2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
By Laura Burstein
On Sale: Fall 2014
Expected Pricing: Starting around $40,000
The newest generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class compact sedan made its debut on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, with updated styling, retooled engineering and a bevvy of new technology.
Now that Mercedes-Benz has its entry-level CLA-Class, introduced last year, the 2015 C-Class steps it up, touting itself as a miniature S-Class of sorts with new engines, a more luxurious cabin and optional electronic driver aids borrowed from the flagship.
Following the trend of ever-swelling new car models, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is bigger than its predecessor. It's 3.7 inches longer and 1.6 inches wider, riding on a wheelbase that's been stretched by 3 inches. Cargo volume is up to a formidable 17 cubic feet, compared with 11.7 cubes on the last C-Class. It's also lighter, as Mercedes-Benz engineers managed to shave off 220 pounds, achieved in part by a new structural design that uses an extensive amount of aluminum, replacing heavier steel.
With a more upright front grille, the 2015 C-Class bears a closer family resemblance to other recent Mercedes-Benz models, from the entry-level CLA-Class to the SLS AMG supercar. Like before (perhaps in attempt to keep up with BMW, which offers a variety of design styles for its 3 Series sedan), the 2015 C-Class will be available with a choice of two front fascia: A sport version with MB's three-point start integrated into the front grille, or a more classic radiator grille with the start on the hood. LED headlights are optional.
Notably, the C-Class drops its rear-wheel-drive variants for now, as Mercedes-Benz has only announced two models for the U.S., both available only with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected inline-4 with preliminary power estimates of 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The C400 4MATIC comes fitted with a 3.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected V6 that makes 329 hp and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. Both cars use Mercedes-Benz's 7-speed automatic transmission, which has been updated.
Suspension has been retooled via an independent four-link front axle design. A sport suspension with a slightly lowered ride will be an option, and Mercedes Benz's adaptable air suspension, which uses continuously variable damping and gives drivers a choice of four driving modes, will be offered for the first time on a C-Class model.
Inside the cabin, a new center stack features a floating-style 7-inch display screen, with an even bigger, 8.4-inch screen on cars equipped with the optional Multimedia Package. It sits atop three round air vents with Mercedes-Benz's latest signature bull's-eye design. Controls are laid out cleanly and simply in two horizontal rows. On the center console, a touchpad next to the knob that controls the COMAND interface allows drivers to swipe, tap and draw to enter information into the system.
New safety features include Distronic Plus, borrowed from S-Class and E-Class models, which enables the car to automatically use the throttle and brake to follow the traffic in front at speeds less than 37 mph, and a cross-traffic detection and intervention system that can automatically stop the car if a pedestrian or other vehicle crosses its path. Other optional safety features include automatic parking assist, a 360-degree camera and active lane keeping, which will steer the car back into the lane if a driver veers.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but we anticipate the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will start somewhere close to the outgoing C300, at around $40,000. Cars are expected to arrive in dealerships in Fall 2014.