Monday, January 22, 2007

New Mercedes C-Class

It's taken a 14 million-mile detour to get here, but the new Mercedes C-Class has finally arrived.

This is the car that Mercedes hopes will reassert its status as builder of the sturdiest damn exec saloons in the world, and the car that everyone else hopes might just put the 'fun' back into 'trust-fund manager company car'.

That's why it's done 14 million miles. A generation of shoddily built models dented Mercedes previously bulletproof reputation, so the C-Class developers put the new car through a gruelling real-world testing programme.

Some 280 prototypes covered more than 14 million test miles across the world. (Bah. The Stig does 14 million miles before breakfast. On his bike.)

But obviously the Benz engineers aren't taking any chances with their 3-Series rival. Not really surprising, because the success or failure of the C-Class may well define Mercedes' future. The last generation of C-Class was Merc's biggest seller worldwide, shifting more than two million units in its seven-year lifespan.

A massive chunk of these cars were snapped up by company car drivers, and although Merc is doing its damndest to woo a younger generation to the C-Class, without a core of fleet buyers, the three-point star could find itself on a rather rapid burnout.

This explains why the new C-Class represents an evolution of the previous model rather than a radical overhaul.

It's more taut and compact-looking, with definite nods to the styling of the latest S-Class. A sharp, rising crease along the doorline highlights a more angular, wedged profile, and the front end - especially the headlights - has been straightened too. Gone are the goggle-eyed orbs of the previous model, replaced with sharper, squarer clusters that taper towards the bottom of the grill.

Interesting thing, that grill. If you look closely at our ever-so-sexy photos, you'll see the C-Class has two very distinct front ends. The more aggressive grill, with the whopping three-point star slapped bang in the middle, belongs to the Sport range.

Mercedes says that the hulking badge emphasises the driving dynamics and aggressive intent of the Sport line. A touch hopeful, perhaps, but it's definitely the looker of the two.

The more sedate nose with the classic bonnet-top badge appears on the SE and Elegance models. The SE line is replacing the Classic range as Mercedes big fleet shifter, so expect to see that front end peering at you from the car park of every edge-of-town business hotel within the next year.

And it's a safe bet that under the bonnet of that ubiquitous middle-manager-mobile you'll find the 1.8-litre petrol engine, a reworked version of the block found in the current C318. Mercedes engineers have massaged another 13bhp from the four-cylinder petrol engine, boosting overall power to 156bhp.

There are similar power upgrades for the three diesel options and the other four petrol engines, including the range-topping 3.5-litre V6. Range-topping, that is, until an AMG version arrives sometime early next year. No word on the details yet, but we reckon they could squeeze the C63 under that hood. Please?

Under the surface it's the usual story of Mercedes technological wizardry and acronym-love. We could go into detail, but suffice to say that in the event of a crash, you'll be ensconced in more letters than Anne Robinson's postman.

It's the same story inside the cabin. The interior reeks of Teutonic functionality, right down to the fold-down information screen and that oddly wonky steering wheel.

The new C-Class reaches the UK in June, and although there's no firm word on prices, the big bods at Mercedes reckon it won't be any more expensive than its predecessor - adjusting for inflation, that is.

© Source: article on topgear

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