The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class knows if someone is inside your home, has headlights that detect when you’ve crossed to the wrong side of the road, has the option of fingerprint technology, massage seats and built-in fragrances – and up to 100km of petrol-free driving range with plug-in hybrid power.
The first all-new model in seven years is the most technically advanced vehicle to date from the inventor of the automobile.
Local details are yet to be confirmed but the 2021 Mercedes C-Class is due in Australian showrooms by the end of this year before switching to non-negotiable, fixed pricing from 2022.
As a guide, the current Mercedes C-Class range is priced from $65,000 to $110,000 for core models.
While automotive news headlines have focused on a switch to four-cylinder engines – no more V6 or V8 models – and the option of plug-in hybrid power with up to 100km of petrol-free driving range, the 2021 Mercedes C-Class also has world-first technology to take some of the stress out of the daily grind.
In addition to “over the air” software updates via Wi-Fi (as per Tesla), the 2021 Mercedes C-Class has the option of a “smart home” function that transforms the car into a “mobile control centre”.
According to information supplied by Mercedes-Benz from Germany overnight, drivers of the new Mercedes C-Class will have the option of being able to adjust their home’s air-conditioning temperature, lights, shutters, and other electrical appliances with remote control.
“Motion detectors and window contacts inform the (vehicle owner) of welcome or unwelcome visitors,” says Mercedes.
With a command similar to Apple’s “Hey Siri” function, a Mercedes C-Class driver can find out if anyone is at home.
“Hey Mercedes, is there anybody in my home right now,” is one example of a command. “I checked. The last movement detected was in the kitchen one hour ago,” is the example of a response.
The technology will initially be supported by Bosch and Samsung smart home devices, the company said.
“Further (technology) providers will follow, and be announced at a later stage,” said Mercedes, adding that for now the system understands queries in four languages (German, Chinese, American and British English).
The driver can activate, monitor or adjust lamps, electrical sockets, thermostats, shutters and blinds, motion detectors and door or window contacts, as well as temperature sensors.
Another example given by Mercedes by a driver of its new model: “Did I switch on the air-conditioning?”
The new Mercedes C-Class will also be available with standard LED or optional digital headlights that can detect if a driver is about to run a red light or a stop sign, has accidentally driven the wrong way onto a freeway, or has crossed to the wrong side of the road.
The optional digital headlight technology can project lines onto the pavement in roadworks zones to help drivers estimate the width of their car. The technology can also pinpoint and highlight pedestrians on dark street crossings.
“The intelligent technology highlights pedestrians in the danger zone with a spotlight function and clarifies their position with projected direction points,” says Mercedes.
“Drivers travelling against the prescribed direction on motorway slip roads or one-way streets are warned by a symbol. The same warning symbol appears before running red lights or stop signs.”
High-grade models have the option of massage seats and built-in fragrances (similar to those offered by French car makers).
According to Mercedes the “air balance” package provides “an individual fragrance in the interior, in line with personal preference and mood”.
“Thanks to refreshing ionisation and filtering of the outside and interior air, it also helps to ensure improved air quality and a greater sense of well-being,” the company says.
The cabin of the new Mercedes C-Class looks like a control centre, dominated by large digital instrument displays inspired by Tesla (and the larger S-Class limousine), with some functions unlocked via fingerprint recognition technology.
In Europe, customers have a choice between a 10.25-inch (26.0 cm) or a 12.3-inch (31.2cm) version digital instrument screen which has classic, sport, and discreet display options.
There are also two types of large tablet-style central displays, both of which are slightly tilted towards the driver: a 9.5-inch (24.1cm) screen is standard while an 11.9-inch (30.2cm) screen is optional.
A colour head-up display (which reflects important information into the lower portion of the windscreen in the driver’s line of sight) creates the impression of a virtual image measuring 9 x 3 inches (approx. 23 x 8cm) floating above the bonnet about 4.5 metres in front of the car, similar to a hologram.
A fingerprint scanner allows drivers to log into the car’s infotainment system quickly, conveniently and securely.
“Personal settings and data such as favourites, most recent destinations, behaviour-based predictions, business calendar entries or emails are protected,” says Mercedes. “Payment processes via Mercedes Me are also reserved to authenticated users.”
Traditional luxuries such as the option of real leather (or imitation) are still available, as is a new range of trim finishes that look like open pored veneers or patterned aluminium.
While the new Mercedes C-Class sedan has grown in every dimension, the company has tried to maintain its manoeuvrability with the option of rear-wheel steering for a tighter turning circle. A range of 17-, 18- and 19-inch wheels on run-flat tyres will be available.
Mercedes says it has “future proofed” the new C-Class by giving every variant the option of hybrid power.
The previously available V6 and V8 engines have been replaced by a range of four-cylinders that promise to match the output of their larger capacity predecessors.
Both petrol and diesel versions of the new Mercedes C-Class are backed by a 48-volt on-board 'mild-hybrid' electrical system that enables “coasting, boosting or energy recovery”, paving the way for further fuel savings.
“The engines also start very rapidly and comfortably as a result,” Mercedes claims, “so that the start/stop function is almost as imperceptible to the driver.”
All models now come with a nine-speed automatic transmission as standard; a manual gearbox was not developed for the new C-Class, for the first time in the nameplate's history.
The company also discarded the option of air suspension on the latest model due to the low take-up rate in the previous version.
The headline act for Mercedes is the new plug-in hybrid option which has doubled its predecessor’s real-world driving distance to 100km – before the petrol engine takes over and delivers up to 600km range.
Mercedes claims the peak 440Nm output of the electric motor “is available right from the start, resulting in high agility when moving off”.
On the plug-in hybrid, full electric power is available up to 140km/h, says Mercedes, “at which point it is softly capped”.
The battery has a total capacity of 25.4kWh, increasing electric driving range to “around 100 kilometres”. To account for the high energy density, the battery pack is equipped with an internal cooling system
Mercedes claims the battery pack can be fully charged in about 30 minutes with an optional 55kW DC charger.
Mercedes did not supply recharge times on the standard 11kW charger connected to the domestic mains power.
Although the overall proportions look similar to the current model, the 2021 Mercedes C-Class is new from the ground up, based on architecture designed to accomodate four-cylinder engines and hybrid technology.
Dimensions and engine details – and how the new Mercedes C-Class compares to its predecessor – are listed below.
Meantime, the company says the new C-Class remains a core model in the Mercedes line-up and there are no plans to vacate the mid-size luxury sedan market amid the buyer shift to SUVs.
A company spokesman said Mercedes was still committed to the sedan category and the vehicle sold in high enough volume globally to remain viable.
Indeed, the C-Class has been the biggest selling model for Mercedes over the past decade, when 2.5 million were sold. The total tally of Mercedes C-Class built since 1982 has eclipsed 10.5 million.
Mercedes says China has been the biggest market for the C-Class sedan since 2016.
The arrival of the new model can’t come soon enough for Mercedes-Benz Australia. Last year, sales of the Mercedes C-Class were slashed in half (down 50.3 per cent) in a market that slumped by 13.7 per cent compared to 2019.