Marseilles, France –
The C-Class is the most important vehicle for Mercedes-Benz. Since 1982 it’s sold 8.5-million of the ‘baby Benzes’ and the small executive sedan remains the company’s top-selling model around the world.
It would have been likewise in Singapore, where Mercedes was the most popular car brand in 2013, but the upside-down nature of the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices meant that the larger E-Class was the most-bought vehicle in Singapore last year.
But the C-Class wasn’t far behind, and if you take into account that was the previous-generation model, codenamed W204, then it’s obvious the fifth-gen model you see here, the W205, will no doubt be a big hit.
The car’s grown considerably, with nearly 10cm added to its overall length, and 8cm more space between the wheels, which make it the biggest car in its segment. Despite the expansion, the car’s actually lost much weight – 100kg in C 180 trim, and 25kg for the C 250 – thanks to an all-new platform and a body that’s made mostly of aluminium.
In fact, it’s better to describe the car as shrunken version of the superlative S-Class luxury limousine that was launched last year – the two bear a very close resemblance.
‘250’ denotes that a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine lies beneath the hood, the same as commonly found in the Mercedes family. Also available will be a lesser-tuned C 200 with the same engine, but 184bhp, and the popular option, a C 180 with a 156bhp, 1.6-litre engine.
With 211bhp, less weight, more refinement and a low coefficient of drag, the C 250 feels like it’s gliding everywhere. It has a measure of stately, unperturbed pomp of the S-Class, but it also distinct lack of inertia that’s very pleasing to the driver.
Our test unit came with optional air suspension that is, Mercedes boasts, a first for the segment. It lends the car an unnaturally calm nature, at least until you decide otherwise. Like current systems offered by Audi and BMW, the C-Class debuts selective drive modes for Mercedes, a feature which will be standard on Singapore-bound cars.
Called Agility Select, it tweaks the powertrain, steering and suspension settings to suit the mood, spanning from Eco to Comfort, Sport and Sport+. It’s likely you’ll need air suspension, like our test car, to get the full range of experience the C-Class can dish out, but if you do, you’ll find it can impersonate anything from an imperious cruiser to a heavy-handed B-road basher.
While past C-Classes erred on the side of caution when it came to interior design, the new machine pulls out no stops in its effort to impress – and it thoroughly does so not only with its bold design, but improved quality as well.
The sleek and broad centre console is the main draw of the front, and can be inlaid with a choice of trim – the wood options are particularly fetching – and just like the exterior design, it’s as if someone shrunk the insides of an S-Class and cut-pasted it in.
That comparison extends to space, as rear passengers have lots of room to kick around in, and even get their own air-conditioning controls and, if optioned, sun-roof segment.
While many bits and features were found on the S-Class, it’s a measure of the C’s importance that it debuts three new features: A high-res heads-up display that’s sublimely clear and useful, a new infotainment controller that integrates a touch/scroll pad, and an autonomous braking system that will help you avoid collisions with cars or pedestrians if you happen to be distracted.
The HUD system is one of the clearest, least distracting we’ve seen, by virtue of its TFT-screen-based design, while the new touchpad is a tactile joy. It also looks the money with its sleek black and chrome-trimmed curves, although we did find it less useful than the simple rotary controller.
If the C 250 sounds near-perfect, that’s because it is – there is truly very little to fault with this car, and it’s really moved the benchmarks of what a small executive car should deliver.
There is a final question though: It remains to be seen if the mainstream, less-expensive and less well-equipped variants , like the C 180 and C 200, can preserve this high-class experience without the upper-crust price tag. If Mercedes can do that when the car launches in Singapore sometime in July this year, we’ll have a clear segment winner on our hands.
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, turbocharged, in-line 4
Power 211bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 6.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.3L/100km
Availability July 2014