It’s not every day Mercedes-Benz unveils an all-new model, but today is one of those days. Introducing the 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, internally called the W206. The C-Class has been one of the German automaker’s best-selling models for years and despite growing SUV crossover popularity, this luxury sedan is still expected to more than hold its own.
With its S-Class-inspired exterior and jaw-dropping interior design, the 2021 C-Class sedan is also packed with an abundance of advanced technologies that place it ahead of the game of its most fierce rivals. Mercedes also took a big chance by eliminating the six-cylinder engine option with a four-cylinder-only lineup that is slated to extend to even the Mercedes-AMG C63. It’ll be interesting whether or not they will be any longtime buyer backlash on this, but make no mistake about it: the latest C-Class changes the rules in several vital categories. In many ways, buyers will be getting a miniature, sportier S-Class sedan for tens of thousands of dollars less. It’s a seriously hard-to-refuse compact luxury proposition.
Sporty And Elegant Styling
Some may think Mercedes didn’t take the design of the new C-Class sedan far enough, but sometimes playing it relatively safe is the better choice. And you wouldn’t be alone in seeing the C-Class as a scaled-down S-Class. This was very much on purpose. Compared to its immediate predecessor, the 2021 C-Class is 2.5 inches longer and 0.4 inches wider, and retains the long hood, short rear-deck design with short front and rear overhangs. A set of 18-inch wheels are standard, with options up to 19 inches in diameter. Several wheel designs are available.
The front grille includes the iconic Mercedes star logo, though the design of the grille itself differs by trim level. For example, the base model has the star and louvers while the AMG Line boasts a diamond grille with a chrome star design. The rear end doesn’t break any design rules and that’s just fine. The taillights now have a two-piece design and there are trim-specific rear bumpers.
The paint palette has been expanded, too, with additions including Moonlight White, Cirrus Silver, Starling Blue, and Selenite Grey Magno.
Power, Performance, And Safety
The new C-Class will eschew six- and eight-cylinder offerings across the range, but the non-AMG models remain relatively unaffected as four-cylinder derivatives only. The base RWD C300 and C400 4Matic (AWD) have a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four rated at 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque linked to an advanced 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. With an integrated starter-generator, aka an electric motor, an additional 20 hp and 148 lb-ft are available when accelerating. This system also shuts off the engine when it detects the vehicle is at a cruising speed in order to improve efficiency, although EPA consumption figures are not yet available. Mercedes claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph.
The Agility Control suspension with continuously adjustable damping is standard. The front suspension has a four-link axle design while the rear is a multi-link axle that’s mounted to the subframe. Those who want a sportier suspension should consider the AMG Line models that have a firmer, sportier setup.
The list of safety features is extensive but a few standouts include the Active Distance Assist that’s capable of maintaining a distance from vehicles ahead. The Active Steering Assist helps keep the vehicle in its lane at all speeds, while Traffic Sign Assist recognizes overhead signs and even road construction signs.
An Interior Feast For The Senses
Mercedes went above and beyond with the new C-Class interior, again with plenty of S-Class inspiration. But there’s a sporty focus, too, with a six-degree tilt of the center stack towards the driver. The flattened and round air vent design was inspired by aircraft engines, and ambient lighting is found throughout the cabin. The surfaces are classy and a number of trim surfaces are available including open-pored veneers and wood veneers with aluminum inlays, highlighted by chrome trim throughout.
The center stack houses a Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) multimedia touchscreen display measuring 11.9 inches and has a portrait orientation that’s ideal for navigation, while the driver faces a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Mercedes claims the updated MBUX system has a 50 percent increase in processing power and the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistance system is now standard. Over-the-air updates, a head-up display, and a Burmester 3D sound system are among the many optional features. The two displays are fully customizable, too; owners can choose from Sporty, Classic, and Understated each with its own color and design.
Thanks to the larger wheelbase, rear passengers have an additional 0.8 inches of legroom and headroom has increased by 0.4 inches.
Pricing And Competition
Mercedes has not released official pricing just yet but we don’t believe it’ll greatly differ from the outgoing generation, which starts at just under $42,000. The 2021 C-Class is due in dealerships early next year.
The BMW 3 Series has been the C-Class’s most direct rival for years and this hasn’t changed. However, thanks to that stunning new interior, the C-Class could easily tempt many potential 3 Series customers away. The Audi A4 is another strong player in this segment but despite a recent refresh, it’s starting to age fast. There’s also the Lexus IS 350 and the all-new Cadillac CT5.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has a long legacy of luxury and general excellence it must adhere to and thanks to the technology focus and an interior that’s above and beyond incredible, this luxury sedan will continue to make its mark.