The next-generation 2008 C-Class sedan is slightly larger than its highly successful predecessor, with a greater emphasis on agility, comfort and safety. With a nod to the recently introduced S-Class sedan, the look of the new mid-size C-Class reveals the latest Mercedes design idiom that's characterized by an edgy interplay of taut lines and wide, rounded surfaces. Revised suspension and steering help make the new C-Class noticeably more agile, along with a new slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission for the C300 Sport model.
In the U.S. market, the new C-Class will be launched this fall with three V6-powered models – the C350 Sport, the C300 Luxury and the C300 Sport. In addition, the C300 Sport and Luxury models will be available with an all new 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system mated to a seven-speed transmission. New standard equipment includes a power sunroof, eight-way power front seats with lumbar support, two-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and a central controller with a seven-inch display screen.
The AMG-inspired C-Class Sport models can be identified by the iconic three-pointed star in the front grille, a design cue usually reserved for its coupes and convertibles. In addition to the grille-mounted star, the new C-Class Sport models come with AMG cladding – deeper front and rear aprons as well as under-door rocker panels – and twin-spoke 17-inch wheels of staggered width. The car also features sport shocks, springs and stabilizer bars that provide a crisper ride and more than a half-inch lower ride height. Instead of the Luxury model's traditional four-spoke wheel and burl walnut trim, Sport models come with three-spoke steering wheels and either aluminum (C300) or black Birdseye maple (C350) interior trim.
More space means more comfort. With a body that's 3.7 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider than the previous model, the new C-Class boasts a noticeably roomier cabin in both the front and rear seating areas, and an increased wheelbase of 1.8 inches. The new car has more luggage room, too – according to the VDA measuring method, the trunk capacity is now 16.8 cubic feet – four percent more than the outgoing model.
Engines & Technology
In the US, two engines will be offered for the start, both of them six-cylinders. The base C300 Luxury and Sport models will be powered by a 3.0l V6 with 228 hp, while the C350 models will get the 268 hp 3.5l V6 already known from the previous generation.
As modern all-wheel-drive systems become even more refined, they are becoming increasingly popular, especially in the luxury car market. With negligible weight and fuel-efficiency tradeoffs, full-time four-wheel-drive systems provide year-round traction and stability benefits on both wet and dry roads. The latest version of the Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system is optionally available on the new-generation C300 Sport and the C300 Luxury model. After making its debut on the new-generation
S-Class sedan, the new 4MATIC system features a totally redesigned full-time all-wheel-drive system that's integrated into the seven-speed automatic transmission. The new system fits right into the standard body and utilizes the existing front suspension – gone are the special suspension parts and wider transmission tunnel that were necessary on earlier 4MATIC systems.The extra gears and shafts that drive the front wheels now weigh only 145 pounds more than the rear-wheel-drive model. Fuel efficiency has been improved, due to a number of innovative measures that minimize the energy needed to turn the extra hardware.
"Agility Control" is the term used by Mercedes-Benz for all new and further developments that improve both comfort and agility in equal measure. This standard package includes a special suspension, which controls the shock absorber forces according to the driving situation: when driving normally with low shock absorber impulses, the damping forces are automatically reduced for a noticeable improvement in ride comfort – but without any compromise in handling safety. When driving more dynamically, the maximum damping forces are set and the car is effectively stabilised.
Mercedes-Benz has also developed the "Advanced Agility" package with a sporty driving mode, which will become optionally available from autumn 2007. This offers the driver a choice of two gearshift programmes: Sport and Comfort. Within these programmes the shock absorber for each wheel has infinitely variable electronic control. A newly developed speed-sensitive steering with a more direct ratio, variable centring and adaptation of the accelerator characteristics and automatic transmission shift points is also included in the package.
"Adaptive Brake" is another new development in the area of running gear technology. This is based on the technology of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and provides additional support functions for even more safety and comfort. Examples include Start-Off Assist for uphill gradients, priming the braking system in critical situations and light contact to dry the brake discs in wet conditions.
During the course of its development, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class successfully passed more than 100 crash tests, including the particularly demanding, in-house impact tests of which some go well beyond the legal requirements. Occupant protection is based on an intelligently designed bodyshell, 70 percent of which consists of high-strength and ultra high-strength steel. Compared to the previous series, Mercedes-Benz has enlarged the deformation zones even further and improved energy flows. The front-end structure of the new C-Class has four independently acting impact levels, which enable forces to be distributed over a wide area while bypassing the passenger cell.
