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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive

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Gliding through the natural beauty and cultured history of Provence, along glass-smooth strips of winding asphalt under castle-dotted mountains, it’s easy to lose touch with reality.

In a way, the high-tech, high-style 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a microcosm of this unreal Provençal sensibility; it’s beautiful, steeped in history, and yet completely modern as well.

Fortunately, the 2015 C-Class engages and draws you into the present, even drawing you out of your reverie should your attention wander. It’s Mercedes-Benz’s best small luxury sedan yet, and it’s the best car we’ve driven in the segment.

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Style & Comfort

At a glance, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is beautiful. Look closer, and that perception deepens. From the aggressive but not angry face to the sculpted hood and sides, over the architecturally arched roofline into the taut, balanced tail, the exterior of the new C-Class is S-Class in miniature, feeling every bit as elegant as the brand’s flagship—just more compact.

Inside, the theme continues, with Mercedes’ new round-vent and waterfall-console themes executed in materials that range from satisfying to truly impressive. Even in models closer to base specification—where rubbered plastics and piano-black finishes meet MB Tex synthetic upholstery, the sense of quality and careful design shine through; outfitted with a full leather interior and wood or aluminum trim, the C-Class’s cabin truly rises into the premium ranks, despite its mainstream size. Of particular note is an available open-pore Ash wood trim used as the backing surface to the entire curved center stack around the speakers and door pulls. This option recalls some of Mercedes most elegant cars of the late 1960s with its textural grain, while its satin finish draws on the best of modern in-car aesthetics.

Space is nearly as abundant as style, too, with the C-Class growing slightly this time around, up 3.7 inches in length, 3.0 inches in wheelbase, and 1.6 inches in width for 2015. The most noticeable improvement is in the rear seat’s leg room, which, while still a close fit for those over six feet, can hold even rather tall adults in comfort, without splayed legs or heads rubbing headliners. The front row offers plenty of space for the larger adult, as well as ample adjustability for drivers of nearly any proportions, thanks to a multi-adjustable seat and power-adjust tilt/telescoping steering wheel.

Underpinning all of this is an Airmatic suspension, which will be optional on U.S.-market C300 models and standard on the C400. Combining a clever progressive-rate air spring system controlled by adjustable-rate hydraulic dampers, the Airmatic suspension marries the comfort and ease you want in a luxury sedan with the body control and minimal lean of a sport sedan. Some of the credit for the balance between comfort and capability is owed to weight reduction: the 2015 C-Class is up to 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor.

Even in its sharpest Sport+ mode, however, the Airmatic system is not tuned for edgy performance—but that just leaves room for the next C-Class AMG, which is due to arrive in less than a year.

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