Key Insights: 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class


The new W206-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which will be officially unveiled later this month, takes numerous cues from the awe-inspiring S-Class 1st-class sedan. The newcomer is larger (therefore more spacious) and refined than its predecessor. What's more, it's more engaging to drive ­– reports say.

The images in this article originally appeared in an Autocar article.

As was the case with its predecessor, the upcoming C-Class (W206) is a pivotal model for Mercedes-Benz South Africa, which will build the newcomer for both local and international markets at its East London plant, following a R10-billion investment in the Eastern Cape production facility on the part of the firm's German parent company.

The new C-Class is based on the Three-pointed Star’s Modular Rear Architecture, which also underpins the new S-Class (due here in the 2nd quarter of 2021), but it incorporates a much higher percentage of steel than aluminium compared with its grand-saloon sibling. The new range further utilises a completely new 48V electrical architecture.

The W206-generation is notably longer (by 65 mm) than the model it replaces. Pic credit: Autocar.

Christian Früh, who has overseen the development of the past 3 C-Class models, told Autocar that the newcomer is 65 mm longer than the W205 (which includes gains of 10 mm for the front overhang, 30 mm for the wheelbase and 25 mm for the rear overhang). The increased dimensions have resulted, inter alia, in 25 mm more leg- and 13 mm more headroom for rear occupants.

Although most of the finer aesthetic details of the rear-wheel-drive sports executive have yet to be revealed (they’re obviously obscured by camouflage cladding on the development units shown here), the W206 is instantly recognisable as a C-Class, even “if every panel and detail has been altered”. Note the muscular bonnet contours, larger wheelhouses and (perhaps less obvious) wider front track.

The new C-Class will feature one of the biggest infotainment screens ever fitted to a sports executive model. Pic credit: Autocar.

Compared with the smart but conventional interior fascias of the BMW 3 Series and recently updated Audi A4, the design of the new C-Class’ dashboard is bound to be revelation… Instead of a traditional cowled instrument binnacle, the W206 will feature a rectangular digital driver’s display, while a large portrait-style tablet will substitute the usual landscape-style touchscreen infotainment system (both screens will be powered by the latest-generation MBUX, which is also said to support over-the-air firmware updates). We expect the fascia to be largely devoid of switches, save for the "hazard button"!

Lending weight to the rumour that the upcoming Mercedes-AMG C63 will be powered by a twin-turbo 2.0-litre 4-cylinder motor combined with significant electric assistance (410 kW), is Mercedes-Benz’s confirmation that all the engines in the new C-Class will be mild-hybrid 4-cylinder units because the model’s “engine bay would (reportedly) not be able to accommodate a Benz inline-6 motor”.

The W206 looks set to be the first C-Class model to not be offered with a 6-cylinder (or V8) motor. Pic credit: Autocar.

AutoExpress reports that the new range's petrol-engine line-up will start with a 125-kW C180, followed by a 150-kW C200 and then the 190 kW C300, which combines a 2.0-litre turbopetrol motor (allied with an integrated starter-generator and mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission). The C300 reportedly has an overboost function that can free up an extra 20 kW for up to 30 sec under full throttle. There will also be a pair of hybrid derivatives and anoraks will know that Mercedes-Benz's East London plant already produces a hybrid C-Class derivative...

On the turbodiesel side, there will be a 147-kW C220d, plus the 195-kW C300d. The 4MATIC all-wheel drivetrain will be optional on mid-range derivatives, but standard on the C300 and C300d.

After being availed passenger rides in a pre-production version of the W206-generation C300 4Matic, the British publications noted that Mercedes-Benz had markedly improved the C-Class’ refinement; Autocar reported “less engine vibration under load and remarkably little wind buffeting, while AutoExpress ascribed “this newfound composure… to the (optional) 4-wheel-steering. Even if the rear wheels turn only 2.5 degrees instead of more than 10 degrees like in the S-Class, the car handles much better than before.”

The newcomer has a slippery drag coefficient of just 0.24 Cd. Pic credit: Autocar.

Früh is quoted as saying that a number of measures to boost the C-Class' rigidity have led to improved steering feel and handling precision. Autocar praises the pre-production car's “engaging (handling) fluidity, thanks to excellent body control; progressive roll and a front-end largely unperturbed by mid-corner (road) imperfections.”

The W06’s suspension set-up has a similar double-wishbone front- and multi-link rear setup to that of the current C-Class. “The overall composure on the 10mm-lower AMG Line is quite impressive; maintaining ride height over sharp undulations without nasty vertical movements,” Autocar added.

The local launch date for the W206-generation C-Class has not been confirmed yet, but the newcomer is said to earmarked for European introduction in the 2nd quarter, which leads us to believe that the newcomer will become available in Mzansi in the 2nd half of the year. And, Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts will surely suggest "the sooner the better"...

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