In the more than 100-year history of Mercedes-Benz, the C-Class is probably the most important model. The numbers don’t lie and the German manufacturer recently celebrated 50 million cars produced; of these, 10.5 million are represented by the sum of the four generations of “C” – the one we try here is the fifth – to which must be added the historic 190 born in 1982 from the pencil of the Italian Bruno Sacco. It was the first time that the Star ended up on the hood of such a compact sedan – not surprisingly immediately nicknamed “baby benz” – ushering in a trend that would not stop until today. In fact, in these forty years, Mercedes has expanded its range of action, up to the lower segments, first with the A-Class and then with the Smart. Despite the expansion of the range, the C-Class – now grown to 4.75 meters in length – remains one of the pillars of “made in Germany” even if this definition is no longer entirely correct.
The C-Class, in fact, is produced in three different continents, to be precise in Bremen, Beijing and East London in South Africa, where the cars destined for the United States are assembled. But if perhaps no one in North America has ever seen a diesel “C”, in Europe this engine still remains fundamental in the tastes of motorists. Thus in Stuttgart they renewed the offer of diesel engines with an unprecedented family of four cylinders, all electrified at different levels. They range from mild hybrids to plug-in hybrids – the latter will be available in the coming months – following the unwritten rule that sees all German manufacturers refractory to full hybrid. There is also a petrol-powered MHEV which, however, seems destined to account for only a very small percentage of sales. The lion’s share will go to the 220d and 300d, acronyms now disconnected from the displacement, which correspond to 200 and 265 HP of power (440 and 550 Nm of torque), to which are added another 20 HP and 180 Nm of boost provided by the alternator-generator that uses a 48 Volt electrical system.
It is the first time that this technology has been found on a Diesel and is accompanied by a common rail that works at 2,700 bar of pressure and a two-stage turbocharger with variable geometry. The gearbox, on the other hand, is the 9G-Tronic automatic that Mercedes develops and produces internally, representing a unicum in the automotive landscape (Ford and General Motors do the same thing, together, for the 10-speed transmission). All this technology translates into a driving fluidity that has no equal among the competitors, with a thrust that can be very gentle or very full-bodied, even in the less powerful variant. Driving dynamics have become more precise, while safeguarding the comfort typical of Mercedes of this level. It is felt in the response of the suspension, braking enough without being dry, and in that of the steering which, although light, makes us understand what is happening under the front wheels. The problem with the steering wheel, if anything, are the new touch control surfaces, which require a certain apprenticeship to be used correctly.
But what is surprising about the new C-Class is found inside, where the two large displays inherited from the S-Class dominate: the horizontal one of the 12.3-inch instrumentation and the 11.9-inch vertical one responsible for infotainment. The latter has definition, response speed and touch sensitivity that define it as a new benchmark for all competition. There are so many technological equipment and driver assistance systems that a separate discussion would be needed; among all we mention the digital light that breaks down and directs the light of the headlights through 1.3 million micro-mirrors. The downside is that many of these gadgets are optional to add, bringing the price of the C-Class, which starts at just over 50,000 euros, much more towards 60,000 or even 70,000 euros. But this is also an old habit of all premium German manufacturers.
Mercedes C-Class, the card
What is that: the fifth generation of the Mercedes D-segment sedan
Dimensions: length 4.75 meters, width 1.82 m height 1.44 m, pitch 2.87 m
Trunk: 455 liters
Motor: 2.0 turbodiesel, 4-cylinder in-line, maximum power 200-265 hp, maximum torque 440-550 Nm
Exchange: 9-speed automatic with torque converter
Advantages: comfort, driving dynamics, technology, performance
Defects: price, interior design
Production: Bremen, Germany – Beijing, China – East London, South Africa
Prices: The Mercedes C-Class has a price list starting at 50,990 euros