It’s the new 6th generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class – one of the world’s most popular luxury sedans that has sold more than 37,000 units since the 3rd generation model (W203) was introduced in India back in 2001. Due to the pandemic’s impact, it is almost 14 months late to India since its global launch in February 2021. Still, it’s a critical model in the three-pointed star’s portfolio, thanks in part to its legacy and its positioning as the most well-rounded, luxurious and sporty medium-sized sedan in its portfolio.
A little more than 10 years ago, the C-Class sedan was a major drawcard in the Mercedes-Benz showroom. Not anymore, as today, most customers are heading straight for the SUV aisle in a Mercedes-Benz supermarket that now has twice the variety than it did 25 years ago with examples such as the GLA, the GLC or even the GLE, so it remains to be seen if the new C-Class can get our love back for stylish luxury sedans all over again.
Significantly the new C borrows much tech from the newest-gen S-Class, including the basic layout and concept of its interior, as well as much of its styling design DNA. The engines in the line-up are all mild-hybrid four-cylinders, including 1 Petrol and 2 diesels. And we’re told that even the AMG equivalents will be 4 cylinder units! At launch, 2 trim levels and 3 power train options will be offered – starting with the Avant-garde trim in a single petrol C200 and a diesel C220d. The more powerful C300d is exclusively offered in the sportier AMG line trim only – adding AMG style bumpers, 18in wheels, Digital LED lights, sportier seats up front, a flat bottomed steering wheel and even a sublime 15 speaker Burmester sound system.
One look at the new C Class, and the similarities to the ultra-luxury S-class start to appear instantly, the slim trapezoidal headlamps, droopy tail lamps that slippery rear and the signature Mercedes silhouette. And just like every other Mercedes saloon – it looks a fair bit sportier than it did before. The pulled back stance with soft lines creates quite an elegant package on the move. And if you’re looking at restrained aggression, then the AMG line trim will not disappoint.
This new C sits on a heavily revised version of the outgoing car’s underpinnings but is physically larger in most respects, barring height. It’s still a rear-wheel-drive platform and now almost as big as the last-gen of the E class sold in India! It’s 65mm longer, 10 mm wider and has a meaningful 25 mm longer wheelbase over the previous generation aiding in better rear passenger comfort.
Interiors & Technology
Step inside, and you will be seriously impressed with the visual pizazz with the plushness thanks to an abundance of leather and the availability of some snazzy ambient lighting.
The new C’s cabin looks as though it was lifted straight from the new S-Class. Yup – the tech trickle-down used to take years. Now it’s down to mere months.
The basic architecture of the new C’s dashboard is shared with Merc’s luxurious flagship – the portrait style central screen, widescreen instrument cluster, wood trim inlay on the dash with aluminium veins and even the way the controls are positioned. The 11.9-inch portrait touchscreen (slightly angled towards the driver) pinched directly from the S-Class standard on all trims is pretty intuitive to operate and packed with too many features to list. Not as intuitive as BMW’s iDrive, with its rotary controller and separate climate controls, but for a touchscreen, it’s not bad at all. Otherwise, the MBUX operating system looks really slick. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, as is built-in navigation. There’s even a ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice command service that gets cleverer with every generation and is the safest way of operating the system while you’re driving. Over-the-air updates mean the system ought to get better as time goes by.
You’d expect a Mercedes to be comfortable, and the new C doesn’t disappoint. The seats and driving position are spot-on, and it’s tranquil inside despite the diesel clatter humming outside. Pity, some of the interior materials let the ambience down. Despite being generally bigger than its predecessor, the new C isn’t a lot more spacious than its competition. Boot space also is compromised with the space-saver spare tyre placed on top.
The increased legroom at the rear will be a welcome improvement for chauffeur-lovin folks, with improved under-thigh support, although it’s still off the 3-series gran limousine’s seating comfort. In the back of the C-Class, the shallow rear windows and large chunkier front headrests can make one feel a little confined. Rear sunshades help keep that summer tan away, and you can soak in the moonlight with that split panoramic sunroof.
The new C comes across as well-mannered, refined, and impressively comfortable. Handling, too, was impressive as experienced in our drive across the winding hills of Mussorie, although the C-Class arguably acquitted itself better on the highways than on city roads. It’s no corner carver but assuredly will get you feeling daisy fresh when you reach your next destination.
We sampled the powerful 2.0-litre diesel pumping out 265hp, 550Nm of torque with a claimed 0-100 km/h in a quick 5.7 secs shuffling between ratios quickly and smoothly with the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox. It responds well to the paddles on the wheel, too, but can be a bit hesitant off the line, so be wary at busy junctions. Claimed fuel efficiency is 20.37 km/l which should help in low double-digit efficiency figures within city driving. The steering itself is direct and well-weighted but not brimming with feel, but it’s perfectly adequate for most everyday tasks.
Initial driving impressions are resounding with refinement – linear acceleration, comfortably fast – are key highlights of the C’s most powerful powertrain at launch. Noise levels are well contained, and power is available at a tap with only initial lag being felt. All engines also feature a 48v mild hybrid system assisting with 20hp and 200 Nm of torque at start-up speeds. It helps to improve drive around town, while it pulls strongly when accelerating onto motorways, all the while remaining quiet and composed in the cabin.
Verdict: C-eriously desirable luxury sedan
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is genuinely worthy of being referred to as the Baby S-Class moniker. That’s especially evident inside the cabin, which offers pretty much the same upscale feel, as well as the same sleek and effective second-generation MBUX interface as its larger sibling. The interior is excellent for its segment and more luxurious and visually stimulating than that of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
The entry-level engines, though, aren’t the most satisfying to use and lack outright power – with priority given to comfort and relaxed transportation. It does benefit from a quiet, comfortable ride, and the C-Class feels calm and controlled even while travelling at speed with a high level of refinement in the cabin expected from a car of its class.
That said, it’s not the most spacious relative to some of its competitors and the new breed of SUVs, and parts of the dashboard and interior trim may feel a little cheap. Pricing is yet to be released, but we expect the range to start from Rs. 52 to 55 lakhs ex-showroom for the top-end. If you’re looking for the most desirable medium-sized luxury sedan and can look past some of its shortcomings, the new-gen C-Class is simply an assured choice.