- Knockout good looks inside and out
- Excellent steering
- Improved interior design
- Strong turbocharged engines
- High-tech safety options
- Very near the E-Class in price
- COMAND infotainment continues to lag
- Back seat isn't all that usable
Forget this model's recent past; the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class takes a half-step up in size and a full step ahead of its peer set in sophistication -- and it's now one very charming luxury car.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is slightly larger, more luxurious, and more beautiful than ever before, ushering in a new era of design and equipment for the brand’s mainstream luxury sedan. From the look and feel to the dynamics and technology, the C-Class makes a strong argument for a position as class leader, making strides into territory once held by larger luxury sedans thanks to the entry of the CLA-Class sedan below it.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the 2015 C-Class is its striking exterior. You’d even be forgiven for mistaking it for the much larger and more expensive S-Class from a distance. But we like how the new C-Class doesn't just ape the Mercedes flagship; it has its own profile, and its own details. Inside, the styling upgrade is even more apparent, and even more in line with the S-Class. Large round vents, a flowing center console, and inlaid metallic-look panels in the door all speak a design language that’s usually reserved for larger and more expensive cars.
The 2015 C-Class launched in August, 2014, in just two forms, both coming with standard 4Matic all-wheel drive: the C300 and the C400. The smaller designation denotes a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The larger, the C400, gets a twin-turbocharged V-6 engine good for 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. In the first quarter of 2015, a rear-drive version of the C300 became available; both diesel and hybrid versions are also expected to be offered in America eventually. All announced versions of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class in the U.S. use a seven-speed automatic transmission.
In April, 2015, the new Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S join the 2015 C-Class range, adding huge power figures, impressive handling, and more aggressive style. With a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the standard C63 is capable of very brisk acceleration (4.0 seconds to 60 mph) and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. The C63 S rates 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, reducing 0-60-mph times to 3.9 seconds, but still limited to 155 mph. The C63 S’s extra power and torque is much more noticeable behind the wheel than the stats would suggest, with palpably more power on demand at any given time or rpm.
With the C63 and C63 S on sale, the C400 has rather less riding on its shoulders in terms of performance. But the C400 4Matic, which comes standard with Mercedes’ Airmatic suspension, does not intend to be a sport sedan first and foremost. Instead, it’s a luxury sedan with ample power and a planted, stable ride. The C400 isn't aimed for track-day enthusiasts; don’t count that as a demerit, however, as the 2015 C400’s on-road demeanor is expertly balanced, putting passenger comfort and confident dynamics at the fore.
Between the two non-AMG models, the C300 is our preference. In most kinds of driving, it feels just as quick as the 400; and only when your right foot is mashed to the floor do you notice that it's actually a bit faster -- especially in highway passing situations. It should return significantly better fuel economy, too. And at an event where we drove both, we didn't notice any real improvement in ride, and we preferred the more straightforward handling of the standard suspension.
A highlight of the new 2015 C-Class, including the AMG models, is its interior, which is the new class leader in terms of style and sophistication. Even apart from the headline option items, like a Burmester sound system, new touch-controlled COMAND infotainment system, or Mercedes’ suite of safety technologies called Intelligent Drive, the cabin of the new C-Class exudes luxury in a way that none of the existing alternatives from other brands—or even Mercedes’ own outgoing C-Class—can manage. Material quality, fit and finish, and design are all top-notch, class-leading. There’s no aspect of the cabin that feels like a cut corner or a cost-savings measure. Optional trims include a gorgeous open-pore black ash wood that feels like it comes from a car several classes higher.
The luxurious cabin has grown larger for the new generation as well, a freedom gained by the introduction of the smaller CLA-Class below. Greater wheelbase means more rear-seat leg room, and while six-footers won’t have abundant space for knees, elbows, or noggins, they’ll fit with adequate comfort for even fairly extended drives. The front seat is spacious, with plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room, though the width of the (rather beautiful) center console can impinge on side-to-side knee room for the longer-legged. Entry and exit to the back seat also seems to have fallen victim to the roofline and more aggressive door cutlines. Trunk space is 12.6 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks flip forward easily (and flat).
So far, the C-Class has a mix of crash-test ratings—not quite top-tier but respectable. In federal testing it's earned a mix of four- and five-star ratings, while in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) it has 'good' results but full results aren't yet in (for small overlap, for example). Gas mileage ratings span a range from 24 mpg combined to 28 mpg combined, depending on drivetrain specifications.
