Performance


First Drive: C-Class.

24 March 2022

Progressive design, more space, higher specs and all the latest technology and comfort features. The all new C-Class more than lives up to the hype.

Performance


First Drive: C-Class.

24 March 2022

Progressive design, more space, higher specs and all the latest technology and comfort features. The all new C-Class more than lives up to the hype.

The all new Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The all new C-Class draws plenty of inspiration from the larger, more luxurious S-Class limousine playbook. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

As soon as the latest Mercedes-Benz C-Class was unveiled, the motoring press delightedly dubbed it the ‘Baby S-Class’.

It’s not difficult to see why, with interior design cues that effectively leapfrog an entire generation to draw direct inspiration from the larger, more luxurious S-Class limousine playbook.

Outside, too, the latest C-Class emulates the inimitable swagger of its larger stablemate. A striking stance frames the perfectly proportioned three-box design that has defined Mercedes-Benz passenger cars for decades.

And, like the ‘S’, it radiates presence, albeit with some additional bespoke flourishes such as a striking race-inspired front air dam, purposeful bonnet strakes and a grille bejewelled with dozens of small stars — a nod to the iconic Mercedes-Benz logo.

Spacious dimensions

In one sense, though, the media’s affectionate moniker quite literally diminishes the showroom-fresh latest edition of the C-Class. Although physically smaller than the S-Class, it’s certainly no baby.

Originally conceived as a ‘compact’ sedan with interior dimensions to match, the latest generation easily accommodates up to four tall adults for even the most arduous of road trips. A fifth seat in the centre-rear is also available for smaller bodies and shorter commutes.

Interior of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The new C-Class certainly doesn’t feel ‘compact’, offering passengers more interior space than its predecessor. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

The raw data confirms this feeling of spaciousness. Elbow room in the new C-Class has increased over the outgoing model by 22mm in the front and 15mm in the outer rear seats, while all-important rear knee room has improved by a substantive 35mm. Even rear headroom has increased by 13mm. In practice, that means I can sit directly behind a driver’s seat that’s set up to accommodate my 185cm frame, and feel unconstrained in any dimension.

Comfort with a capital C

The joy of space is one thing; a space in which you want to linger is another. This is where the C-Class stakes its most opulent claim.

Like the S-Class, the interior focal point is a new portrait-oriented, 11.9-inch ultra-responsive touchscreen that serves as the functional command centre for navigation, heating/cooling, audio and telephony, and vehicle settings. It’s clear and intuitive, split between a square upper display perfect for navigation, and a lower section that serves as a multifunction control panel.

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class touchscreen

The portrait-oriented, 11.9-inch ultra-responsive touchscreen serves as the command centre for navigation, heating/cooling, audio and telephony, and vehicle settings. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

Buttons, switchgear and the console-mounted controller of previous generations are all banished. Thus, the cockpit wrapping around the driver is stripped to gorgeous essentials: a high-resolution, customisable LCD 12.3-inch driver’s instrument cluster, a start button, and a stunning centre console swooping through the centre of the cabin to frame the central display screen. Underpinning it all, the sweeping front fascia is finished with a distinctive touch – vertically-grained timber veneer, or your choice of modern alternative.

The centre console – a gleaming piano black in our test vehicle – conceals a spacious receptacle for small items plus two cup holders, which are carefully positioned to enable the driver to access a centre screen angled slightly to their favour. As impressive as these centrepiece flourishes are, the most convincing testament to how far the C-Class has shifted upmarket lies in the door furniture detailing. Sculpted armrests look and feel as though they were built for a first-class airline seat, while the three-dimensional door trims are theatrically backlit by 64-colour interior strip lighting. Even the inlaid electric seat adjustment panel has left push levers behind in favour of touch sensitivity.

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class interior

Door trims are theatrically backlit by 64-colour interior strip lighting. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

The steering wheel also vaults into a new era, with double horizontal arms to better define the numerous functions they house. Touch controllers, initially unfamiliar for drivers more used to traditional buttons or toggles, quickly become intuitive. The AMG-inspired wheel itself is wide with a flattened bottom section and perforated grip areas, and falls perfectly to hand.

The C-Class driving experience

Now that we’ve suitably lingered on the settings and displays (and also personalised them via the intuitive latest generation of the MBUX infotainment system) it’s time to push the Start button.

Immediately, it’s clear that very little audible feedback filters into the cabin from a turbocharged four-cylinder up front that’s good for 190 kW and 400 Nm in this C 300 model. That impression remains throughout our drive, with extraordinary road noise suppression – another S-Class-like trait.

Power delivery feels more akin to a naturally-aspirated six-cylinder engine – responsive and plentiful, albeit without the noise and vibration you might expect from a bigger unit. It's well matched to an intuitive nine-speed auto that can be toggled via the choice of drive modes to be unobtrusive (Comfort), economical (Eco) or to respond more keenly to driver inputs in Sport mode.

The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class rear view

Choose from Comfort, Eco or Sport drive modes. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

The C 300 sits on standard 19-inch rims (the C 200 model gets 18-inch) and our test vehicle rides exceptionally well on Adaptive Suspension – the latter, unfortunately, was temporarily unavailable to order due to supply constraints at the time of writing, but expected to return.

In any case, the combination of willing engine, agile transmission and responsive steering make driving this C 300 feel like a more premium drive than you might expect. While the full S-Class experience remains the epitome, the new C-Class is impressively closer than it’s ever been.

Discover the all new C-Class and book a test drive.

By Steve Colquhoun