With the fifth-generation C-Class, Mercedes hopes to deliver a knockout punch to its competitors in a fiercely competitive segment. We drive it to see if it can deliver on the promise of being a ‘smaller’ S-Class.
One of the problems of having a successful elder sibling is that you are always expected to follow in their footsteps, which can be a difficult task, for you are always under immense pressure to be at least as successful, if not more. So, when Mercedes-Benz calls the C-Class a ‘smaller’ S-Class, they have my attention. You see, with the new S-Class, Mercedes has set a new benchmark not just for itself but also for its rivals by offering a blend of style, luxury, technology, and driving appeal that’s hard to match. Naturally, this means there’s a lot of pressure on the C-Class.
Of course, the C-Class has been no slouch itself. It is one of Mercedes’ most successful products worldwide, and at the last count, the German manufacturer had sold over 10.5 million units of the car across its various generations. In India too, the C-Class has been a success, as the previous generation model is doing rather well. One of the things that helped the C-Class – until the arrival of the A-Class sedan, at least – was that it was the entry point into the world of the three-pointed star and, therefore, a big draw for many customers and first-time buyers.
Now, the new C-Class does look like a photocopy of the S-Class reduced to 75% of its original size. But that’s no bad thing, considering how good the S looks. As a result, you get a good-looking sedan with excellent proportions. From the unique front grille with vertical slats (on the Avantgarde trim) to the 17-inch wheels, every aspect of the car looks very balanced. Special emphasis has been given to the car’s aerodynamics, as it now has a drag coefficient of just 0.24, which means it’s rather slippery. An interesting design touch is the slightly rising boot lid, which almost gives an impression of being a spoiler, but it’s there mainly for aerodynamic reasons. In fact, it looks rather similar to that of the S, and if viewed from afar, most people will be hard-pressed to distinguish it from the S.
With its S-like styling, technology, space, and level of comfort, the new C-class offers a compelling package to customers
Moving the Game Forward
If you think that the exterior is inspired by the S, wait till you lay your eyes on the interior. Gone is the horizontal central screen, and in comes an 11.9-inch iPad-style display, just like the one in the S-Class. The display has terrific resolution and brightness and is a pleasure to use – unless you’re driving, in which case you have to take your eyes off the road even for using small controls – and certainly gives the cabin a completely new appeal. There are other noteworthy design touches, such as the large digital instrument cluster and door handles, which look like they’re floating in the air. The dash on our test car featured ash wood, with an aluminium inlay, and looked absolutely fantastic. In fact, it would be fair to say that the interior of the C-Class sets a new benchmark in the segment.
Now, while the interior is spacious, fitting five adults will prove to be a tight squeeze, as the tall transmission tunnel in the rear somewhat limits the footwell space.
At launch, the C-Class will be offered in three trim variants – the C 200 petrol, C 220d diesel, and C 300d. While the first two will be available only in the Avantgarde trim, the range-topping C 300d will be offered in the AMG trim, with larger wheels, slightly different interior and exterior design, and a lot more oomph. We drove the C 200, which is an interesting variant, as the engine here is not a 2.0-litre, as the nomenclature of the car indicates, but a 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit. The engine is turbocharged, and there is also a 48V hybrid system integrated between the engine and the gearbox.
In itself, the engine produces 201bhp and 300Nm of torque, but with the hybrid ISG engaged, the power and torque get a boost of 20bhp and 200Nm, respectively, for short durations. This means that instant acceleration for overtaking or getting into a gap is always available. Paired to the engine is Mercedes’ 9-speed transmission, but here it misses a trick. Despite the availability of extra torque and power, the transmission’s tuning leaves much to be desired. Particularly at small throttle inputs and slow speeds, the transmission seems as if it’s hunting for the right gear and is not as sure as, say, a BMW 8-speed gearbox. I think it’s something that can be improved.
On the other hand, the ride comfort of the new C is simply brilliant. Despite its 17-inch wheels, which are not small by Indian standards, it deals with bad roads and potholes terrifically. Pair this with the comfortable seats and the excellent interior, and the C indeed seems like a lovely place to spend time in.
The new C-Class is also very competent in terms of enthusiastic driving. The suspension is well set up, and the steering has a decent feel to it. But, it’s not really a driver’s car – it’s more about wafting and cruising rather than trying to set a new lap time.
Despite the large 17-inch wheels, it deals with bad roads & potholes terrifically
While we didn’t know the price of the C-Class at the time of the drive, we now know that the fifth-generation car will cost between ₹55 – 61 lakh (ex-showroom), which will also set the tone for the segment. Sure, it may not be the value proposition that the earlier-gen car was, but with its S-like styling, technology, space, and level of comfort, it really does offer a compelling package to customers – one that feels truly luxurious.
- 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Engine: 1,496cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged / 48V Tech
Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 204bhp @ 5,800 – 6,100rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1,800 – 4,000rpm
Price: ₹55 – 61 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: With its S-like styling, features, and technology, the C-Class sets a new benchmark in the segment.