Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a junior S-Class

The current-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a classy and comfortable saloon that sets impressively big standards in its segment.

mercedes c-class direct front staticIf what you “C” here in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is what you get, you’d be driving in the lap of S-Class luxury for about half the price. Indeed, the latest C-Class looks like a stylishly shrunken scale model of Mercedes’ flagship saloon, especially when viewed from the rear three-quarter angle. Besides boasting some of the S-Class’ grand style, the C-Class now also offers a few top-of-the-line features worthy of, well, a flagship.

Compared to the old W204 C-Class, the new W205 is up to 100kg lighter, of which 40kg comes from the greater use of aluminium in the bodywork – 48 percent of total surface area (including the roof, doors, bonnet, front fenders and boot lid) versus 9 percent for the predecessor (whose 2011 midlife update included a bonnet made from the light metal instead of steel). By vehicle weight, aluminium now makes up 24 percent, versus just 4 percent for the old C.

More obvious, of course, is the physical upsizing. The new C-Class has grown by 95mm in length and 40mm in breadth, and sits on an 80mm-longer wheelbase with wider tracks (+41mm front, +23mm rear).

With the growth in dimensions, the C is now bigger than the CLA, which is how it should be (the previous C is actually slightly shorter from bumper to bumper and narrower than its sibling based on the A-Class supermini).

mercedes c-class cockpitLike before, there’s a choice of two different nose designs: one with the tristar emblem parked prominently at the centre of a “thrusting” grille, and the other with the tristar badge standing proudly on the bonnet, above a classic chrome-laden Mercedes grille.

The traditional nose treatment, only available with the Exclusive equipment line, suits an “uncle”, whereas the sleeker facade is meant for his “nephew”.

But both gentlemen will be equally impressed by the Airpanel, a factory option for the trad radiator grille that uses moveable shutters to regulate the frontal air flow (and resistance) according to the amount of cooling required for the engine – if the ventilation situation allows, those louvres can close the grille’s “Venetian blind” completely to help the front end cut through the air more efficiently.

mercedes c-class dashboard metersThe Airpanel is the most, um, dynamic part of the car’s aerodynamics package, which translates into a drag coefficient as low as 0.24, achieved by the C220 BlueTec BlueEfficiency model with aero-optimised wheels. The previous model couldn’t do better than a Cd of 0.26.

Other wind-cheating tricks include a smooth underbody, “hidden” wheel-arch canards, a winglet-shaped brim for the notchback, and so-called separation edges integrated with the tail-light clusters.

Seated behind the wheel and seeing the whole dashboard ensemble, the first thought that comes to my mind is: “This C is really classy.” I reckon that owners of the old C-Class will think they’ve been upgraded from Premium Economy to Business Class – on German airline Lufthansa, of course. Even 2014 E-Class owners might feel short-changed and wonder whether “E” is positioned above “C” or alongside.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is very good, and the wiper blades are parked out of sight now (they can be seen at the bottom of the windscreen in the old model). The Mercedes designers even put three “slashes” on each side-mirror cap above its A-pillar mount, like with the S-Class, just so that it wouldn’t look too blank from inside the cabin. Purely aesthetics, nothing to do with aerodynamics.

mercedes c-class dashboard clock