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Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 Review

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is not only the top-selling luxury car in Australia ahead of the equivalently sized Audi and BMW; it's also more popular than much cheaper rivals.
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Want proof the Australian economy is healthy? Forget market analytics and banking forecasts, this is all you need to know: the nation's favourite mid-size sedan after the Toyota Camry and Mazda6 is now a Mercedes-Benz.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is not only the top-selling luxury car in Australia ahead of the equivalently sized Audi and BMW; it's also more popular than much cheaper rivals.

Did you know more people bought a Mercedes-Benz last year than a Honda Accord, Subaru Liberty, and Ford Mondeo? The list goes on. And now a new model is just around the corner. The first all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class in seven years has just gone on sale in Europe before it arrives in Australian showrooms in June.


Prices are yet to be announced but if history is a guide Mercedes-Benz tends to hold the RRP of the old model and add equipment. The current C-Class range starts at $59,900 but the more popular models start from about $70,000.

Interestingly, sales of the current generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class have increased despite the car reaching the end of its model cycle; customarily the opposite is true. No doubt its German rivals will be concerned about the arrival of some fresh metal.


Honey, I shrunk the S-Class. The similarities between the popular C-Class and the Mercedes-Benz flagship are not coincidental. The two cars were designed in the same studio barely metres apart, after an internal competition among Mercedes' five design centres in Germany, the USA, Japan, China and Italy.

In the end, the finishing touches and the final design -- including the sculptured flanks and smooth lines -- were completed in Mercedes' design headquarters in Germany. In the metal, the differences between the C-Class and S-Class are more apparent.

Although smaller than the top-line sedan, the new C-Class is bigger than before, growing in every crucial dimension. In fact, it is almost as big as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class from two generations ago.

The exterior is stunning, but the interior is a revelation compared to today's car (and the competition), with simple yet elegant design mated to functional, user-friendly controls.


Not only does the new C-Class look like a smaller version of Mercedes' flagship limousine, it also shares most of its technology -- and even has some that it doesn't.

For example, using the built-in navigation system the air-conditioning will automatically switch to re-circulate before entering a tunnel, to keep diesel fumes and other nasties outside the cabin.

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class is dotted with cameras (rear view and overhead view) radar beams (to prevent a crash if you're not paying attention), lane departure warnings, and LED headlights for a brighter beam.

There's also a heads-up display reflected into the windscreen of the more expensive models (similar to what BMW has offered for almost a decade) and a new, much more intuitive cabin control dial and touchpad that allows you to draw letters and numbers with your fingertips (which Audi has had since 2009).

The grille on the base model has louvres (visible from the outside) to improve aerodynamic efficiency by directing airflow around the car's body.

Some other cars have a similar feature, but the louvres are hidden behind the grille; Mercedes-Benz claims to be the first in the world to make it a design feature. The louvres activate automatically at freeway speeds and only in cooler temperatures.

The other significant development is the new C-Class's aluminium body and lightweight suspension components. The bonnet, roof, doors, front fenders, and bootlid are all made from aluminium, as are the suspension arms and attachment points on the body.

This is a significant development in this class of car and has led to a massive weight saving of 100kg all told (which in turn helps fuel economy).

One last bit of hi-tech trickery: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the first car in its class to be available with air-suspension, an option previously reserved for the top-end limousines. However, as we would discover, it's not quite the revelation it promises to be.


Nine airbags (including one for the driver's knee and two for back seat passengers) and all the radars, cameras and early crash avoidance technology currently available on the automobile, including a fatigue-detection system that monitors steering behaviour.

Don't hold your breath for a crash safety rating, though; the Euro NCAP and Australasian NCAP divisions tend to test more affordable cars, and assume (rightly or wrongly) the prestige brands know what they're doing.


To sample the breadth of the range we got behind the wheel of five different versions of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class on a preview drive in Europe.

