What happens when you take an already excellent, best-selling range and give it the most extensive update in the history of its series? We discovered the answer to this first-hand at the international driving event hosted by Mercedes-Benz across Luxembourg and the Moselle region recently, where we had the pleasure of experiencing the power and prowess of the German marque’s new line of C-Class and AMG C 43 4MATIC.
My sweet ride on this trip was the C 43 4MATIC Cabriolet, a two-door beauty in graphic grey metallic, with a sleek AMG leather black interior, and in stunning contrast, a red convertible top. From the test car allocation point at Luxembourg Airport, my driving partner and I embarked on a three-hour drive in the two-door beauty to the main event venue in Gonnesweiler, Germany — ample time to get acquainted with the car.
Much of our drive in Luxembourg took us along Autoroute 1 where long stretches of the motorway allowed us to put the car’s AMG Speedshift TCT 9G transmission and the rear-biased torque distribution of the all-wheel drive AMG Performance 4MATIC to the test. Powered by a 3.0 litre V6 engine, enabling the car to accelerate from zero to 100kph in an impressive 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 250kph, it comes as no surprise it performs beautifully in the speed, agility and control segment.
There is a change of scenery as we begin manoeuvring through the wine region of Moselle, swapping the wind turbine-speckled backdrop with scenic rows and rows of vineyards such as the Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, and a view of the Moselle River that flows through Luxembourg, Germany and France. The weather was nice and cool, perfect for cruising with the cabriolet’s top down.
The winding roads on this part of the route offer a wonderful way to test the manual driving option, which can be chosen in the centre console using the shift paddles on the steering wheel. It took a little bit of practice to get the hang of the manual system but once you do, the driving experience is immediately more exciting. As expected, gear shifting is seamless and the steering wheel is incredibly responsive in handling, ensuring us a smooth drive to the Seezeitlodge Hotel and Spa.
Making good better
“You may not see much difference to the exterior but it is because we believe that this (the existing design) is already a very strong offer to the customers,” explains Britta Seeger, a member of Daimler AG’s board of management for Mercedes-Benz Cars marketing and sales during our one-on-one driving interview.
In coming up with the new C-Class line, the experts at Mercedes-Benz changed some 6,500 components — more than half the number of components in an average C-Class sedan. Eighty per cent of the car’s electronics have also been replaced, enabling a number of functions in the car, such as the digital cockpit, and significantly enhancing the performance of driver assistance systems.
The first thing one may notice about the car is that the exterior has an unmistakably sportier look and feel owing to more clearly drawn contours on the front and rear. Fitted with an AMG radiator grille in a twin-louvre design, it has a powerfully sculpted front apron and a new rear apron with round twin tailpipe trim elements.
As always, Mercedes-Benz offers a selection of new features that improve the driving experience, one of which is the steering wheel in nappa leather. Comprising a heavily contoured rim, flattened bottom section and perforated grip area, it delivers swift and intuitive operation as promised.
Other cool new features that the C-Class is fitted with are automatic theft notification and park damage detection. In the event that the car is damaged during parking or gets towed, the owner receives an automatic push message via Mercedes Me Connect, alerting him or her of the incident.
The multi-beam LED headlights with 84 single LEDs and Ultra Range high beams — with the maximum level of light intensity permitted by law — are another first for this series, catering to safety and driving comfort.
If it is customisation you seek, there are new metallic colours such as Mojave silver for all models, emerald green for sedans and T-models and graphite grey for coupes and cabriolets. New alloy wheels, including aerodynamically optimised versions, are also available. For the interior, the options range from new upholstery in magma grey and saddle brown to new trims of brown walnut and anthracite oak with authentic materials.
Taking a leaf out of the S-Class book
Besides the new generation of steering wheels that allow for direct Distronic and cruise control, the control and display concepts are from the current S-Class too and are reflected in the state-of-the-art fully digital 12in instrument display and 10in media display.
The car’s safety systems meet S-Class standards as well. Speed can be predictively adjusted for intersections, bends or roundabouts. It comes with active steering assistant and intuitive active lane-change assistant. Camera and radar systems have been improved to see up to 500m ahead and in 3D for the first 90m.
These are among the new features that potential owners of this new C-Class are bound to appreciate. Seeger explains that “in China — the biggest growing market for the C-Class — 85% of C-Class customers are under 40. Meanwhile, in the US, which is one of the three top markets for the C-Class besides China and Germany, more than 40% of the drivers are women.”
Despite the varying demographics across markets, the C-Class owners share a common love for the design, lifestyle elements, agility and sportiness of this family of cars, which, as Seeger describes it, is the “strongest volume selling type of Mercedes-Benz”. Having driven one of the models, it is easy to see why.
This article first appeared on Nov 5, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.