small cars earn excellent scores in crash tests, and the C-Class follows suit, getting a five-star overall rating (the best possible) in tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety designates the C-Class as a Top Safety Pick. Still, as high as the C-Class’ scores are, some competitors’ are even better. The Audi A4 and Volvo S60 both earn the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick+ designation.
The C-Class has more standard driver assistance features than class rivals like the Audi A4 or BMW 4 Series. Among them are several features that are uncommon – if not unique – for the luxury small car class. Crosswind assist helps keep the vehicle stable and in line when it detects strong winds (when you’re driving through the mountains or during a rough storm, for example). Driver drowsiness monitoring can detect signs that you might not be fully alert and let you know before you fall asleep at the wheel. Mercedes’ Pre-Safe preps occupants for a crash by tightening seat belts if it detects that a crash is imminent.
There are many available active safety features as well. These include features that are standard or available in many competitors, such as a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and lane keep assist. There are still some available features that are less common, though. These include pedestrian detection, traffic sign recognition, and active park assist, which helps you size up a parking spot before you try to fit into it and then helps you park.
The new C-Class is a lot better than competition in all aspects including the outgoing version. The new C-Class is locally assembled and it costs INR 43 lakhs (on-road). It is just like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, stylish and feature-loaded but a bit on the expensive side. As for competition, they need to do a lot of catching up.