2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Details:

  • Expected to cost less than $40k
  • 329 hp, 354 lb-ft | V6 twin-turbo motor
  • Standard 7-speed automatic | Agility Select changes driving modes
  • Introduction of Airmatic suspension to the segment

Electronics 8.4-inch infotainment screen with haptic touch pad | Digital heads-up display | LED lighting

+ Pros Baby S-Class looks | Baby S-Class tech | Spectacular interior | More spacious than before

- Cons Four-wheel drive only at launch | Auto can be slow to downshift

No review of the all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class would be complete without mentioning its rival from Bavaria. Let's get it out of the way early: The W205 (to give the new Benz its internal designation) isn't trying to win the BMW 3 Series' best-driving compact sport-luxury sedan crown, which is a good thing.

Having spent years attempting to match the 3 Series in dynamic terms, the Mercedes engineers finally realized that in doing so, they've not been playing to their own strengths. Arguments over the AMG versus M will be had but, in truth, Mercedes used to be a byword for luxury, something that was overlooked while chasing dynamic ability.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class returns to that old standard from the moment you open the door. The light, airy cabin boasts the kind of construction and design owners of the previous W204 could only hope for. The buttons and switchgear have come from the time when Mercedes over-engineered its cars for the hell of it. It's created an interior that eclipses not only the 3 Series in terms of quality, but also the excellent Audi A4. Unfortunately, it's marred by the 8.4-inch infotainment screen, which appears to be something of an afterthought. Yet this can be forgiven because the rest of the dashboard is so much more cohesive.

Five round vents dot the dash, the middle three sitting above a single-piece center console that flows seamlessly to the COMAND controls. Here the traditional rotary dial is joined by what appears to be a protective shroud, but is actually a touch pad with haptic feedback that allows operation of the infotainment like a smartphone.

Move from the front to the rear and you'll find more legroom than before, thanks to an extra 3 inches of wheelbase. Overall, the car has grown in length by 3.7 inches, with another 1.6 inches added in width. Even the trunk is bigger, yet on the road the sedan doesn't feel cumbersome.

This can be attributed to it being almost 220 pounds lighter through extensive use of aluminum. There's also new four-link front and five-link rear suspension and an aero package that gives the car a class-best drag coefficient of 0.24, allowing it to scythe through the air.

This aerodynamic package comes on a body that bears more than a passing resemblance to the S-Class. Following the current Sensual Purity design theme, the classic long hood and set-back cabin hallmarks have been joined by shortened overhangs and a stubby trunk almost borrowed from the CLA. The look screams rear-drive executive sedan, but that's not how the cars will arrive initially.

When the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class goes on sale in September 2014, it will only be offered in C300 and C400 guise, both with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The C300 RWD and C63 AMG models will follow in early 2015.

Wearing a C300 badge, the entry-level car uses a 241hp, 229-lb-ft, 2.0L turbocharged four-banger that's virtually identical to the unit in the CLA, but flipped longitudinally. We've only driven the Euro-spec 208hp C250 and would advise it's worth holding out for the V6-engined C400 twin-turbo.

Churning out 329 hp and 354 lb-ft, the V6 is more in keeping with the luxurious nature of the C-Class than the frenzied four-banger. While the V6 can feel coarse at high revs, you don't really need to wring its neck. With peak torque available between 1,600-4,000 rpm, it has more than enough punch in the lower rev range for most drivers.

Whatever the engine, and no matter what wheels are driven, all C-Class will be offered with the Mercedes seven-speed auto. Left to its own devices, this transmission can be slow on the downshift, but play around with the new Agility Select switch and the transmission can be tailored to suit your needs. Parameters include Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and an individual program; the latter allows adjustment of throttle response, steering-assist, and damper firmness.

While steel springs are standard, Mercedes will, for the first time in this segment, offer optional air suspension. It, too, can be played with; stiffer in Sport mode and softer in Comfort. In truth, we found it best in Comfort mode while dialing the engine, gearbox, and steering to Sport. The stiffer suspension setting can lead to a fidgety ride. Even in Comfort, the C-Class still responds well to being pitched into a tight canyon corner.

Feedback is a thing of the past thanks to the electric steering assistance, but the variable ratio rack does tighten things up as you add lock. It's not what you would call sporty-leave that to the BMW-but enthusiastic drivers may still exit the Benz with a smile on their face.

That's unless they've been bamboozled by the technology, much of it coming straight from the recently launched S-Class. These include the Intelligent Drive suite of safety gear that includes Distronic Plus radar adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera-based lane-keeping assist function, and BAS Plus brake assist with cross-traffic function. If that's not enough to keep owners busy, they can opt for Active Parking Assist and a 360-degree camera that provides a bird's-eye view, among others.

As a complete package, the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a compelling one; by returning to its luxury roots and forgetting about the "dynamics" game, Mercedes has produced the best car we've driven in this segment. Considering it includes not only established rivals but also the likes of the Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS350, that's an impressive feat.

Tech Spec

2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic

Layout
front-engine, AWD

Engine
2996cc twin-turbo V6

Drivetrain
seven-speed automatic transmission

Brakes
Single-pistons calipers f&r, 13" rotors f, 11.8" r

Suspension
multi-link f&r

Wheels & Tires
18x7.5" f, 18x8.5" r wheels, 225/45 R18 f, 245/40 R18 r all-season tires

Performance

Max power
329 hp at 5,500 rpm

Max torque
354 lb-ft at 1,600- 4,000 rpm

0-62mph
4.8 seconds

Top Speed
155 mph

Weight
(est) 3,600 pounds

MSRP
TBC

By Paul Healy
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