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The new Mercedes 2015 C-Class: Minified magnificence

Inspired by the supremely luxurious S-Class, the new C-Class takes the game in its segment a notch higher

The new 2015 C-Class has impressed us right from the day it emerged in those first official images. From inside and out, the C-Class leaves no stone unturned in mimicking its exceptional limousine sibling, and in the process, has created a template which would be difficult for its direct rivals to emulate.

Design and styling
For its latest generation model, the C-Class has grown in size. It's 95 mm longer and 40 mm wider, and the cabin is a lot roomier. Even with the increased size, though, the car has managed to shed 100 kg. Those weight savings go a long way in making the new C a greener and nimbler car.

The bold grille on the Avant Garde version gets a big Mercedes Star flanked by twin louvers finished in satin silver and inlaid by fine chrome. It's by far the most athletic looking C-Class, and just like the S-Class, marks the youth-oriented shift in Mercedes-Benz's design ethos. Headlights get the signature Mercedes LED eyebrow with Orange LED blinker strip atop and LED headlamps beneath.

The central touchpad offers an intuitive input medium for the infotainment system. You can draw letters and characters using finger gestures

Moving on to the sides, the new signature creases, found on almost all new Mercedes cars and strikingly evocative of the S-Class, have been replicated here without many changes. The beltline, emanating from the eyebrows of those headlamps, start off in an extremely pronounced manner, as though pinched hard out of that metallic surface for a taut, ready-for-action appearance. 17 inch 5x2 alloy wheels for the C220 CDI fill up the wheel arches.

At the rear, the curvy boot lid carries the M-B emblem in the middle flanked by C220 and CDI badges. A chrome slat sits atop the registration plate recess and covers the entire width of the boot-lid. Interestingly, there is no exhaust outlet peeping out from beneath the new C-Class's bumper. The exhaust pipes have been nicely concealed and are visible only when you look at the car from a low angle.


The interior finish and design is absolutely top-notch. The cabin looks very similar to that of the S-Class, though the quality of materials used is different

As a whole, the design of the C-Class somehow looks and feels familiar. A deliberate attempt by Mercedes to keep the tradition of making the C look like a baby S has succeeded. The new C-class echoes the design of M-B's flagship offering in a very evident way. And it's never, ever a bad thing to emulate the best.

Engine, transmission and performance
We drove the C220 CDI variant of the new C-Class, powered by a 2143cc four-pot turbo diesel which did duty on the previous generation version of the car as well. Power and torque is rated at 168 bhp @ 3000 rpm and 400Nm respectively. Of those figures, the torque is produced at a ludicrously low 1400 rpm making the new C class extremely tractable with a strong low to mid range punch and a resultant fuel efficiency of an impressive 19.27 kmpl as per ARAI. Refined and sophisticated at low to mid revs, the engine gets a tad too noisy towards its upper band, and that's where the power starts fading too.


The cabin design has set a new benchmark for the segment, and would be really tough for the rivals to emulate

Transmission duties are taken care of by the trusty old, buttery smooth 7G Tronic 7-speed auto, which of late has been given a Plus suffix to underline the improvements it has received. It may not be as lightening quick as some of the other transmissions employing a twin clutch setup, but it really can hold its own when it comes to performing seamless, imperceptible shifts which suit the character of luxury cars really well.

Performance is brisk, if not blistering with a claimed top speed of 233 km/h. Redlined at 5000 rpm, the engine pulls cleanly from low revs and builds pace at a reassuring rate. There is a steady gush of torque flowing through the mill from lower to mid revs, endowing the diesel powered C-Class with an ability to handle overtaking manoeuvres with utmost ease.


Ample head, leg and shoulder room at the back seat, though the under-thigh support could have been a bit better

The driver can use the AGILITY SELECT switch to choose between various modes including 'Comfort', 'ECO', 'Sport' and 'Sport+'. The additional 'Individual' option enables drivers to configure the steering and transmission to suit their driving style -- though the suspension cannot be tweaked.

Interiors and cabin features
The interior of the new C-Class, like the exterior, makes every effort possible to try and mimic its superlative sibling, the S-Class. The dashboard is instantly reminiscent of the luxury limo's opulent interior. Finished in a two-tone scheme with a black top and beige lower portion, the dash is divided by a classy satin silver inlay in the centre.
Infotainment is taken care of by a 7- inch freestanding screen featuring COMAND control system. You can navigate through various menus using the rotary dial and other toggle switches between the front seats. The menus are intuitive, and don't take much time getting used to.