The safety technology in the interior has been complemented with the very latest protection systems. Seven airbags are included as standard equipment: two adaptive airbags for the driver and front passenger, a kneebag for the driver, two sidebags in the front seat backrests and two large windowbags which extend from the A to the C-pillar during a side impact. The driver, front passenger and the passengers on the outer rear seats also benefit from belt tensioners and belt force limiters as standard. The standard head restraints operate on the NECK PRO principle: during a rear-end collision the padded surfaces are pushed forward within milliseconds to support the heads of the driver and front passenger at an early stage. This significantly reduces the risk of a whiplash injury.
Mercedes-Benz has developed flashing brake lights as a major help in reducing rear-end collisions, and these are also standard equipment in the new C-Class. If the driver needs to brake hard at speeds in excess of 50 km/h, the brake lights flash rapidly to warn drivers following behind.
PRE-SAFE® is another special feature of the new Mercedes Saloon. This preventive occupant protection system (optional) is linked to active safety systems such as ESP® and Brake Assist, and is able to recognise critical driving manoeuvres at a very early stage. If the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is in danger of crashing as a result of heavy under or oversteering, or if the driver needs to brake very heavily in a dangerous situation, PRE-SAFE® activates certain systems as a precaution to prepare the vehicle and its occupants for an impending accident. Accordingly the passive safety phase does not begin when the impact has already occurred, but before an impending collision.
The Intelligent Light System developed by Mercedes-Benz is also available in this vehicle class for the first time. Powerful bi-xenon headlamps provide five different lighting functions suited to typical driving and weather conditions: country mode, motorway mode, enhanced foglamps, the Active Light System and cornering lights. Yet another important contribution by Mercedes-Benz to safer driving in poor visibility.
When developing the cockpit, Mercedes designers took their lead from the sporty sector and included clearly laid-out dial instruments such as may be found in roadsters or coupés. Silver-coloured bezels, black dial faces, white markings and glowing orange needles perfectly combine form with function for a high value impression and easy legibility.
Equally clearly laid out and well-arranged, the two-tone dashboard and centre console of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class form a harmonious unit in line with the "design cast from a single mould" principle. The same applies to the integration of the colour display at the upper centre of the dashboard. This is perfectly positioned within the driver’s line of vision, but can also be covered or folded away as required, without switching off the radio, navigation system or other units linked to the display. If the pivoting cover of the display aperture is closed, the infotainment units continue to operate.
The central colour display is part of the new control and display concept which the new C-Class has adopted from the luxury-class Mercedes models. Its major advantage is rapid access to frequently used functions, which means that the driver does not need to relearn, is able to maintain familiar habits, and feels at home immediately. All the control and display elements necessary and important during a journey are located in the cockpit, i.e. in immediate proximity to the driver.
In the same way, linking the standard multifunction steering wheel with the instrument cluster is an important precondition for rapid access to a wide range of information and functions in the driver’s direct line of vision. Other functions such as infotainment are shown by the display at the centre of the dashboard. The driver and front passenger are able to control the radio, navigation system or telephone by using a controller on the centre console, or access the main menus using direct selection keys.
The Audio 20, Audio 50 APS and COMAND APS systems are a range of newly developed, optional infotainment units for C-Class passengers. They all feature a keypad for entering telephone numbers and radio frequencies, as well as a Bluetooth interface which wirelessly connects the mobile phone to the hands-free system. In the Audio 50 APS, the route guidance information – some of it as a visually attractive automatic junction zoom display - is shown by means of arrows on the fixed colour display (4.9-inch) in the dashboard. An integral 6-CD changer and the LINGUATRONIC voice control system are available on request.
The multimedia system COMAND APS offers even more functions than before in the new C-Class. One new feature is a Europe-wide navigation system whose data are stored on a hard disc (30 gigabytes). The high-resolution maps are shown on a colour display (7-inch) which pivots away and disappears beneath a cover at the touch of a button. Other functions of COMAND APS include a music server with a four-gigabyte memory, a DVD-player for video and audio, and the LINGUATRONIC voice control system, which Mercedes-Benz has likewise improved further: the driver no longer needs to spell out the names of countries, towns or roads, but is able to speak them as whole words. The voice control system is just as convenient when selecting radio stations or entries in the telephone directory.