There’s an all-new version of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coming and it will pick up many of the design cues and features first offered in the latest version of the German brand’s flagship S-Class.
But the automaker is paring back on the number of trim packages that will be available, a move that appears to reflect the ongoing decline of the American sedan market. Sales of the C-Class tumbled by nearly half last year, though demand has rebounded a bit in 2021.
“The new-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class is poised to reinforce its leading position as the most advanced vehicle in its segment by showcasing a new progressive interior and sporty exterior design, electrified engine, innovative comfort features and groundbreaking technology,” Mercedes said in a statement.
No more “Baby Benz”
Originally launched as the Mercedes-Benz 190 and widely known as the “Baby Benz,” what became the C-Class has become both larger and more lavish with each passing generation. It’s also no more the entry point in the brand, that duty shifted to other models like the A-Class and CLA.
Yet again, the redesigned C-Class has grown longer and wider than the outgoing model. Today’s version isn’t much different in size when compared to the mid-range E-Class sedan of the 1980s.
The new look is more in tune with the latest-generation S-Class launched for the 2021 model year. That starts with a “cab-rearward” design that puts emphasis on a long hood intended to give the sedan a sense of power and sportiness. That’s accented by a new, A-shaped grille with a star-shaped pattern, as well as power bulges on the hood.
Larger and more aggressive
Virtually all key details have been tweaked or more aggressively redesigned, from the narrower headlights to the two-piece horizontal taillights.
Inside, the new C-Class picks up on the increasingly high-tech design theme of the S-Class. There are, of course, plenty of traditional luxury features, like leather, wood and metal trim, but the instrument panel is anchored by a floating 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and an 11.9-inch infotainment touchscreen.
That screen is now angled slightly towards the driver and, said Mercedes, “The portrait orientation of the central screen is particularly advantageous for full-screen navigation, further enhancing the driver experience.”
The MBUX voice assistant has been updated and the infotainment system now offers wireless versions of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a new fingerprint sensor that automatically revises vehicle settings to an individual user’s profile.
In line with the high-tech focus, there’s a broad range of advanced driver assistance systems, again lifted from the S-Class. These include Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist and Active Lane-Change Assist. The new C-Class can maintain its speed, keep a safe distance from other cars, and hold and stay in its own lane on multi-lane roadways.
For the first time, the next-generation C-Class will offer a “mild” hybrid powertrain, pairing a 4-cylinder gas engine with a 48-volt integrated starter-generator. It will be offered in both the C 300 and C 300 4Matic versions of the sedan, and makes 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The 48-volt system adds another 148 lb-ft and up to 20 more horsepower for short bursts when the driver demands extra acceleration.
There will be just three trim levels for the various C 300 packages, a sharp reduction from the range of options offered a decade ago. This appears to reflect the steady decline of the passenger car market. U.S. C-Class sales dropped by 46.5% last year, to 26.294 sedans. That was a significantly sharper dip during the pandemic year than Mercedes’ overall 13% drop. Demand for the C-Class rebounded 12.3% during the first quarter of this year, but that fell short of the brand’s overall U.S. increase of 19.5 percent.
The new C-Class, in long-wheelbase form, just went on sale in China. The U.S. version won’t arrive until the first half of 2022. The automaker won’t reveal pricing until closer to the on-sale date but the outgoing model starts at $41,600.