Mercedes’ suite of technology in the 2015 C-Class puts it almost on par with the E-Class and S-Class in terms of safety and driver assistance. In fact, many of the systems are identical to the others, while a few are arriving in the C-Class first, before moving to there set of the lineup. The Intelligent Drive package rolls up many of the headline aspects, and includes Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera system that further aids lane-keeping and semi-autonomous functions, brake assist, active parking assist, and a surprisingly effective 360-degree camera system, among other features. A head-up display can relay navigation instructions, vehicle speed, and other driving data.
The new COMAND infotainment system gets Mercedes’ latest mbrace2 app suite and an all-new touchpad controller that hovers above the familiar (but now knurled) COMAND control wheel. This new touchpad system offers gestural input, including swipes, pinch-zoom, and tap/click maneuvers, all familiar to computer or tablet users. The touchpad is better in idea than in execution, however, with inconsistent responses and behaviors that aren't as well-coordinated with the menu system as they could be (or as smooth as in a typical tablet).
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Elegance and sophistication has come to the smaller sedan class, but the interior is the real star of the design show.
The styling of the new C-Class breaks clearly from former C-Class models, getting larger, and snapping more in line with the latest revision of the S-Class flagship from stem to stern. Up front, the grille is more upright, wearing a slightly re-shaped version of the two-bar grille seen in the previous C-Class, but the similarities end there. The headlights flanking the grille are more intricately styled, with a brow-like light bar running over the dual-inset lamps, crested by a line of LEDs.
The lower portion of the nose is taken up by large air inlets, curved and flared to convey performance without attempting to seem race-inspired. The rises from the grille, shaped with three creases that more clearly define the nose of the car, while the flared front fenders further enhance the performance aspect.
The side profile doesn’t just call it in as an abbreviated form of the S-Class, and the side sheetmetal follows the sculpted-inward look of the E-Class. The rear styling is a pleasant surprise, too; Mercedes bids farewell to sharp corners and the chopped-off decklid profile and gives the C a rounded tail that’s a pleasant, softer complement to the sharp front end.
Inside, Mercedes has also moved design language found in its other new vehicles into the 2015 C-Class, with long lines wrapping aorund the cabin's belt line, layered into tiers. Front and center is a free-standing display at the top of the center stack, three circular vents below, and two thin strips of buttons to control key functions.
The latest iteration of the COMAND controller for the vehicle's infotainment system sits atop the center tunnel, with a mouse-like touchpad puck hovering over a control wheel. In front of the driver, the steering wheel is flat-bottomed and offers a familiar set of controls on either of the horizontal spokes. The instrument panel offers a speedometer and a tachometer in separate analog gauge housings, with a full-color LCD screen between.
Altogether in design, details, and features, the cabin is a knockout. It really could fit right into a luxury flagship with double the price. Whether you expect something contemporary and fresh, or whether you want an updated take on the traditional, it fully fits.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Brisk, capable, but not overly concerned with track-style performance, the 2015 C-Class manages a thoughtful balance in its tune.
The strongest story of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class's upgrades comes from a focus on the mechanical side of things. The C Class sheds up to 200 pounds from the previous car's weight, while upgrading engines with two new models.
Engines are indeed completely different than for the outgoing C-Class, and across the lineup you’ll find both stronger acceleration and better fuel economy. On C300 models, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, while the C400 gets a turbocharged V-6 making 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet.
The twin-turbo V-6 engine is potent, and feels strong in any gear or rpm range; it pulls willingly whether passing at 60 mph or accelerating from a stop. The engine's note, though muted, is pleasant, with a good balance of induction and exhaust sounds delicately penetrating the cabin.
To us, it’s a matter of quick or quicker. The C300 is plenty fast for most; it feels wonderful and whizzy in the way that the CLA45 does; the engine finds its boost almost instantly, and while it doesn’t build to a high-rev frenzy or crackle like in the CLA45, throughout the rev band it feels stronger than the outgoing V-6 in the C350. As for the C400, you might not notice the 88-hp and 81-lb-ft gap between these two engines unless you have your right foot buried; during normal part-throttle driving, both engines feel almost equally perky, surprisingly -- although the sound is quite different, of course.
For those craving even more power and quicker acceleration, the answer is the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 or C63 S, on sale in the U.S. in April, 2015. Both versions use a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine; for the C63 it's rated at 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, while the C63 S gets 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. The resulting acceleration is brisk, if not quite mental: the C63 will hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds; the C63 S takes 3.9 seconds. Both are electronically limited to 155 mph.
