2015 Mercedes-Benz C400W4 SedanPosted on October 14th, 2014
Sport sedan rises to the next level
By Nina Russin
Although the C-Class sedan has always been a bread-and-butter model for Mercedes-Benz, there is nothing bread-and-butter about the new C-Class. Competing against the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS, the smaller sibling to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has brought its A-game with a lighter more rigid body, two powerful engine choices, all-new suspension and eye-catching aerodynamic body.
With the new CLA filling the brand’s entry luxury slot, the C-Class moves upscale. The C400 tested comes with the larger of the two engines: a bi-turbo 3-liter, 329-horsepower V-6. It’s not the horsepower but the torque that tells the real story: 354 foot-pounds available at engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm. Direct injection makes the engine more efficient and enhances throttle response, while the seven-speed automatic transmission stretches fuel economy on the highway to 29 miles-per-gallon.
Unlike its predecessor, almost half the body parts on the 2015 model are aluminum, shaving close to 200 pounds off the car. That, combined with aerodynamic improvements has made the C-Class slipperier in the wind tunnel and quieter on the open road.
An all-new four-wheel independent suspension incorporates a four-link configuration up front and five link design in back. Buyers can upgrade to the optional air suspension.
Base price on the test car is $48,590, putting the new C-Class at the heart of the luxury market. Options include active park assist, a panoramic sunroof, heads-up display, 18-inch alloy AMG wheels, air suspension, an infotainment upgrade, hands-free trunk access and a safety package that includes steering assist, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection with auto-brake and rear collision protection. Adding the $925 destination charge, final MSRP is $62,905.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
I spent a day behind the wheel of the new C-Class this week. Because of the tight schedule, the drive consisted entirely of surface streets and highways in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Chandler, Arizona. Although my time behind the wheel was brief, it was enough to realize that the newest C-Class leaves the outgoing model in the dust, and most likely some competitors as well.
The architect Mies van der Rohe once said: ‘God is in the details.’ Details are what elevate the new C-Class above the pack. Steering response is crisper, the suspension more nimble and acceleration off the line more satisfying.
Mercedes-Benz engineers credit the new sedan’s crisp steering response to the revised suspension. Not being an engineer, I can’t agree or disagree, but I do know that at a time when many luxury cars have numb-feeling electric power steering systems, it’s a delight to feel the car turn at the same time as the steering wheel.
Braking isn’t complicated. It should be firm and linear and in the 2015 C-Class, it’s just that. What applies to the brakes should also apply to the throttle. Cars with harsh tip-offs can be fun for teenagers but most of us find it annoying. The smooth, linear launch that the bi-turbo V-6 and seven-speed automatic transmission offer is much more satisfying.
A new generation of active safety features
Although Mercedes-Benz is not the only automaker to use haptic feedback as part of its lane departure warning system, their engineers have figured out how to do it best. Competitive products send the signal through the driver’s seat, something that will definitely get the driver’s attention, but can also be distracting. The Mercedes-Benz system sends the feedback through the steering wheel. The signal is not unpleasant but is certainly enough to alert the driver to take corrective action.
The blind spot monitoring system seems much less likely to over-warn the driver: a problem with other systems on the market. For example, if the driver is changing lanes and a car approaches two lanes over, some systems will mistakenly sound an audible alarm. This is confusing for the driver, since the adjacent lane is open and clear to move into. The Benz system does a good job of determining which lanes are occupied and which are not.
The heads-up display is bright enough to be easily seen, but not so much as to be distracting. It’s an easy way for the driver to monitor the speedometer without taking his eyes off the road.
What applies to the powertrain and safety systems is also true for interior ergonomics. A lot of car companies have adjustable thigh bolsters, but as someone who has disproportionately long femurs, I know that most of these systems fall short. I was able to adjust the thigh bolsters on the Mercedes-Benz driver’s seat to support my upper legs all the way from the hip to the back of the knee. On a long road trip, that kind of thing makes a big difference.
The rest of the seat adjustments worked equally well, although I would have liked more aggressive lumbar support. Designers incorporated most of the infotainment controls into a single mouse-type device on the center console, eliminating what might have been a lot of clutter on the instrument panel. The small electronic shift lever creates additional room in the center console.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob: adding a measure of safety after dark. An option package adds hands-free access to the trunk as well, making it easy to load in large cargo.
The Mercedes-Benz C400 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, LED headlamps, daytime running lamps, driver attention assist plug collision prevention assist, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and 24-hour roadside assistance as part of the automaker’s four-year/50,000 mile warranty.
The all-new C-Class is rolling into Mercedes-Benz dealerships nationwide
Like: A stylish sport sedan with exceptional performance and a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Expensive option packages add significantly to the final MSRP
Model: C400W4 sedan
Base price: $48,590
As tested: $62,905
Horsepower: 329 Hp @ 5250 rpm
Torque: 354 lbs.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/29 mpg city/highway
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