The all-new C-Class is the most advanced vehicle in the segment. BMW and Audi, watch out.
Mercedes-Benz could not have been pleased when entirely revealing images of one of its most significant launches of the year, the new W206 C-Class, were leaked a day before the manufacturer's unveiling. Nevertheless, here it is - officially. The all-new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class remains a vital product for the German marque as its W205 predecessor has remained competitive right until the end of its life cycle; over 2.5 million W205 sedans/wagons have been sold globally.
The new one is notable in that it will be the first C-Class lineup to use only four-cylinder engines, whereas its chief rival, the BMW 3 Series, has retained six-pot power at a higher price point. Along with the mini S-Class looks are a gorgeous cabin, an increase in size, and the full gamut of Mercedes driver-assist technologies.
We'll start with how it looks. It must be said that the latest C-Class doesn't appear as revolutionary in its design as the W205.
The links to other Mercedes models are clearer than ever before; the front-end looks like an amalgamation between the CLA-Class and recently refreshed E-Class, while the new two-piece taillights are strikingly similar to those of the new S-Class.
Mercedes describes it as a "cab backward" design, whereby the windshield and passenger cell have been moved further back than before. The new look is highlighted by elements such as an A-shaped grille and a new hood with power domes. As before, the grille design changes depending on the model you opt for. Standard versions have chrome detailing, but AMG Line variants have a diamond grille with a chrome star.
Mercedes has added new colors like Moonlight White and Starling Blue to the palette. "The letters C and S sit at opposite ends of the alphabet," said Ola Kallenius, CEO of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG. "However, in our portfolio, they're now moving closer together."
Dimensionally, the latest C-Class is 2.5 inches longer and half an inch wider than its predecessor. Both a sunroof and 18-inch alloy wheels are standard. A new C-Class Wagon was also revealed in some fresh press images, but there's no indication that this body style will return to the US market. Overall, the C-Class has an undeniably posh appearance but is now harder to distinguish within the Mercedes-Benz sedan lineup.
Climb inside, and the new C dazzles. Once again, Mercedes' flair for interior design makes the alternatives from BMW and Audi look decidedly dreary. A new 11.9-inch central touchscreen multi-media display with a portrait orientation dominates the dashboard. To the left of this, a freestanding 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster has been tilted towards the driver by six degrees, perhaps a hint of the sedan's performance.
The focus on technology has not come at the expense of luxury, as sleek ambient lighting is complemented by beautifully stitched materials and glossy surfaces wherever you look. It's more spacious, too. There are 1.4 inches of additional rear legroom, rear headroom has grown by 0.5 inches, and elbow room is up in both rows. The flattened round air vents are said to be inspired by aircraft engine nacelles, and a floating control cluster houses controls for the seats.
The Latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) system makes this more of a digital environment than any prior C-Class. Both the central display and driver's display can be customized with various display styles (Sporty, Classic, Understated) and modes (Navigation, Assistance, Service). In 'Sporty' mode, red is the main color and the central tachometer takes on a bolder look. MBUX now has 50 percent greater processing power than before, and keyword activation via the "Hey Mercedes" voice control system is standard.
Augmented video for navigation, inductive wireless charging, a head-up display, and a Burmester 3D surround sound system are all available. The new sedan supports over-the-air software updates, which means that as new features become available, the driver will be notified via a message on the infotainment screen.
Once you're done digesting the high-tech interior, you'll likely be interested in how well the new C-Class moves down the road. At launch, Mercedes is offering the rear-wheel-drive C300 and the C300 4Matic all-wheel-drive. Both make use of a 2.0-liter inline-four twin-turbo engine with an Integrated Starter Generator (ISG). The electric motor system provides up to 20 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque for a brief period when accelerating, enables "sailing" - driving with the gas motor turned off - and improves efficiency.
Peak outputs for the four-pot engine are 255 hp and 295 lb-ft; torque is up from 273 lb-ft in the outgoing C300. Paired with this engine - the first Mercedes four-cylinder to incorporate the ISG tech - is a refined and 30-percent lighter 9G-tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimates have not yet been revealed.
Regardless of which model you choose, the C-Class will sprint to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 130 mph. This isn't quite as quick as the BMW 330i. Rest assured there will be quicker versions on the way, most notably the upcoming AMG C63.
Any Mercedes sedan needs to ride well, and the C-Class comes with an Agility Control suspension featuring continuously adjustable damping. In front, there is a new four-link axle while a multi-link axle at the back is mounted to a subframe. AMG Line models have a sport suspension, but overall, the new setup promises both high levels of agility, good ride comfort, and minimal noise intrusion.
Mercedes' extensive driver assistance systems have received upgrades of their own. For instance, the Active Distance Assist Distronic system can now initiate a response to stationary vehicles at up to 62 mph, whereas this function previously only operated up to 37 mph.
The Speed Limit Assist feature can now recognize red traffic lights and stop signs, while parking sensors have been improved. Both models come standard with blind-spot assist, attention assist, and parking damage detection. The list of optional extras is as long as the C-Class's 187-inch body and includes active steering assist, Car-to-X communication, automatic parking assistance, and many more.
"I'm certain our new C-Class will excite even more customers with a wide range of high-tech features derived from our flagship S-Class," said Kallenius. "With the latest generation MBUX and comprehensive electrification, our most successful model range will once again raise the bar as the most sophisticated offering in its segment."
For now, Mercedes-Benz has not shared pricing for the latest C-Class, which is expected to arrive at US dealers early next year.