Steering in the 2015 C-Class is electrically assisted; but it's one of the best systems available today among luxury cars. Its variable ratio is precise and accurate, delivering predictable results for a given steering input; and there's just a bit of real feedback from the road surface. It's also fairly quick in its ratio, requiring just about 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, making tight maneuvers, especially when parking, that much easier.
The AMG models offer improved steering feel, thanks to a re-engineered front end and AMG-tweaked steering assist. Adjustable dampers control ride quality, an electronic locking differential controls power application (and aids handling), and the whole setup feels much crisper, much more tied together, than the standard non-AMG C-Class range--and more than the competition from BMW.
Weight savings in the 2015 C-Class come from much more significant use of aluminum in the car's structure, up from 10 percent in the previous-generation C-Class to nearly 50 percent in the 2015 model--the chassis itself weighs 154 pounds less than its predecessor. Saving weight means saving fuel, but also improving dynamic performance.
The suspension the new chassis rides on is improved as well, still offering standard steel springs in its base configuration, but now available with the first air suspension system to be offered in the compact luxury segment. The continuously variable damping system can be adjusted through a range of settings including Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Sport+ modes, along with an Individual option that allows the driver to tweak the settings to their own preferences.
In practice, the Airmatic suspension yields a comfortable, smooth ride and, thanks to a progressive-rate tune on the air-spring system, surprisingly little total body roll at the limit. While that sounds good, it's a little disconcerting, keeping oddly flat in all but the tightest corners, and not allowing us to drive as smoothly and feel as ‘in touch’ with the car at times when we want it to momentarily play the role of sport sedan. And there’s no major improvement in ride quality or road noise.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Comfort & Quality
A welcome upgrade to the smaller luxury class, the 2015 C-Class has vaulted ahead of the rest of the class in comfort and luxury.
The new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is noticeably larger than before, growing 3.0 inches in wheelbase, 3.7 inches in overall length, and 1.6 inches in width. The resulting increase in size translates to a roomier, more usable rear seat, as well as more cargo space, now up to 12.6 cubic feet in the trunk.
The interior really takes care of you, especially if you’re in the front seats. The front perches are wonderful, with extendable lower-cushion bolsters, good mid-back support, and full power controls for the front passenger -- all ways that some of the compact luxury rivals let us down. The beltline feels quite high, yet the dash is definitely lower than in previous M-B models, and its predecessor; and we like the combination of security and outward visibility. The cabin stays tight and quiet, too, with excellent isolation of wind noise.
One thing that does let us down is back-seat space. Despite the several inches of added length and wheelbase (and a claimed boost in legroom), there’s really not enough legroom or knee room for those six foot or taller -- and changes to the door cut and roofline back there actually make it tougher to get in versus the outgoing version, we think. Trunk space is indeed vast for this size of car, and the rear seatbacks flip forward, almost effortlessly, with a lever from the trunk side, to provide a flat floor that’s far more convenient than the ski pass-throughs you find in some sedans.
Inside the enlarged cabin, Mercedes has upgraded the look and feel of materials throughout, as well as the technological side controls. A 7-inch central display is standard, with an optional upgrade to an 8.4-inch screen as part of the Multimedia package.
Of course, size isn't everything; there's also the matter of quality, and here, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is unmatched in its segment. Fine wood trim (including a stunning open-pore black ash wood), brushed aluminum, or even piano black plastic--all give a sense of quality and appeal not found in the previous C-Class, or in many competing makes.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
The 2015 C-Class has crash-test results that are good but not great so far—yet an advanced structure and high-tech safety equipment should make it real-world safe.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class hasn't quite achieved top-notch ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but so far its results are impressive. The C-Class is built with safety in mind, from the ground up, and it builds on a strong reputation for safety that's been been reflected in its real-world record.
So far the C-Class has achieved top 'good' results from the IIHS in frontal and side impact, but it hasn't yet been tested in other categories, including the typically tougher small overlap frontal test. From the federal government, results for the C-Class reveal a mix of four- and five-star ratings, with an overall rating a somewhat lackluster four stars.
Pretty much the entire suite of Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive active-safety features are now offered in the C-Class -- and for the typical big-city-commuting C-Class customer, they’re probably better put to use here than in the flagship S-Class. Highlights include Attention Assist that warns you if you might be distracted or dozing off; Crosswind Assist; a Pre-Safe braking and pedestrian detection system; Collision Prevention Assist Plus; BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist; and an Active Lane Keeping Assist system that will steer to keep you in your lane for some seconds before giving you a stern warning. There’s also Active Parking Assist, to almost effortlessly get into parallel spots. And with Distronic Plus with Steering Assist you get one of the best and most advanced active cruise control systems.
