A new C-Class sedan arrives in the United States this fall with two new engines, more youthful styling and a roomier interior. The C-Class is Mercedes-Benzs smallest sedan and an archrival for the BMW 3 Series. For 2001, it comes in C240 and C320 models.
Initially, only a four-door sedan is coming to the United States. Mercedes indicates that it will add a two-door hatchback and possibly a station wagon in the future.
Mercedes Cockpit Management and Data (COMAND) system is a new option. It operates a satellite-based navigation system, the sound system and telephone through voice commands, buttons on the steering wheel or controls arranged around a dashboard display screen.
TeleAid emergency communication service is standard. TeleAid operates on its own cellular system to summon emergency help (automatically if an airbag deploys), call Mercedes roadside assistance center or track a stolen vehicle. TeleAid debuted on other Mercedes models last year.
The new C-Class sedan has a familiar Mercedes grille and three-pointed star on the hood, but the headlights and turn signals are integrated into elliptical shapes that look like big footprints. The wedge-shaped styling has a much steeper rake to the windshield and rear window than the old model and less front overhang.
Overall length grows less than an inch to 178 2 inches longer than the BMW 3 Series sedan and the wheelbase grows by an inch to 107.
Mercedes says the interior is roomier in most key dimensions. Though the rear seat clearly has more legroom than the old model, the companys claim that it holds three people seems generous. The power front seats have extensive rearward travel to accommodate tall people.
Leather upholstery is standard, along with automatic climate control, a tilt/telescoping steering column, a cassette player and wood interior trim. Standard steering-wheel controls can adjust the stereo, place calls with the optional cellular phone and change dashboard information displays.
Trunk capacity is 12 cubic feet, and split, folding rear seatbacks are optional.
Under the Hood
Two V-6 engines are available. The C240 gets a new 168-horsepower 2.6-liter, which comes with a standard six-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmission. Powering the C320 is a 3.2-liter that comes only with the automatic. The 3.2-liter 215-hp has been used in other Mercedes models but is new to the C-Class.
New safety features include curtain-type airbags that deploy from above the side windows to protect the heads of occupants, door-mounted rear side airbags and dual-stage front airbags. Using Mercedes BabySmart technology, sensors in the front passenger seat disable the airbags if they detect a child-safety seat. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are a carryover standard feature.
Both models also have antilock brakes and the Electronic Stability Program, a lateral-skid control system, as standard equipment.