2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

By September 24, 2014
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Among luxury brands, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class midsize sedan is a heat-seeking missile from Stuttgart targeted at the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.

Completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, the swoopy C-Class stands out in terms of design language and technology, and it is just sporty enough to find buyers among brand-and-style conscious women and upwardly mobile customers who want to park a brand-new three-pointed star car that can carry five people comfortably in their driveways for less than $40,000.

Prodigious power is not the priority here: the C-Class doesn’t belong in the sports car category by a long shot. But its fluid design, which owes a big-time debt to the larger, far more expensive S-Class, and its bulletproof on-road stability and wealth of technology lends it a personality all its own.

The new C-Class sedan is the brand’s biggest-selling offering and the first Mercedes-Benz based on a newly developed aluminum/steel platform, which will be employed in a variety of future vehicles.

The 2015 C-Class offers buyers the choice of two power plants and rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

The C300 uses a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that outputs 241 horsepower and 273 foot-pounds of torque. The C300 is rear-wheel drive. The C300 4MATIC is all-wheel drive.

The higher-performance C400 4MATIC has a 3-liter bi-turbo V6 good for 329 horsepower and 354 foot-pounds of torque.

All C-Class models use a version of the company’s tried and true 7-speed automatic transmission; no manual transmissions are available for the U.S.

While the car is nicely equipped out of the factory box, there are scads of options and accessories: packages to enhance comfort, safety tech, navigation and upgraded sound offerings. We would pass on many to keep the price down, but we liked the available air suspension that fits to both axles. This technology makes for electronically controlled damper adjustment that compensates for heavy car loads and imperfect road surfaces. We found it quickened turn-in and improved steering feel in the Sport and Sport Plus modes.

Safety elements are front and center in the 2015 C-Class.

The C-Class has grown in size for 2015, which is welcome news for rear-seat passengers who were slightly cramped in the older model. The 2015 C-Class wheelbase is stretched three inches, and the overall length adds 3.7 inches. Width is up 1.6 inches.

The midsize luxury sedan faces established competition from the Audi A4 sedan (starting MSRP $41,475) and A5 coupe ($44,575), as well as the BMW 3 Series ($37,195) and Cadillac ATS sedan ($37,145). There’s the Lexus IS 250 sedan ($37,475), as well.

Fuel efficiency for the all-wheel-drive C400 4MATIC is an EPA-estimated 22/29/24 mpg City/Highway/Combined. The 2015 C300 4MATIC is EPA-rated at 24/31/27 mpg. Both require Premium gasoline.

Based on our auditions, BMW has nothing to worry about with its all-wheel-drive 3 Series when it comes to driving dynamics. And, while stunning in its own right, the C-Class does not have the drop-dead gorgeous lines of the Audi A5 coupe.

Model Lineup

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan offers a choice of rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive and two engine choices: The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 241 horsepower, and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 gets a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 rated at 329 horsepower. All 2015 C-Class models use a 7-speed automatic transmission.

The C300 ($38,400) is rear-wheel drive, while the C300 4MATIC ($40,400) is all-wheel drive. The C400 4MATIC ($48,590) only comes with all-wheel drive. (All prices are MSRP and do not include a $925 destination charge.)

Standard equipment across all 2015 C-Class models includes MB-Tex (vinyl) upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power seats in front, power folding mirrors, the 7-inch color tablet display, keyless start, automatic headlamps, power tilt and telescoping leather steering wheel.

The optional C300 premium package ($2,700) adds LED headlights, Sirius XM radio, Burmester sound system, heated front seats and Keyless-Go. The C300 Luxury package ($650) adds interior trim and a comfort suspension. The lighting package ($800) includes LED headlamps and adaptive high beam assist.

The optional COMAND navigation system ($2,690) includes 8.4-inch high-resolution screen, 10-gigabyte music drive and other features. An optional leather package ($2,300) includes leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, ambient lighting and a power passenger seat. Other options include Airmatic air suspension ($1,190). Not to be confused with that is the Air Balance package ($350), which pumps a flowery perfume fragrance into the cabin. The Driver Assistance package ($2,800) bundles blind spot and lane-keeping sensors, steering assist, and Distronic Plus, a form of cruise control that employs advanced radar sensors to scan ahead for stopped or slowing traffic.

