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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - Details and Opinions From Henny Hemmes +VIDEO

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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

Marseille March 25, 2014; In my 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive Report published earlier, The Auto Channel reported on the first drives with the 2014 Mercedes C-Class 200 CDI BlueTEC and the C 250, which will be arriving in North America in September as C 300.

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I did not yet mention that the suspension of the new C-Class has completely been newly developed. Up front is a new designed –link axle, that allows the wheel suspension to be fully separate from the spring struts. The multi-link rear suspension has been optimized.

All is part of three suspension offered under the name Direct Control: a comfort suspension, an Avantgarde comfort suspension which is lowered by 15 millimeters and a sports suspension, also lowered by 15 millimeters.

The C-Class is the first model in the compact premium segment that offers air suspension on the front and rear axles and allows the driver to choose by the push of a button between Comfort, Eco, Sport and Sport+. Indeed the same names uses by BMW already for quite some time.

But nowadays, new generations of cars are offering much more than a sporty or comfortable drive or ride. That is why Mercedes has added more equipment, which together with up to a 20 per cent better fuel efficiency, is well worth the ‘somewhat higher prices’ in Europe. Pricing for the North American market is expected to be announced this summer, well before the C-Class arrives at dealerships here.

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It is no surprise that the new generation belongs to the ‘new kids in the block’ – of compact premium models – that should attract grown ups by offering up-to-date connectivity. And that is exactly one of the main features of the new ‘C’. But that does not mean that the other systems are of less importance.

Like the S- and E-Class models, the C has standard Attention Assist, that warns the driver of fatigue and/or drowsiness. It offers an adjustable level of sensitivity to inform the driver in the instrument penal of his or her level of inattentiveness.

Collision Prevention Assist Plus

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Standard is also Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which offers protection from collisions as from 4 mph. We tested on the Michelin proving ground in Miramas, near Marseille, an additional function: when the driver does not pay attention at all, the system can brake fully autonomous at speeds up to 125 mph, reducing the severity of the impact with slower or stopping vehicles.

It was very difficult to do nothing at all if you are behind the wheel of the C-Class and driving up to a slower vehicle – for the test it was a trailer with a dummy car. But with a time bracket of 2.5 seconds left, the car starts braking at 60 per cent to fully brake the very last moment. I could not, and stepped on the pedal just a tad earlier. Driving up to a road block at a speed of up to 30 mph, it was easier and I allowed the car to brake. The system is also able to prevent rear-end collisions at up to 25 mph.

Additional Safety Features

Other systems that are optionally available are Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and integrated Stop & Go pilot, which we would call traffic jam assistant.

There is Bas Plus Brake Assist that can detect crossing traffic an boost brake force if the driver does not brake hard enough. It includes Pre-Safe Brake that detects stationary vehicles and pedestrians and brakes autonomously, as well as Active Lane Keeping Assist, preventing the car to drift out of lane by applying the brakes on one side, or Traffic sign Assist that for instance warns when you start driving the wrong way. They all form part of a slew of systems that are paving the way for fully autonomous driving.(Read about my BMW Autonomous ride along.) Like other manufacturers also Mercedes thinks to be ready by 2020. But legislation may not be...

C 200 BlueTEC Blinds Spots and Center Console Problem

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After my first drive with the C 200 BlueTEC model, I had two remarks: there is a blind area formed by the combination of the outside mirrors, its base and the A-pillar. This means that the view is partly blocked under two circumstances: a vehicle nearing from the left can be in that blind spot, and secondly you cannot see where you are driving when you have to make a short left turn.

When I talked about this, the advice was to raise the seat to the highest position. I tried that but this did not improve the situation, while I felt uncomfortable sitting that high. Then the advice was to buy the birds-view camera…. (no comment!). Of course, the 360 degrees camera provides full surround view, but it is not a very logical solution. You look at the left to drive around something, you do not see enough and then you’ll have to look at the display on the right…? Come on, how much time does a driver have?

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The other remark is about the height of the center console. If you are 5.6 feet tall or less, and the car has a manual transmission, your underarm will constantly be hitting the console, which is not really comfortable. When asked why it is so high, designer Uwe Haller said that the console had been deliberately designed at the same level as the arm rest in the door “so that you can rest your arms when driving…” Uhhmm, I have both hands on the steering wheel, and I hope many people do. But indeed, you do not have a problem when you have the automatic transmission.

Anti-Stink Technology

The 2015 C-Class offers advanced in-vehicle systems. For instance; air conditioning that reacts to map data from the navigation system and the GPS location to close the air recirculation flam automatically. I would call it an automatic anti-stink system…. The next step may be that the car sense it is stuck behind a stinking diesel truck – indeed, there still are many in Europe, coming from the east.

Touch-pad Technology

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Last but not least is the amazing all-new touchpad interface, the next generation infotainment and mbrace2 connected car technology. In fact the touchpad is not so amazing, as most of us know it from our smart phones. But in a car it is not common. You can operate the touch pad by moving your hand or finger from left to right or write on it with your fingertip. It recognizes many languages as well. If you do not like it, or do not get what you want, you can use the controller located just underneath the touch pad.

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The centrally positioned free-standing central display is the main eye-catcher in the dashboard. It has a diagonal screen of 7 inches or 8.4 inches if you chose the Multimedia Package. In both cases it gives the cockpit of the new ‘C’ a real modern touch. The sporty touch comes from the bold air vents, three under the display and one on each end of the dash. Even though, personally, I would have liked them a little bit smaller in size, they are not out of sink of the nicely executed cabin.

The C-Class range will be expanded with a diesel-electric hybrid in September, while the estate and an AMG-model are expected before the end of this year. A plug-in petrol hybrid and a coupe will follow later.

Watch The Auto Channel's exclusive Mercedes C-Class interview at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show