In the last decade, the C-Class was the highest-volume Mercedes-Benz model. Since the introduction of the still current generation in 2014, over 2.5 million Saloon and Estate models have been sold. China has been the largest sales market for the C-Class Saloon since 2016. In addition, the USA, Germany and Great Britain have been the largest sales markets for the C-Class Saloon and Estate models in the last ten years. In 2020, the C-Class Saloon and Estate were delivered to customers in more than 100 markets around the world. Two out of every three C-Class cars sold in Germany are the Estate variant.
As the first classic model series from Mercedes-Benz, the new C-Class is electrified throughout thanks to plug-in hybrids and mild hybrids with 48-volt technology and integrated starter-generator. Due to a high-efficiency battery system, it achieves an electric range of about 100 kilometres (WLTP) as a plug-in hybrid.
The new C-Class is equipped with LED High Performance headlamps as standard. The DIGITAL LIGHT system familiar from the new S-Class is available as an option. This revolutionary headlamp technology allows new functions, e.g. the projection of guide lines or warning symbols onto the road ahead. The AIR-BALANCE Package provides an individual fragrance sensation in the interior. At the touch of a button or by voice command, the holistic “Fit & Healthy” approach of ENERGIZING Comfort provides a tangible experience of the different comfort systems in the S-Class, and features programmes that group them into worlds of experience.
The new C-Class already looks to be in motion at a standstill with its dynamic proportions, thanks to the combination of short front overhang, long wheelbase and rear overhang. The sporty bonnet with power domes accentuates this urge of forward motion. The windscreen and passenger cell have been moved to the rear for these classic proportions known in the industry as “cab-backward design”. The preceding model was already a great step forward in terms of a high-value appeal in the interior, and the new C-Class goes even further with respect to modern luxury. The interior adopts highlights from the new S-Class, adding a sporty touch.
Exterior design: Profile with attractive light effects
When viewed from the side, elaborately sculptured surfaces create unique light effects. Conversely, the designers have reduced lines to a minimum, which accentuates the so-called catwalk line or shoulder line even more. In the Estate model, the progressive roof line in combination with the inclined rear window adds a sporty touch without functional compromises. Other features producing the sporty, superior appearance include the wide track and the flush 17- to 19-inch wheels in modern designs.
The brand’s hallmark radiator grille characterises the front. All models feature a central star, with the design and character of the radiator grille differing in the details. The base model has a central star and louvres. In the AVANTGARDE line, there are additional decorative elements in the louvres, while the radiator grille and front apron feature chrome surrounds. The distinguishing feature of the AMG Line is the diamond grille with the star design in chrome.
The rear-end design is typical of a Mercedes-Benz saloon. The high-quality design of the tail lamps fascinates with an unmistakable day and night appearance. In the Saloon, the lamps for the first time have a two-piece design in the
C-Class, with the light functions divided between the side wall and boot lid lamps. Their precisely configured interiors also showcase the standard of particularly high quality in detail. Optional or line-specific trim in the rear bumper attractively rounds off the rear view. Three new paint finishes – spectral blue, high-tech silver and opalite white – have been added to the colour range.
Interior design: sporty touches thanks to the driver-centred design
The dashboard is divided into an upper and a lower section: into a wing-like section with new, flattened round vents reminiscent of aircraft engine nacelles, and into an opulent expanse of trim. The latter flows from the centre console to the dashboard without interruption. Driver-focus adds to the sportiness: the dashboard and central display are slightly tilted towards the driver by six degrees.
The driver area features a high-resolution LCD screen. It is free-standing, and appears to float in front of the wing profile and the expanse of trim. This sets the driver display apart from traditional cockpits with classic round dials. Customers have a choice between a 10.25-inch (26.0 cm) or a 12.3-inch (31.2 cm) version.
The paradigm change to digitisation is also obvious in the central display: the vehicle functions can be controlled using the high-quality touchscreen. Its portrait orientation is particularly advantageous for navigation. The touchscreen likewise appears to float above the expanse of trim. Like the dashboard, the screen is slightly tilted towards the driver. The central display has a screen diagonal of 9.5 inches (24.1 cm) as standard. A larger version measuring 11.9 inches or 30.2 cm is optionally available.
A high-quality chrome insert divides the centre console into a rear, padded section for the armrest and a front section in lustrous jet black. The seemingly free-floating central display rises smoothly and seamlessly from this three-dimensional surface.
The modern, highly reduced design of door panels frames both ends of the dashboard. The door centre panel with integrated armrest evolves from a vertical surface into a horizontal orientation. Reflecting the design of the centre console, the front section takes the form of a metallic high-tech element. It can be used as a grab or closing handle, and houses the power window controls. Another highlight is the floating control cluster, into which the door opener and seat adjustment controls are integrated.
The special design of the optional AVANTGARDE or sport seats of the new C-Class uses layers and enveloping surfaces to create a visual impression of lightness. The head restraints are a completely new design and are attached to the backrest with a sealed piece of trim under which the adjustment mechanism is located.
