How is the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class different to last year's model?

Does the imminent 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class luxury top-seller compare favourably to its predecessor? The insane new centre screen sure moves things forward...

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Mike Costello
Comparisons Editor

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been Australia’s top-selling luxury sedan for years now, but the ageing outgoing W205 model was pipped at the post by its newer BMW 3 Series arch rival in 2020.

The good news for both Mercedes-Benz and its fans is the imminent arrival of the W206 generation. It’ll touch down in Australia by end of 2021.

Should you be preparing to upgrade?

The slider images you see, with the dividing white line, allow you to view the new and old models. Just drag the line across the image.

Exterior

The design is an evolution of the outgoing car, rather than a revolutionary change.

There are all manner of grille designs which makes direct comparisons tough, but the star design on the AMG Line version pictured is rather sleek. The bonnet has ‘power domes’ on it, meaning ridges, and the badge has been moved ahead of the bonnet shut-line.

LED headlights are standard, and you can option the S-Class’s Digital Light System that can project guidelines or warnings onto the road. The light is refracted by a claimed 1.3 million micro-mirrors per headlight, meaning a resolution above 2.6 million pixels per vehicle.

The lower side character line is similar, but the upper shoulder line in the new model doesn’t taper downwards as it did on the old vehicle. As the side-by-side shot above shows, the silhouette is familiar but the overall look is cleaner.

The tail lights are slimmer and more triangular than before, with different LED designs. There’s also no longer a trim piece mounted beneath the rear badge. Finally, the exhaust outlets on the vehicle pictured are more rectangular.

As the table below shows, the new model is longer and lower than before. It retains an unchanged 0.24 coefficient-of-drag.

NewOldChange
Length4751mm4686mm+65mm
Width1820mm1810mm+10mm
Height1438mm1447mm-9mm
Wheelbase2865mm2840mm +25mm

Interior

Things are far more revolutionary inside. The new steering wheel has a bolder centre badge and new twin-side-spoke design. The vents are mounted slightly higher – ditto the starter button – and are squared-off.

The old driver instruments under a binnacle cover are gone, replaced by a high-resolution LCD free-standing screen. Base models of the new car will use a 10.25-inch or 26cm display and top grades will use a 12.3-inch or 31cm display.

The centre fascia is now tilted towards the driver and fully digitised. The old tablet screen above buttons and a control pad on the transmission tunnel have been replaced by a large portrait-oriented touchscreen with a black haptic toolbar and fingerprint sensor (for quick access to your Mercedes Me account) beneath.

On entry grades the centre tablet is 9.5 inches or 24cm diagonally, whereas the upper grades get an 11.9-inch or 30cm diagonal display.

Beneath this is a large closing cubby right where the old infotainment controller device lived.

The new C-Class gets the second-generation MBUX in-car operating system.

The processing and graphics are slicker, the augmented reality navigation system has been expanded, the Alexa-style ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control system is always growing its vocabulary, and you can update the system over-the-air.

In terms of room, boot space is the same but the interior is otherwise larger in every area. See the table below.

NewOldChange
Front headroom1041mm1039mm+2mm
Rear headroom955mm942mm+13mm
Rear legroom914mm893mm+21mm
Front elbow room1476mm1454mm+22mm
Rear elbow room1477mm1462mm+15mm
Front shoulder room1430mm1404mm+26mm
Rear shoulder room1411mm1398mm+13mm
Boot space455L455L0

Drivetrains

The Mercedes-AMG C43 and C63 will be detailed at another time.

The launch range for C-Class comprises various four-cylinder engines, all with turbocharging and a 48V electrical system and integrated starter-generator.

This system can add low-end boost (up to 15kW), run core functions with the engine decoupled off-throttle (gliding), and run an energy recuperation system.

The new nine-speed automatic transmission houses the drivetrains’ electric motors, power electronics and coolers. Both rear-wheel drive and 4Matic all-wheel drive are available.

There are petrols and diesels for Europe, but Australia will see only petrol models.

The figures including comparable WLTP consumption data below.

C200 petrolNewOld
Displacement1.5-litre2.0-litre
Power150kW150kW
Torque300Nm300Nm
Boost15kW/200Nm
Fuel consumption6.2L/100km6.4L/100km
CO2141g/km146g/km
0-100km/h7.3 seconds7.1 seconds
C300 petrolNewOld
Displacement2.0-litre2.0-litre
Power190kW190kW
Torque400Nm370kW
Boost15kW/200Nm
Fuel consumption6.6L/100km6.9L/100km
CO2150g/km157g/km
0-100km/h6.0 seconds6.0 seconds

The other drivetrain detailed is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), with Mercedes-Benz targeting a maximum pure-electric driving range of 100km before you need a drop of petrol.

The outgoing C300e did around 50km by way of comparison.

Underneath

Mercedes-Benz claims there’s a new multi-link (four linkages per wheel) front axle and revised subframe-mounted rear multi-link setup.

Adjustable dampers should be standard in Australia, and air suspension an option (standard on PHEV).

Another new feature on the W206 C-Class is rear-axle steering which turns the wheels up to 2.5 degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels below 60km/h, and the same direction above 60km/h.

The steering ratio has been changed to make directional changes more direct, and the urban turning circle is tighter.

Safety

Mercedes-Benz has tweaked the active safety systems.

Active cruise control can notice stationary vehicles when you’re travelling at 100km/h (previously 60km/h), there are claimed improvements to the active lane-keeping aid with a higher 210km/h threshold, more accurate cameras, and the traffic sign recognition system now recognises signs on overhead gantries and at roadworks.

The self-parking system is also better, and is recalibrated if you option the rear-axle steering.

Other additions include a front-centre airbag to mitigate head clashes in side impacts, new side crumple zones for impact protection, and a system that can move the affected passenger away from an impending side impact before cushioning them with inflating air chambers in the side bolsters.

MORE: Mercedes-Benz C-Class news, reviews, comparisons and videos
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