Another great addition to the input systems is the innovative touchpad in the hand-rest over the controller knob. The touch unit can be used for many operations on the central screen, for example to input an address for the sat-nav, or to find a contact in the phone book. You can draw letters, numbers and special characters with your fingers on the pad in any language.

Space inside, thanks to the increased wheelbase, has increased significantly and the cabin comes across as a much airier and more spacious place to be. Rear passengers get a central armrest with twin cup-holders, front seat mounted pockets and big bottle holders in the rear door panels. Rear seats can be split folded in a 40:20:40 ratio. Boot space at 480 litres is larger than the previous version, too.

While the seats up front are almost as good as it gets, the back bench isn't as plush. There's nothing complain about the head, knee and shoulder room, though we really believe a bit more thigh support would have made those seats even plusher. Ambient lighting, as a mini-me version of the bigger S-class offers 3 light colours as opposed to the 7 shades offered by the limo. Audio and video playback is possible from various sources including Bluetooth, iPods, iPhones, SD cards, USB sticks or via CD/DVD. Our test car came equipped with an optional hi-performance Burmester surround sound system.

Safety and security features are top of the line with as many as 7 airbags. The rich list of safety and assistance features includes, but is not limited to ATTENTION ASSIST, PRE-SAFE, Hill hold control and many more.

The cabin of the new C-class has truly set a new standard in its segment. The new cabin with the fantastic looking and equally functional, fresh layout and great quality for the class will be a tough act to follow for the rivals. As things stand, the C-class' is the best cabin in its segment, and by some margin.

Ride and handling
The New C-Class features a new 4-link independent front suspension with a 5-speed rear setup. The front unit is tuned to endow the new C-Class with better lateral grip and a dynamic character. The rear 5-link setup on the other hand works towards delivering great straight line stability. For India, the ground clearance has been increased, along with a few other minor tweaks made to ensure the car takes in stride our 'special' roads without any hiccups.
The suspension setup even after having been raised for the Indian version feels a tad bit on the stiffer side. While the stiffer springs have lent the C-Class a perceptibly more dynamic feel which includes more confidence around corners and decidedly superior straight line stability, it doesn't quite have an all-absorbing, supremely supple ride quality. The car feels slightly edgy while handling rough surfaces. Pronounced bumps translate into vertical body movement for the car rather easily. While it's all still within the tolerable boundaries, the all new C-Class was expected to surpass its predecessor in terms of absorption qualities, which, unfortunately it doesn't quite do.

Verdict
In true Mercedes-Benz fashion, the C-Class has taken the game a level higher in terms of in-cabin luxury, trim and premium feel. The incomparably opulent cabin of the C-Class is enough to make most buyers in the segment lean towards it. It looks good, is incredibly efficient in the diesel guise and is significantly more engaging to drive than the model it replaces. There are better options if you are looking only for driving pleasure, though for someone who's looking for the all-round package, the C would have little competition.

Technical specs 

Engine: 2143cc, four cylinder, turbo diesel
Power: 168bhp @ 3,000–4,200
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,400 – 2,800
Transmission: 7G-TRONIC PLUS
Fuel efficiency (ARAI) : 19.27 kmpl

 

Rivals

Audi A4

The current gen Audi is on its way out and is soon to be replaced internationally. The new gen model will make it to India by late 2015. The current gen car, though smart-looking, easy driving and roomy on the inside looks and feels dated as compared to the other models. This is expected to change soon with the new model. Available with a variety of capable petrol and diesel engines, the current-gen A4 can be an option at this point only if you want a premium car for a bargain.

BMW 3 series

This is the go-to car for those who want the best driving experience. In terms of both driving pleasure and ride, the new 3-series has set a new benchmark for the segment. It’s quite roomy too. The interior of the car may not be as plush as the C-Class, but it’s quite luxurious and feature rich by itself. The car is also slated to get a mid-life update soon. Expect more features and better interiors on the facelift, though it would be difficult to beat the sheer splendour of the C’s cabin.

Upcoming Jaguar XE

For those who don’t mind waiting, the shiny new Jaguar XE is also an option. The new Jaguar, built from the ground-up is expected to make its India debut at Auto Expo 2016. Expect a slightly higher price tag than the German trio with a whole bunch of features to justify the extra price. Power will be supplied via a 2.0 litre diesel with 163 PS and a 2.0 litre petrol with 180 PS. Drive goes to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The new entry point for the brand, the XE is worth a wait if your wish to have a leaping cat on your car’s grille.

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