In addition to its suite of advanced safety systems and optional driver assistance extras, the 2015 C-Class features a unibody structure built from roughly half aluminum and half steel, much of the latter being high-strength steel. Attention paid to crumple zones to maximize energy absorption without intruding on the passenger compartment or key mechanical areas of the car, including the gas tank, should prove assets once the new C-Class is crash-tested.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
From Burmester sound to semi-autonomous driving, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers more than any other in its class.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers a standard and optional feature list that looks like it belongs to a car at least one class higher; it's certainly above the norm for the smaller luxury sedan segment. From infotainment to safety to driver assistance, the 2015 C-Class offers a bit of everything--and sometimes quite a lot of it.
Standard equipment in the C-Class now includes that capacitive touch pad, plus keyless start, power folding mirrors, a power driver’s seat with memory settings, folding rear seatbacks, USB connectivity, and the seven-inch display and COMAND interface. Highlights from the options list, outside of the active-safety area, include a panorama sunroof, head-up display, a Sport Package with AMG bodywork, AMG wheels, and a sport suspension, a lighting package with LED headlamps and Active Curve Illumination. The Airmatic system is part of an Air Balance Package.
Some of the most interesting technological upgrades come on the safety front, including electronic assists to warn of driver inattentiveness, alert the driver of impending collisions (from speeds as low as 4 mph), autonomously brake (from speeds as high as 124 mph), and prevent rear-end collisions at speeds of up to 31 mph, and more. And the Distronic Plus system offers semi-autonomous traffic assistance, capable of following the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 37 mph, even in the absence of lane markers. Furthermore, an advanced brake assist system detects stationary vehicles or pedestrians, braking automatically to reduce the chance or prevent collisions entirely at up to 45 mph.
Enhanced Active Lane Keeping system can hold the 2015 C-Class in its lane, applying the brakes along one side of the car to prevent unintentional drifting.Active parking assistance, a 360-degree camera, and traffic sign assistance (which warns of speed limits, no-entry signs, and other information), are also part of the high-tech safety list. All models will offer numerous airbags, including pelvis airbags for the front row, a new window airbag, side airbags for the outboard rear seats, and a knee airbag for the driver.
Where the center stack meets the console, where there’s ordinarily just a dial in other vehicles, there’s something that’s impossible to miss: a new capacitive touchpad controller, which looks a little bit like a rounded-form smartphone mounted at a slight angle. It includes hot buttons for favorites and audio features, and recognizes some gestures. In theory, the touch pad is a very elegant solution. In execution, it’s not as smooth as it might promise; most notably, scrolling just isn’t as smooth as those with tablets have come to expect.
There are various ways to get back to the homepage, to audio and navigation menus, and to car settings. However, after using it for a full day, COMAND is still confounding. It might feel familiar and somewhat easier to use than those who have had previous versions of the system (and the Siri EyesFree support is cool and, from what we've seen, flawless), but the menu system and lack of smooth scrolling makes iDrive feel elegant and streamlined, and highlights the effectiveness of MMI. It’s time for COMAND to evolve into something else that better matches how we today use tablets.
The matte-metallic brightwork of the Burmester in-door speaker enclosures are unmistakable, but we weren’t nearly as blown away by the sound of that system, which seemed to muddle its lower midrange and bass in its surround mode. Playing jazz, with the genre's typically clearer frequency separations, it sounded great, though.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is no hybrid, but for its class, it scores decent gas mileage.
The official gas mileage figures for the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class reveal it to be a remarkably efficient vehicle in light of its size, luxury, and performance. On the other hand, it's no diesel or hybrid in terms of greenness.
The C300 4Matic uses a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to score 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined—a gain of two mpg over the previous 1.8-liter turbocharged engine in last year’s C250, despite increased performance and the addition of standard 4Matic all-wheel drive as well.
The newly-arrived C300 in rear-drive form improves the 4Matic all-wheel-drive version's gas mileage figures slightly, at 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined.
The 2015 C400 4Matic rates only marginally poorer at the pump, despite its turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine: 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.
In an early drive with the four-cylinder C300 4Matic, we saw more than 30 mpg in a 90-mile mix of freeways, suburban traffic-light conditions, and tight two-lane country roads. Then over a much longer trip of more than 200 miles in the V-6 C400 4Matic we averaged around 21 mpg on a mix of two-lane rural roads and freeways.
Neither the 2015 Mercedes-AMG C63 nor the C63 S have been rated by the EPA as yet.