First up was the C250 petrol, powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (155kW and 350Nm) with about as much power and torque as a Volkswagen Golf GTI. Of course, the C-Class sedan is a little heavier than the hot hatch but it still does an impressive job moving the car with a minimum of fuss.

Most noticeable about the C-Class is how eerily quiet it is, and that it feels much smaller and more nimble than its dimensions suggest.

The C250 petrol -- likely the most popular version of the car when it goes on sale mid-year -- was a smooth operator. The car tested was equipped with an optional air suspension system which gives the driver a choice of modes, from "eco", "comfort", "sport" and "sport plus".

The steering gets heavier as the suspension gets stiffer, apparently to generate a race-car feel, if not race-car handling.

As with other air suspension systems from other manufacturers, I remain unconvinced of the merits. The air suspension in the C-Class "thrums" over joins in the road and is not as comfortable over bumps as it promises to be. The air suspension is only truly smooth on perfectly smooth surfaces, which of course is not a major achievement.

We then swapped into a C250 diesel, powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine (125kW and 400Nm). Running the exact same suspension, wheels and tyres as the C250 petrol variant it was easier to spot the differences.

Apart from the usual delay in diesel power delivery from low engine revs, the other main difference was the slightly heavier front end (the diesel engine weighs more) which blunted the prowess of the steering.

From there it was time to sample the C400 powered by a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine (243kW and 480Nm) which, after the more frugal options, was a revelation.

Likely to be priced about $100,000 it fills the large void between the popular four-cylinder models and the 'bahn-storming C63 AMG (due later this year powered by a twin turbo 4.0-litre V8, according to overseas reports).

The C400's engine had by the far the broadest spread of power among the models tested; it could easily pass for a cut-price AMG. But there was a familiar letdown: the air suspension lacks the finesse of a well-sorted standard suspension set-up. This prompted an enquiry: were there (itals)any(itals) cars available to test with standard suspension, given that's what most customers will buy?

There was, but first, one more car to get through: the C300 hybrid diesel, a luxury car that sips less fuel than a Toyota Prius. The secret to its 3.6L/100km fuel economy rating is the 20kW/260Nm electric motor that supports the 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine.

Although the electric motor has just one-third the power of the electric motor in the Prius, the Mercedes-Benz hybrid can still move from rest in complete silence on its electric motor alone up to about 25km/h. The transition from electric to diesel power is also surprisingly smooth given that diesel engines tend to shudder into life with more of a vibration than petrol engines.

Finally, it was time to sample the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class on the suspension that most cars will come with and with what will eventually become its most popular engine variant: the C200 with a slightly detuned version of the C250's 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder (trimmed to 135kW and 300Nm). The engine was impressive, and appeared to lack little compared with the C250.

But the most impressive aspect was the normal suspension, and normal steering, which, ironically, was the highlight of the range of cars sampled. It soaked up bumps and thumps with ease, didn't thud over joins in the road and lacked nothing in the way of cornering ability. In essence it was the pick of the range.


The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has raised the bar for mid-size luxury sedans, providing you don't get too excited and order the optional air suspension.

Mercedes-Benz C200
Price: From $60,000 (estimated)
Warranty: Three years/unlimited km
Capped servicing: No
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Resale: 55 per cent
Safety: Not yet ANCAP tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Power: 135kW and 300Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Consumption: 5.3L/100km
Emissions: 123g/km
0 to 100km/h: 7.5 seconds
Dimensions, length/width/height (mm): 4686/1810/1442
Weight: 1445kg
Spare: None. Inflator kit

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Range and Specs

C180 1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,000 – 25,080 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C180 Pricing and Specs
C63 AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $65,800 – 83,160 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C63 AMG Pricing and Specs
C63 AMG Edition 507 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $66,500 – 84,040 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C63 AMG Edition 507 Pricing and Specs
C250 CDI 2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $23,000 – 31,240 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2014 C250 CDI Pricing and Specs
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