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2015 Mercedes C-Class unveiled

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class at the 2014 Detroit motor show preview. PIC motor authority.

Mercedes-Benz is moving the new C-Class closer to the top shelf, which will make even more breathing space for the very affordable CLA (which starts at $49,900) underneath the C's kick-off -- currently about $10,000 higher.

So the new 2015 lighter and more powerful C-Class unveiled just a couple of hours ago ahead of the Detroit show doors opening tomorrow owes a lot to the S-Class flagship, including some styling cues and high-end technology that will take the fight to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series and 4 Series.

The fresh exterior makeover is matched in the cabin with hand-stitched leather upholstery, a 7-in touchscreen that can be optioned up to a massive 8.3-in with touchpad control, premium Burmester audio, a heads-up display option, and internet connectivity and apps. It will also be the first in its class to offer adaptive air suspension, with modes switchable from Comfort, ECO, Sport, and Sport+ via the Agility Select switch.

The engine line-up starts with the base model C180's turbocharged 115kW/250Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, with Mercedes claiming a 0-100km/h time of 8.2 seconds and fuel economy of 5.0L/100km. Moving up the scale, the C200 is powered by a 135kW/300Nm turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol with official 0-100km/h time of 7.5 seconds and 5.3L/100km economy.

The C220 Bluetec carries a 125kW/400Nm 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel with an urea injection system to reduce emissions to the tighter coming EU6 standards, and claims a 0-100km time of 8.1 seconds and 4.0L/100km economy. The frugal focus is helped by all engines getting stop-start and brake energy recovery systems, and by the car having dropped up to 100kg in weight, depending on variant.

Transmission choices for the launch models are a six-speed manual and seven-speed auto, with those gearboxes driving the rear wheels in the initial line-up. However an all-wheel drive will join them later in the year, as well as more engines: a petrol-electric hybrid at one end of the spectrum and a fire-breathing twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 for the AMG variant.

And the C-Class is also getting a hold, as motor authority points out on the S-Class's mantle as the world's safety leader, with an arsenal of standard features including attention-monitoring, collision prevention that helps brake the car if it senses a bingle is imminent, and options including lane-keeping, active parking assist, extra brake helpers, a 360-degree camera and in some markets a system that can read traffic signs.

We'll get the new C-Class in the later half of this year, and should have news on any price changes closer to the local launch. For more news on the Detroit show, head over to our dedicated mini-site.