Slicker, smarter, cleaner & quicker–all-New C-Class proves to be a pleasant surprise.
With the all-important local launch delayed at the last minute following this latest lockdown fiasco, we were pleasantly surprised when Mercedes unexpectedly delivered one of its all-new latest C-Class saloons for a quick evaluation late last week. Fresh in the flesh, it’s immediately apparent that this car has given buyers in this neck of the woods plenty to think about.
Comfort & Quality Beyond its Pay Grade
First introduced as the ‘Baby Benz’ 190 back in ‘82, Mercedes has sold more than 10 million C-Classes in over 100 markets around the world. And if first impressions are anything to go by, this new one certainly has aced it. Graced with sharp latest E-Class looks and packing newest S-Class onboard tech along with outstanding comfort and quality well beyond its pay grade, it gains improved mild-hybrid efficiency and performance too.
Not yet available in the US, this 220d is one of two launch models alongside the petrol C200 in the South African market. Expect a hybridized version of the C300 to land in the US shortly. Considerably larger at 187 inches long and measuring 71.6” wide, the new C rides on an inch-longer 112.8” wheelbase to benefit rear passenger room. Design lines are reduced to a minimum, although that shoulder line is further emphasized for a softly aggressive feel. You’ll recognize that sharper taillight look has been nicked from siblings like CLA and CLS. Its classy lines draw you inside, to where the biggest C-Class improvements lurk.
Plush materials cobbled together in a business class fit and finish conspire to deliver a more than suitably premium cabin. Splendid materials and many seemingly floating components take it to a new level. Especially in class. It’s basically a junior S-Class limo inside, although that cleaner dashboard layout with freestanding high-resolution jumbo 11.9-inch LCD infotainment screen floating in front of the wing profile and trim, did divide opinion.
Jumbo Screen Dazzles, Can Confuse
Some really like having a large screen TV rival on the dash, others wonder why it’s necessary and some were overawed by it. Controlled by any of second generation ‘Hey Mercedes’ MBUX voice activation, touching the screen or the left stalk of the chic new multifunction steering wheel, it certainly does keep Mercedes in front of the infotainment interface race. The driver has multi-mode 12.3-inch digital instrumentation at his access, That all run by the right steering stalk.
The cabin can be individualized in Discreet, Sporty and Classic display styles and also and also by three Navigation, Assistance and Service modes. Driver and front passenger space is good and there’s more head and knee room in the back too. Four adults will travel at ease in the new C. A fifth passenger in the back should be happy on a shorter drive. The 16 cubic foot boot may fall short of some rivals, but it’s practical enough for most needs.
This 201 HP and 324 lb.-ft Mercedes-Benz Family of Modular Engines C220d now benefits a 20 HP 147 lb.-ft hybrid electric boost. You notice it when you fire it up. There’s no more stater motor, it just burbles to life. Snick it to drive, pull away and this mild hybrid model is incredibly smooth drive, torquey and effortless shift up to higher motorway speeds. It remains quiet and composed enough under harder acceleration to elicit magic carpet comments.
C-Class Does Precisely What Benz Promises
Driving the rear axle via Merc’s 9G-Tronic ‘box, our tester almost exactly matched Merc’s 7.2-second 0-60 mph claims. We also readily managed Benz’s 51 mpg. Five individual driving modes include Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. We fiddled a bit but went right back to the softer Comfort setting for everyday driving.
Sport and Sport+ do bring sharper steering and throttle responses and firmer suspension. Enough to noticeably improve the C-Class’s dynamic performance, even though it won’t readily trouble a BMW 3 Series for driving fun. We found the brakes to lack feel and even seem a bit soft when first tramping on them. Enough to make us pump them once in a while for confidence. And the steering could be more communicative. Even in Sport Plus.
The new car’s suspension improvements however deliver unheard of levels of ride and noise comfort, while still being agile and fun enough to drive. Mercedes knows its market well enough to meddle with that. But C does also come the option of a continuously adjustably damping sport suspension. Should your personal wan demand a more flamboyant driving response.
Has All the Nannies. If You Want Them
The new C-Class series also adds the latest Driving Assistance Package with several additional functions. Some of which can become a little overbearing. Aspects like the meddling lane assist can be overridden individually, or even the entire system switched off via MBUX if it becomes a bit too much. So long as the car is parked when you do that.
Manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in Bremen in Germany, Beijing China and at East London in South Africa, where ours was made. The C-Class continues to be a ‘massive success story’ for the South African industry and economy. The state-of-the-art East London plant benefited a billion-dollar expansion and development and will be CO₂ neutral from January 2022.
So, all in all, the all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class promises to be a win-win-win success. It takes it to the likes of its traditional BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 rivals. And the style set from the Alfa Romeo Giulia to Jaguar XE. And it will also bring an overall touch of class that few of those rivals can match.
ROAD TEST: Mercedes-Benz C220d
Engine: 201 HP 324 lb.-ft 2-liter turbodiesel I4
Drive: 9-speed automatic RWD
0-40 mph 3.10 sec
0-60 mph: 7.19 sec
0-75 mph: 9.71 sec
0-100 mph: 18.98 sec
400m: 1 5.1 sec @ 115 km/h
50-75 mph: 4.64 sec
75-100 mph: 8.13 sec
VMax: 150 mph
Fuel: 51 mpg