There used to be a time in India when the C class or the Baby Mercedes as we called it back then, was the stepping stone to the elite Mercedes Benz club. Today, the Mercedes range has extended lower with entrants like the CLA and prices have shot up in this part of the compact sedan market, but the C class will continue as the bread and butter model for the manufacturer on a global level. A lot is riding on the shoulders of this W205 generation, so Mercedes took its sweet time developing it. We wanted to see how much of a game forward is this one compared to the outgoing model.
Every new C class is always deliberately styled to mimic the flagship S class, and this one is no different. The front end follows a similar design with shapely headlamps, stately grille and finely honed bonnet. The Indian version comes with the Avantgarde grille with a large TriStar Mercedes logo placed at the centre. The adapative headlamps have great detailing inside them much like the tail lamps. The side profile is characterized by purposeful wheel arches and prominent character lines. The sides and rear styling are even more similar to that of the S class, the only giveaway is the width difference between the two models. Having said that, the new C class feels suitably wide and has good presence on the road. The design also has an impressive coefficient of drag of just 0.24.
Where the C class makes even more of an impression, is in the interiors. The cabin feels special with its beige leather, solid plastic and extravagant Aluminium detailing. Be it the circular AC vents, or the classic analogue clock or the delicious speaker grills, every trim feels exquisite and like it belongs to a segment above. The cascading centre console with its glossy wooden overlays feels a bit bland and I am still to get into grips with infotainment screens that stick out as an afterthought, but there isn’t anything else you can find wrong with the new C class’ cabin. It also comes fully loaded with electrically adjustable seats, an 8.4 inch screen, ambient lighting, a 13 speaker Burmester audio system, paddle shifts, rear camera, climate control and also selectable driving modes. It also gets Hill Start Assist, fuel saving Start/Stop function and an electric parking brake.
The front driver seat is a great place to be in and has memory function which includes the electric adjust for the under thigh support as well. The rear seats are comfortable for two adults, as the transmission tunnel doesn’t favour a third passenger. It is a bit short on headroom, but the overall ambience of the cabin makes it a pleasant place to be on long drives. Boot space is a reasonable 480 litres, but the C class comes with a spare wheel strapped on the boot floor in addition to the space saver, robbing it of some practicality.
The C Class we tested was the C200 CGI with a turbo petrol motor which was the one they launched it with, but these days you can buy a diesel too. The petrol engine is a 2.0litre four cylinder with 180 bhp and a commendable 300N-M torque most of which is delivered lower down the rev range. It is a smooth unit and delivers a good surge under full acceleration. The ‘Agility Select’ button lets you choose from various driving modes like Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus. While doing that doesn’t have any effect on the handling of the Indian model, which uses regular coil springs instead of air suspension, it varies the steering assist, throttle response, and the way the 7-speed automatic gearbox changes gears. Comfort mode is for daily driving, while Eco puts an emphasis on making the throttle less sharper and turns down the air conditioner a notch, for maximum efficiency. Sport and Sport Plus make the car feel much more eager on the throttle and hold on to each gear for longer. Although it delivers seamless upshifts and now comes with paddle shifters, the 7GTRONIC or as Merc likes to call its gearbox, now feels a generation old. Downshifts take time and the unhurried nature of the gearbox is quite evident when you are driving it hard.
Although it is not the most fun to drive car around, the new C feels even better to drive than its predecessor. The chassis has a grown up feel to the way it tackles varying road surfaces. The ride has an underlying firmness to it, but it has great bump absorption and very well contained body movements, contributing to a comfortable drive. The steering on this new model, though electrically assisted now, doesn’t feel artificial. It is very accurate, has great response, and helps to place the car well on the road.
The new C class comes with loads of safety features including seven airbags, ESP with curve dynamic assist, ABS, ARS (traction control) and brake assist. At around Rs.48 lakhs on road for the model we tested, the new C class is a lot more expensive than its predecessor, but it makes up with more kit, better quality and overall nicer driving experience.