A dashboard covered with man-made leather and featuring nappa-look beltlines is available for the C-Class (optional equipment, standard with AMG Line). The range of available trim showcases innovative surfaces. These include new interpretations of open-pored veneers in brown tones and a black, open-pored wood veneer featuring fine inlays of genuine aluminium that follow the dashboard’s contours.
The driver display and media display offer a holistic, aesthetic experience. The look of the screens can be individualised with three display styles (Discreet, Sporty, Classic) and three modes (Navigation, Assistance, Service). In “Sporty”, for example, the colour red is predominant and the central rev counter has a dynamic design. If any of the lines are selected, the new C-Class is equipped with ambient lighting featuring optical fibres as standard.
Plug-in hybrids with an electric range of around 100 kilometres
Fourth-generation plug-in hybrids will follow soon after the launch. Electrification is taking a great step forward while using the same base engines. With an electric output of 95 kW (129 hp) and an all-electric range of around 100 kilometres (WLTP), the plug-in hybrid C-Class will operate in all-electric mode in many cases – and on many days without using the combustion engine at all. This is the two-litre variant of the ultra-modern M 254 four-cylinder engine. The complete package is not only very efficient, but also decidedly sporty. Diesel plug-in hybrid Saloon and Estate models will follow.
The new high-voltage system is more compact and more powerful, while the number of high-voltage interfaces has been significantly reduced. The integration of the power electronics into the transmission housing reduces the installation space required, while also simplifying the assembly processes at the production plant. Increasing the system voltage also increases the output, without the need for larger cable cross-sections.
The high energy density of the hybrid traction head is achieved using a permanently excited synchronous motor with internal rotor. The 440 Nm peak torque of the electric motor is available right from the start, resulting in high agility when moving off, along with dynamic driving performance. The full electric power is available up to 140 km/h, at which point it is softly capped.
The high-voltage (HV) battery has been developed in-house by Mercedes-Benz AG. It is part of a fourth-generation family of batteries and represents a logical evolution of the previous generation. It consists of 96 cells in a so-called pouch configuration. The battery has a total capacity of 25.4 kWh, thereby bringing about a significant increase in electrical range to around 100 kilometres. To account for the high energy density, the HV battery has an internal cooling system. The thermal management system can therefore control the operating temperature irrespective of the climate control in the vehicle interior. In addition to continuous operation in hot and cold regions, this also allows quick charging with direct current. Even when the battery is completely discharged, it can be fully charged in around 30 minutes with the optional 55 kW DC charger. A standard-fit 11 kW charger (depending on the market) is available for three-phase charging at a Wallbox connected to the domestic AC mains.
The positioning of the battery in the vehicle brings advantages on a day-to-day basis compared with the previous model: there is no longer a step in the boot, and through-loading is now possible. This improvement is particularly noticeable in the Estate model: the length of the luggage compartment floor has increased by 63 mm to 1043 mm. Tall crates or cases of bottles can be loaded under the cassettes of the retractable luggage cover and dividing net without problems, as the height of the luggage compartment has increased by 150 mm to 732 mm. Compared to the previous model, the luggage capacity has increased by 45 litres to 360 litres, while with the rear seats folded down the Estate model can even accommodate 1375 litres (40 l more). Air suspension and level control at the rear are standard for both the Saloon and Estate models.
All in all, the driving experience is significantly more electric. In view of the increase in electric range to around 100 kilometres, drivers will be able to cover most everyday journeys under electric power alone. The energy recovery function allows kinetic energy to be recuperated during deceleration or downhill driving, a process that has now also been improved in interaction with the hydraulic brake. The energy recovery output is now over 100 kW. The intelligent, route-based operating strategy activates the electric driving mode where this is most appropriate for the route. It takes into account such factors as navigation data, topography, speed limits and the traffic conditions for the entire planned route. A driver wishing to influence the energy recovery rate can do so directly in three stages controlled by rocker switches behind the steering wheel. This is possible in all driving modes except SPORT. In the driving mode D-, for example, the driver can experience the “one-pedal feeling”: When the driver takes his foot off the accelerator the vehicle slows down, purely by electric means, to such an extent that the hydraulic foot brake is often not needed.
The operating strategy communicates with the sensors of the assistance systems and thus efficiently supports the driver in many driving situations. Over longer distances in urban areas, for instance, the car will prioritise electric driving. Two additional driving modes enable the driver to make particularly advantageous use of the plug-in powertrain:
– BATTERY HOLD: Maintaining the charge state of the high-voltage battery is given priority, e.g. when intending to drive in a city centre or green zone later on; selection of the most suitable drive configuration by the hybrid powertrain system, depending on the driving situation and route.
– ELECTRIC: Electric driving up to 140 km/h, adjustable energy recovery rate in overrun mode, adaptation of Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC for electric driving, activation of the combustion engine using a pressure point of the accelerator pedal (kick-down)
The plug-in hybrids in the new C-Class have a haptic accelerator pedal module with a pressure point at an accelerator pedal angle of 9.7°. In ELECTRIC mode, this power surge is activated and allows all-electric vehicle operation up to the additional pressure point. If the pressure point is overridden, the combustion engine starts and delivers additional torque. The Power Nap function of ENERGIZING COMFORT is likewise reserved for the plug-in hybrids.