Safety features on all C-Class models include Attention Assist driver drowsiness monitor, Pre-Safe and Collision Prevention Assist Plus technologies, a full suite of airbags, and anti-theft alarm. Anti-lock brakes are standard. The available 4MATIC all-wheel drive can enhance handling stability in slippery conditions.

Walkaround

We had two days to audition the four-wheel drive versions in and around Seattle, and found that the design, especially in the darker colors, stands out spectacularly, whether the backdrop is snow-covered Mount Rainier or the bare steel piping of a trash treatment plant. While there are cues from the smaller CLA-Class and larger S-Class in the body treatment, the tension in the creases, along with the short overhangs and sleek, long hood, create a C-Class that stands on its own, style-wise.

The view of the new C-Class is most pleasing from head-on, encompassing teardrop-shaped headlamps and the two-bar chrome grill enclosing the obligatory three-pointed star (buyers can also opt for the classic MB-look slat grill with the star placed atop the hood). The fins on the radiator grill can be closed to optimize aerodynamics. A handsome chrome strip stretches the width of the car under the bumper; the C-Class has a fairly low ground clearance; so don't expect to go off-roading with this one.

Large wheels emphasize the rear end and give the car a sense of forward thrust. The rear lamp and brake light is LED technology, while cars equipped with the Premium Package include full LED head and taillights.

Interior Features

The passenger compartment is set well back from the windscreen, and entry and exit to the front seats is non-dramatic. The rear door openings aren't limousine-like, but the space back there is airy and comfortable one you're inside. Legroom is more than 35 inches in the rear, while headroom is 37 inches. Three adults can fit back there in reasonable comfort.

Cabin materials are excellent. However, we think the multi-media display that sits atop the dash is tacky. Elements of the interior design mirror those of the S-class interior, such as the new center-console design, decorative touches on the dash and door panels. One interesting touch: the controls for the front seat heaters (on models so equipped) are on the right and left door panels, rather than grouped with the other heating/AC controls in the center.

The large, one-piece center console creates an elegant line from the round air-vents to the center armrest, There's wood decorating the dash, which is covered with MB-TEX, the company's term for vinyl, and the leather seats in the Premium package are skewed toward comfort rather than a bolstered feel.

Standard equipment on the C-Class is a touchpad, not to be confused with the 7-inch display screen. Essentially, the mouse-like controller, sitting on the center console, replicates most of the functions of the control dial, which is located directly in front of the pad. The pad allows one to navigate through the on-screen menus by moving a finger up and down, left and right, or swiping in various directions. Buttons on the lower part of the pad direct the system back, and allow instant access to media selections. Mercedes says the pad idea will find its way into other new models as well. We found the pad responsive, but it takes some getting used to, and we often defaulted to the more familiar round dial to adjust and control inputs.

Driving Impressions

Our four-S code applies to most Mercedes-Benz models in the luxury category: safe, stable, sexy sheet metal. The 2015 C-Class sedans tick all those boxes.

A fifth S, for speed, enters the equation in the V6-powered C400 4MATIC model. The bump in power and torque over the base C300 arrives as soon as you step on the throttle. Lagless and boisterous, the boost comes on strong in the C400. On a straight section of two-lane blacktop with no oncoming traffic, and stuck behind four Sunday drivers, we goosed the motor and overtook the quartet without any drama.

Both the C300 and C400 showed admirable dexterity on gentle curves and great passing power. Tighter curves and bends were more of a challenge, as the C-Class models have a propensity to lean. Lack of steering feel, something of a Mercedes-Benz trademark, is a gremlin here as well. It's not that the C-Class steering is numb, but it's not particularly talkative to the driver.

