It was during the end of 2012 when Mercedes-Benz India decided to call 2013 as the ‘Year of Offensive’. The oldest luxury car player in the country was fast losing market share to its German rivals BMW and Audi, and a strategy to regain the foothold was needed. This plan of action focused on having a good product portfolio, increasing the network, correcting the brand perception, and focusing on total customer ownership. It was then followed by the ‘Year of Excellence’, during which the Stuttgart-based company launched 10 cars in India. These twin strategies paid off substantially—as far as sales are concerned, in 2014 Mercedes led BMW by a long shot and a mere 650 units separated it from Audi—the luxury car market leader for the year.
‘Live the Best’ is the driving philosophy for Mercedes in 2015. The company wants to achieve the objectives of growing a profitable and sustainable business in India and to extend its customer-focused approach. Among other things, the focus is on capacity expansion and local assembly of cars at its Chakan, Pune, plant. A step towards that direction is the new C-Class, the localisation content in which has been raised to 60%.
We recently drove the C-Class, not the made-in-India model but the CBU import. However, the difference between both the models is minimal.
The new C-Class bears a strong resemblance to the company’s full-size luxury limousine, the S-Class. No wonder, many call the C-Class the mini S-Class. There is a good amount of chrome used on the body—around the windows, at the bottom section of the doors, on the boot, on the front grille—and this gives the car a delicate air of superiority. The shape of the new C-Class is curvaceous and, among the company’s models currently available in India, only the CLA-Class and the CLS-Class have a more curvy profile.
The car gets LED headlamps with integral daytime running lamps and fog lamps, a panoramic sliding sunroof, rear bumper with a black diffuser-look grain finish, suspension with higher ground clearance, electrically folding mirrors, and automatically dimming exterior driver’s mirror and rear-view mirror.
However, because its ground clearance has been raised keeping in mind Indian road conditions, there is a marked gap between the wheels and the wheel arches.
The exterior design is refreshing; the interior more so. The cabin layout is among the best—some will find it ‘the’ best—in the segment. Among other things, the steering wheel gets gear-shift paddles, rear seat backrests are 40/20/40 split, there is an armrest with double cup holder and stowage compartment, front seats are electrically-adjustable, and the multimedia system gets a high-resolution colour display. In fact, both the dashboard and the instrument cluster are tastefully designed. Mention must be made of the speedometer and tachometer, which sit inside an oval housing. The high point of the cabin is not layout and equipment, it is quality. If you have been inside the cabin of the S-Class, you will notice that many parts look similar to those used in the latter.
Also, because of its long, 2,840-mm wheelbase, there is a good amount of space at the rear. However, there is a central tunnel that runs through the car, which means the rear can accommodate only two people, not three.
(In the made-in-India model, exterior changes are mostly cosmetic. For example, the allow wheels in the made-in-India C-Class are differently designed than in the CBU model. Similarly, inside the cabin, the trim is a little different, and there is no ambient lighting.)
The car is available in two engine options—the C200 (petrol) and the C220 CDI (diesel). The C200 gets a 2.0-litre engine that produces a maximum power of 181 bhp—it goes from 0-100 kmph in 7.3 seconds before touching a top speed of 235 kmph. The C220 CDI gets a 2.2-litre engine that produces a maximum power of 168 bhp—it goes from 0-100 kmph in 7.4 seconds before touching a top speed of 233 kmph. The claimed fuel-efficiency for the petrol is 14.74 kmpl and that for the diesel is 19.27 kmpl.
Both the models get the 7G-Tronic Plus transmission. In addition to seven gears, it offers good ride comfort, driving pleasure and efficiency. You can also manually change gears using the gear-shift paddles on the steering wheel. Then there is a feature called the Agility Select, using which the driver can choose between various driving modes.
Parameters such as the engine, transmission and steering characteristics are adjusted according to the selected mode.
Comfort: It is the standard setting.
Eco: The car keeps fuel consumption as low as possible.
Sport: There is spontaneous throttle response.
Sport+: Sportiness is further enhanced.
Individual: Parameters can be varied as required by you.
When the C-Class CBU model was launched, some quarters criticised it for its relatively high sticker price—even though the car was the most equipped in the segment. The made-in-India C-Class, with a price of Rs 40.9 lakh for the petrol and Rs 37.9 lakh for the diesel, corrects that to an extent. The luxury and the upmarket experience the new C-Class offers you, at the price, is well worth it.
(Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi)