The new C-Class is all set to be launched on May 10
The new C-Class is all set to be launched on May 10Shot by Abhishek Benny

Mercedes-Benz C-Class Test Drive Review

Longer and wider with better dynamics and a cabin inspired by the S-Class, the new C-Class sets the new class benchmark

From being christened the Baby Benz to now sporting the Baby S tag, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has come a long way over the past five generations. It’s no longer the baby, that space being occupied by the A-Class. But Baby S? Isn’t that pushing the marketing speak for the new C-Class?

Except, no. Step inside and the C-Class riffs whole scale off the S-Class. The layout of the dash is everything we’ve seen and loved on the S with the floating screen for the digital cockpit and the vertically-oriented tablet-style infotainment screen. The menus, the operating system, the location and functioning of the hard buttons, gosh, everything is from the S-Class. And then there’s the quality. The seat adjusters on the doors have a knurled metal finish. The ends of the indicator stalk has the same knurled finish. The air-con vents feel like metal and operate with a beautifully satisfying click-clack. The steering wheel gets the touch sensitive controls, while the 4-spoke AMG steering wheel of the C300d immediately reminds me of the ’wheel in the first lot of CBU S-Classes that also got the AMG Line pack. You get Burmester sound. You get mood lighting in plenty including in the air-con vents themselves. The sun roof has a touch slider similar to the S. The power window switches have a damped action that’s ridiculously high quality. Seriously there’s no cheap plastic to assault your fingers with. Even the key has been borrowed from the S. If I had to nitpick I’d point out the steering wheel paddle shifters are plastic, and I know how ridiculous that sounds, demanding metal paddle shifters on a C-Class.

12.3-inch digital cockpit on the new C-Class
12.3-inch digital cockpit on the new C-ClassShot by Abhishek Benny

Of course things are scaled down over the S — the C is after all two sizes smaller — except for the digital cockpit which is the same 12.3 inches. The infotainment is slightly smaller at 11.9 inches (12.8 inches on S-Class, so it’s not by much) but considering that the car is also much smaller these screens look big enough and properly fill up the space on the dash. And it’s loaded with equipment. You get wireless CarPlay. Integrated navigation. Twin sun roofs. Electric steering wheel reach-and-rake adjustment. And these cars are properly connected. The very latest NTG-7 protocols include biometric authentication. You get the Mercedes Me suite of connected car tech where you can remotely start and cool the car, geo fence it, see where the driver has taken it for a joy ride and what fuel efficiency they’re getting and more. ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice commands can even direct the navigation to take you to a biryani joint nearby. And adding to that is Mercedes’ social network where cars on the road relays information like traffic incidents, potholes, speed breakers and more to the cloud and then that is beamed back to cars in the near vicinity to warn them. This tech debuted on the S-Class and now the C joins this Car-to-X network (though without air suspension, the C can only receive road information, not transmit).

The interiors of the C-Class offer a top-class experience
The interiors of the C-Class offer a top-class experienceShot by Abhishek Benny

If I had to nitpick the C does not get cooled seats but that’s about the only thing missing. There’s no question, the C-Class goes straight to the top of the class as far as the cabin ambience is concerned. In fact, so good is the cabin, so far ahead of its rivals, that no matter how the C drives we will still have to recommend this over its rivals. Good thing the C is even better to drive!

On the road with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The new C-Class is the largest car in its class
The new C-Class is the largest car in its classShot by Abhishek Benny

This sixth-generation C-Class adapts the earlier W205’s Modular Rear Architecture adding 65mm to the overall length (4751mm), 13mm to width (1820mm) and 25mm to the wheelbase (2865mm). The wheelbase stretch has increased rear knee room by 21mm, which we will come to in a bit, while the track is also wider by 19mm up front (1583mm) and 48mm at the rear (1594mm) making for more elbow (22mm) and shoulder room (13mm). This makes the C-Class the largest car in this class, and just for perspective that’s 63mm longer and 10mm wider than the A-Class Limousine.

The new C-Class can carry a little more speed through bends
The new C-Class can carry a little more speed through bendsShot by Abhishek Benny

The suspension layout is similar to the W205 with double wishbones up front and an independent multi-link rear setup but of course the spring, damper and anti-roll bar settings are different. And the focus on comfort is obvious as soon as you hit the road, the C-Class delivering a noticeably improved ride quality. The earlier C was a touch stiff but the new C takes the edge off sharp bumps delivering a nicely judged ride quality that comes at no expense to the handling. In fact being able to absorb more of the road imperfections means the C doesn’t get thrown around by mid-corner bumps and can thus carry a bit more speed through bends. Special mention must be made of the steering that has perfectly judged weighting and is also more responsive thanks to a revised ratio. Down the hills from Mussoorie the C-Class flows beautifully through corner after corner, breathing over the bumps, gripping hard when pushed, and making sure there are no exaggerated body movements. Even over some bad patches the suspension doesn’t crash and transmit shocks to the cabin; there’s an added layer of sophistication and that’s what you pay the big bucks for. Whether the C can wag its tail and play around a bit is something we will have to wait till we get the car on familiar roads to find out, the roads around the hills around Mussoorie were far too narrow to push the dynamic limits in safety.

Mild-hybrid powertrains

The C220d has 197bhp and 440Nm of torque on offer
The C220d has 197bhp and 440Nm of torque on offerShot by Abhishek Benny

The C-Class is the first model line in the Indian portfolio to get only electrified powertrains. I don’t mean EVs, but both the diesels and the one petrol gets the 48-volt tech with the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG). For enthusiasts the immediate benefit is the 20bhp jump in power along with 200Nm jump in torque, adding to the C220d’s 197bhp and 440Nm of torque. The combined 640Nm of torque makes the C220d we are testing effortlessly quick while scything through the mountains. Floor it and 100kmph takes 7.3 seconds while get off the gas and it deliver excellent fuel efficiency — an amazing 23kmpl as tested by ARAI makes it the most efficient Mercedes-Benz sold in India.

The C200 is the only petrol in the new C-Class lineup
The C200 is the only petrol in the new C-Class lineupShot by Abhishek Benny

Don’t go by the badging on the boot though because the C220d gets a 2-litre diesel while the C200 petrol gets a 1.5-litre turbo-petrol. The latter is the only petrol engine, with M-B India’s VP of sales and marketing Santosh Iyer confirming that there won’t be bringing the C 43 AMG or C 63 AMG (both of which are four-cylinders) to India in 2022. The petrol makes 201bhp and 300Nm with the ISG delivering an added shot of 20bhp and 200Nm. On paper performance is as good as the C220d with 0-100kmph taking an identical 7.3 seconds, though the fuel efficiency drops to 16.9kmpl and I have to add that the diesel’s torque definitely makes it more effortless. Plus the diesel is very refined, with barely a murmur coming into the cabin while cruising.

AMG Line on C300d

If you want the fastest C-Class you will have to stick to diesel, the range-topping C300d ramping up the 2-litre diesel’s output to 261bhp and 550Nm with an added boost of 20bhp and 200Nm. The total torque output of 750Nm is something even 3-litre V6s didn’t deliver until a few years ago and it makes the C300d properly quick, taking 5.7 seconds to sprint to 100kmph. Fuel efficiency doesn’t suffer either with an ARAI tested efficiency of 20.37kmpl.

Only a sedan can look this gorgeous!
Only a sedan can look this gorgeous! Shot by Abhishek Benny

The C300d also gets the AMG Line body kit that includes the obviously sportier grille with a smaller three-pointed star, gaping nostrils in the bumpers and one size bigger wheels at 18 inches. On the inside you get the gorgeous AMG steering wheel complimented by a carbon fibre-effect trim on the dash (in place of the pinstripe kind of effect you see here on the C220d) and either all-black or black-brown seats. The overall effect is to enhance the striking styling of what could only be a Mercedes-Benz, with the C downsizing a fair bit of styling cues from the S-Class. Now the only thing left to find (tomorrow, May 10) is how significantly the price will be downsized over the S.

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