2015 Mercedes-Benz C-ClassEnlarge Photo
Technology & Safety
As much as the exterior and interior of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class speaks of a new level of luxury and design, the technology hidden just beneath the surface—and especially the safety-oriented aspects of that tech—truly move the C-Class on par with its larger stablemates, the E-Class and S-Class.
Mercedes’ Intelligent Drive suite of safety gear, including Distronic Plus radar adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera-based lane-keeping assist function, and BAS Plus brake assist with cross-traffic function, matches features found on Mercedes’ more expensive models. On top of these features, available safety extras include Active Parking Assist, which automates parking in parallel or perpendicular spaces; a 360-degree camera that provides views from several points around the vehicle as well as a top-down bird’s eye view that we found to be remarkably detailed and accurate; and Traffic Sign Assist with Wrong-Way Alert, a system that reads speed limit, no-passing, no-entry, and other road signs and relays the information to the driver.
Also new to the C-Class is a head-up display, which can display a range of information, including navigation directions, speed, RPMs, gear selection, and more.
The COMAND infotainment system also receives some upgrades, coming with a standard 7-inch display (or an optional 8.4-inch display with the Multimedia package); Mercedes’ mbrace2 app suite; and a new touch-sensitive pad controller hovering over the traditional COMAND dial control.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-ClassEnlarge Photo
This last feature, the touchpad, allows gestural input, including swipes, pinch-zoom, taps, and more. While it’s a more intuitive way to interact with the screen than the dial-controlled method of older COMAND systems, we found it to offer a bit of a learning curve at first to determine which gestures, taps, and clicks work to perform which actions in each of the many screens offered in the COMAND system. We also noticed a tendency to accidentally touch the touch-sensitive portion of the controller when trying to use the dial controller below, sometimes diverting us into unintended menus and options.
After a week’s use, the touchpad’s learning curve is likely to be solved, and the addition of touch and gestures a welcome boon to the COMAND interface, but ultimately, we still have to ask: why not just offer the display—which already looks rather like a tablet sat atop the dash—with a touchscreen? Mercedes responds to our query with talk of safety and attention, but we still have to think it would be yet more intuitive and natural to interact with the display in the way we use our phones, tablets, and desktop all-in-one PCs.
Minor interface gripes aside, the 2015 C-Class offers several other features of note to the technophile—especially the audiophile. An available Burmester sound system turns the cabin into a listening studio, delivering clear and precise representations of your music, whether it’s from the CD player, radio, or piped over Bluetooth from your mobile device. The base stereo system uses Mercedes’ Frontbass system, which puts subwoofers under the front passengers’ footwell, as well as using the spaces within the side cross-member and body structure as resonance chambers for other speakers. For the olfactory enthusiast, Mercedes-Benz even offers the scent-dispersing air freshener system housed in the glove box—another feature drawn down from the S-Class—in the new C.
Three Sizes, One Tier
Between the new structure and engines, the gorgeous styling inside and out, and the upgrades to technology and safety, Mercedes-Benz is making a bold attempt to package similar levels of luxury and features in the C-Class as you’ll find in the E-Class and S-Class. While the smaller price tag means the sumptuous and even decadent feel of the larger sedans is muted in the C-Class, the sense the owner will get is one of unity: moving up the range is not so much about upgrading to greater technical capability, but to larger, more powerful, more exclusive vehicles.
Spending time in the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, whether in Provence or Pennsylvania, in Marseilles or Milwaukee, is to experience a bending in reality, powering along in a car that feels like it's worth twice its likely price tag. But it’s a good bend, and one we’d like to see other luxury brands make with their smaller cars.
For now, however, it’s the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class that we’re watching for our Best Car To Buy 2015 award later this year.