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Mercedes-Benz is unleashing an all-out assault on the luxury passenger market with its all-new C-Class. “It is our aim to win the leadership position in this sector and when I say the leadership position I don't mean providing Australian customers with just another option,” Mercedes-Benz Australia boss Horst Von Sanden says of the move.
“What you'll see is a totally new design from the ground up ... the new C-Class takes Mercedes-Benz design to another level.”
Mercedes and its traditional German luxury rival BMW have recently begun looking over their shoulder at the activities of Audi, which has been shaking up the Australian luxury market with 41per cent year-on-year growth.
On sale from this weekend, the new C-Class arrives with a trimmed model line-up: three engines only and all of those at the smaller end of the scale. There will be no C350 V6 petrol nor C320 V6 diesel available and while the official line is that they are “not off the radar” there are no firm plans to add them to the model line-up.
The C-Class range opens with a C200 Kompressor supercharged in-line four-cylinder at $56,990, adds a C220 CDI four-cylinder turbo-diesel at $60,300 and is topped (for the moment) by the three-litre C280 V6 at $85,500.
In the second quarter of next year the spanking AMG C63 will join the local garage. “The decision not to launch with all the models has been made for a variety of reasons, most of which are business related,” says Mercedes Australia's Peter Fadeyev. “They are certainly not off the radar but there are no firm plans.”
Styling for the new car remains unmistakably Mercedes, with plenty of cues from the big-brother S-Class, particularly the sculpted wheel arches. Compared to the outgoing model, the new car gets a higher and more vertical grille for improved pedestrian collision safety, while the boot is neatly tapered without a lip spoiler.
To achieve its remarkably low 0.27 co-efficient of drag (Cd), Mercedes employs vents in the tail lights to create a neutral air-pressure zone behind the car. Sedan trim levels are differentiated by a radically different nose treatment.
In what used to be the exclusive province of “real” Mercedes sports cars, the Avantgarde has the three-pointed star set within the grille while the Classic and Elegance models retain the trademark star atop the bonnet leading edge.
Mercedes believes younger, more sports-oriented buyers will opt for the Avantgarde.
Inside, the dashboard style is simple and uncluttered as Mercedes hides its layers of convenience - ventilation, audio, satnav and communication within a central command button and steering-wheel buttons as well as a voice-activated system. The new sedan is marginally longer than the outgoing C-Class but rides on a wider track and a stretched wheelbase.
The engines have been re-tuned to deliver up to 13 per cent more power and 6 per cent less emissions. Only the C280 will get the seven-speed automatic. Eight airbags, including curtain and sidebags for the rear passengers, are standard, as is ABS and adaptive braking, brake assist, electronic stability program and a new active headrest for the front passengers.
The C-Class also has what Mercedes calls an automatic “agility control” suspension program. “It automatically adapts to the customer's driving style,” Von Sanden says.