First Drive Review: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate by Henny Hemmes +VIDEO
• SEE ALSO: Mercedes-Benz Buyers Guide
By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
FRANKFURT - August 7, 2014: Station wagons…?!!! Ho, ho… Here in Europe, as well as in the UK, we have never been out of love with the most practical body-style ever designed. Whatever you call it; Estate, T-Modell, Touring, or Kombi; the station wgon continues to enjoy huge popularity. And perhaps in the near future Chinese customers will also appreciate such models. At least, that's what Mercedes is hoping. Therefore, the new Mercedes C-Class Estate will arrive on the European and Chinese markets at the same time this fall. The other markets will follow soon, but Canada has to wait until early 2016 and then will exclusively get the 250 Bluetec 4Matic. Good news, as it means the return of the C-Class Estate on the Canadian market. Daimler discontinued selling the model there in 2005.
For the US? Well, since the Americans have swapped their station wagons for minivans and then SUVs, those practical variants became almost extinct. I have always considered this move as a mistake. As a kid I gaped at cars like the Chevy Bel Air Wagon and later my racing team even had the huge Impala station wagon to haul smaller gear.
Volvo recently abandoned the body-style in the U.S. after discontinuing the V50 in 2011. But elsewhere the Swedes are introducing the 2015 Volvo V60 wagon as a stylish alternative for the new breed of station wagons. And I do not mean SUVs or crossovers like Ford C-Max. I mean luxury wagons like the Audi Allroad wagon, BMW 3 Series Touring, and Mercedes E-Class Wagon, as well as the Acura TSX and the estate models of the Toyota Venza and the Subaru Outback.
With more demand for, let’s call it, "lifestyle wagons", there is a fair chance that also the Mercedes C-Class Estate will reach US dealerships. Sascha Kretz, product manager for the C-Class, said during the first driving event that the car can easily be adjusted to U.S. legislation: “...Nothing has been decided yet. But if it would be a ‘yes’, then the 250 4Matic has the best cards.” By the way, the Estate will be available with the 4Matic all-wheel drive system beginning December.
The new model has to build on the success story and Mercedes hopes it will do even better than its predecessor thanks to its attractive styling with two front end designs, up to 20 per cent more fuel efficient engines, and a slew of innovative driver assistance and safety features (the same that were introduced earlier on the C-Class saloon).
The new Estate has a 3.1 inches longer wheel base, is nearly 4 inches longer and 1.5 inches wider than its predecessor. Inside however, it is hard to see the difference in space compared to the outgoing Estate. The passengers in the rear have 1.8 inches more leg room and there is also some more interior width and headroom, while the contents of the luggage compartment has been only increased by 0.17 cubic-feet to 17.3 cu-ft behind the rear seats. It can be stretched 0.35 cubic feet more compared to the previous model to a total of 53.3 cu-ft.
The improved practicality is more obvious. The rear seats split 40:20:40 and the back rests can be electrically unlocked and folded down nearly horizontally to create a virtually flat floor. You simply do that by pushing on one of the buttons at either side close to the rear doors and the hatch. The latter can be operated remotely by sweeping your foot under the bumper, provided the key is in your pocket. It is indeed very convenient when you have both hands full of stuff. Automatically the cover moves up when the hatch swings open. However, I do miss a net or straps, which are only available in a package.
During our first test we loaded the Estate with fresh produce. Photographer Dieter thought the boxes of apples and berries made a beautifully colorful photo composition.
The Estate gets new features such as the touchpad, that works like a
smart phone. And it also is the first model with ‘Mercedes me’,
a package of services in Europe, and some additional features that I'll
detail in a separate article on The Auto Channel.
• SEE ALSO: C-Class New Features
I drove the C250 that weights 3,406 pounds, some 143 pounds less than its predecessor, thanks to the use of aluminum components for the body.
As usual, we drove a fully loaded version that did not sit on 16-inch wheels but on the better looking 18-inch ones. The C 250 is equipped with the 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine with 155 kW/211 hp and 350 Nm/258 pound-feet of maximum torque between 1,200-4,000 rpm. It offers ample power for the Estate to be fast, though not furious. The motor is teamed to the 7-GTronic Plus automatic transmission that in a later stage will be replaced by the new 9-speed automatic. This will be rolled out fleet-wide, starting with the S-Class Coupe in the beginning of 2015, just for the sake of a better fuel economy.
There is nothing wrong with the current transmission. On the contrary: it shifts smoothly and hardly noticeably and can be paddle shifted as well. It has a new torque converter with reduced slip and an Eco transmission mode. New is the Momentary M mode: if you shift up or down with the paddles, the transmission switched back to fuel-efficient automatic shift mode after some time. In both this mode as well as the fixed M mode, you will see gear shift indications in the IP for the most economic driving style.
The C-Class Estate is the first car in its segment with air suspension, which Mercedes calls AirMatic. Naturally, the option was presented in our test car. The new Estate also allows you to chose between Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual drive programs, which change throttle response, the speed-sensitive poser assist, the shift point of the transmission and the damping.
I drove on the Autobahn from Frankfurt to the Rhineland wine region in Comfort mode. Fast cruising is a matter of stability and comfort in the C-Class. On the winding roads up to Deidesheim, I wanted a more direct feel and applied Sport, which indeed proved best for an active drive on the long stretch of the more than 50-mile German Wine street. I did not like the Sport+ mode because it felt like the engine was more nervously reacting to the throttle. It is a pity that the speed-sensitive, electromechanical steering does not give enough feed back. But hey, this is not a race car in disguise. It is a family car with a beautifully executed interior for a life-style wagon, one that customers chose for its versatility, for its comfort and convenience. And last but not least for its sophisticated looks. To be honest, I like it even more than the C-Class saloon – and that is not bad at all! I do hope to see the new Estate in the not too far future on American roads.