The Airmatic air suspension, standard fit on the C400, keeps the car planted at speed but unnerves it in more demanding corners. Both cars, we found, have a slight tendency to dive on takeoff, surprising in view of all the work put into the suspension's geometry and technology. On a rough stretch on I-90 pavement, there was noticeable jiggle up front.

Under ideal conditions (in the dry weather we had) , the C tracked like a locomotive. Wind and tire noise were sufficiently calmed as well by the Benzes' aerodynamics.

Our C400 had paddle shifters, but the action of the 7-speed is responsive enough so that manual shifting is fun at first, but the novelty wears off. Manual transmissions have been exiled by Mercedes in all but one of their cars for 2015 (the SLK 250 roadster), and their customers don't seem to mind.

The brakes in the C300 were comfortably assured under dry conditions; the C400's grippers use four-piston fixed calipers rather than the single-piston on the lesser model, and brought the speeds down without any kvetching. The C300 is fitted with 17-inch all-season tires, the C400 has 18-inch wheels.

The suspension geometry was a huge part of the car's development. For those of you enamored with initials, Mercedes has its own code: MRA. It stands for Modular Rear-Drive Architecture, makes extensive use of aluminum in the underbody, and allows for a weight savings of about 200 pounds compared to the previous C, the company says. In the front, a four-link setup decouples the suspension from the spring strut, resulting in more comfort for passengers,, improved ride tuning and slightly more agility for the driver. We found some glitches with the ride, as noted above. The C-Class is not a sports car, even though it may look like one.

Fuel efficiency for the all-wheel-drive C400 4MATIC is an EPA-estimated 22/29/24 mpg City/Highway/Combined. The 2015 C300 4MATIC is EPA-rated at 24/31/27 mpg. All C-Class models require Premium gasoline.

Summary

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers brand image, high technology, and outstanding fit and finish. The cabin is finished in quality materials and is a nice alternative to BMW's drab interiors. Unlike the Audis, the Mercedes-Benz is built on a platform using sporty rear-wheel drive, while offering all-wheel drive.

Stephen Williams filed this report after test drives of the C300 and C400 near Seattle.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Mercedes-Benz C300 ($38,400), C300 4MATIC ($40,400); C400 4MATIC ($48,590)
Engines:2.0-liter direct injection turbocharged inline-4, 3.0-liter direct injection bi-turbocharged V6
Transmissions:7G-Tronic Plus 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Safety equipment (standard):Collision Prevention Assist Plus, Attention Assist, Pre-Safe, Keyless Start, 7-inch color display, touchpad, Agility Select
Safety equipment (optional):all-wheel drive
Basic warranty:4 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Alabama
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Mercedes-Benz C400 4MATIC ($48,590)
Standard equipment:MB-Tex upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, heated front seats, power folding mirrors, 7-inch color tablet display, Keyless Start, automatic headlamps, power tilt and telescoping leather steering wheel, Agility Select, Burmester premium sound
Options as tested (MSPR):AIRMATIC air suspension ($1190); multimedia package ($2,690); metallic paint ($720); interior package ($2,300); Driver Assistance Package ($2,800)=
Destination charge:$925
Gas guzzler tax:
Price as tested (MSPR):$59215
Layout:all-wheel drive
Engine:3.0-liter bi-turbo V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):329 @ 6000
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):354 @ 1600-4000
Transmission:7-speed 7G-tronic Plus
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:21/29 mpg
Wheelbase:112.0 in.
Length/width/height:184.0/71.0/56.8 in.
Track, f/r: in.
Turning circle:36.9 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:31.7/na/41.7 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: in.
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.1/na/35.2 in.
Cargo volume:12.8 cu. ft.
Payload: Lbs.
Towing capacity: Lbs.
Suspension, f:four-link independent steel front axle, optional AIRMATIC air suspension
Suspension, r:multi-link, independent, optional AIRMATIC air suspension
Ground clearance: in.
Curb weigth:3737 lbs.
Tires:225/45R18 front, 245/40R18 rear, all season
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity:18.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of September 24, 2014.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-367-6372 - www.mbusa.com

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