It was a launch with a difference when Mercedes-Benz Cars unveiled the new C-class in Johannesburg recently.
East London is the manufacturing base for the C-Class which is the top seller in the Mercedes-Benz brand, selling more than 415,000 cars worldwide in 2017.
Subtle improvements have allowed the manufacturer to launch a new version of this model boasting 6,500 new parts and a 50% alteration of the vehicle’s components over the old model.
Tested on a 200km stretch of road on the outskirts of Gauteng, fringing the Free State, the luxury car did not disappoint.
Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa marketing director Selvin Govender said theC-Class’s success can largely be attributed to its wide offering, which includes two sporty two-door versions: the Coupé and the Cabriolet, which have opened up an entirely new audience to the local market.
“This new model is our sportiest and most dynamic C-Class to date, and with its looks, safety and performance, we’re confident it’s going to appeal to a broader audience than before.”
The new-look C-Class boasts a striking new front with a new design of headlamps as well as tail lights.
The sedan features the diamond grille as standard, with front bumpers redesigned for all lines, and rear bumpers varying according to the selected equipment and engine variant.
Speaking at the South African launch held at the Rotunda in Johanneburg, which is now known as Mercedes-Benz World, Govender said: “The new C-Class features a brand-new electronic architecture, with the major addition being the latest Mercedes-Benz driving assistance systems.
“This puts the new series on a par with the S-Class, providing a higher level of active safety than ever and the ability to drive semi-autonomously in even more situations.
“The interior has also been given a facelift. The sporty interior centre console is characterised by an elegant flowing trim element, with the option of new materials: open-pore brown walnut or open-pore anthracite oak.
“The new multi-contour seat package now literally offers a massage: the side bolsters and lumbar support can be individually adjusted by means of an electrically driven pneumatic pump, with a massage effect in the lumbar area available through air chambers which are inflated and deflated in a pulsing motion.”
Govender said the car’s new display concept includes an optional, fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and the upgraded infotainment system includes standard smartphone integration that could be accessed through touch-sensitive controls in the steering wheel, which respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone.
“The operation of distronic and cruise control with controls directly on the steering wheel is another new feature and for the first time in this model series, multi-beam LED headlamps with ultra-range high beam, are additionally available.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa Co CEO and Mercedes-Benz Cars executive director, Johannes Fritz, said the new edition was also a celebration of the German company's strong links to SA amidst themes of improvement and renewal.
“The new C-Class has a strong South African flavour: it’s built in Mercedes-Benz East London plant. Mercedes-Benz recently announced the investment of R10bn to significantly expand the C-Class production plant in East London and to equip it for the future. The decision to have the new generation of C-Class (W206) in East London re-affirms the plant and Mercedes-Benz’s commitment to South Africa.
“This investment represents Mercedes-Benz confidence in South Africa and its labour force for our popular C-Class range,” he said.
Fritz said the C-Class was the most successful model series from Mercedes-Benz.
“There are also new petrol and diesel engines across the range,” he said.
The new C-Class sees the launch of a new generation of four-cylinder petrol engines. There is a new 4-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine in the C200, with 9-speed automatic transmission across the range.
The 1.5-litre engine is supplemented with a 48-volt on-board network and the EQ Boost integrated starter-generator that produces an additional 10kW and 160Nm while accelerating.
There’s also a new-generation 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the C300, with outputs of 190kW and 370Nm.
The new 1.6-litre variant of the current diesel engine family will celebrate its world premiere in the C-Class.
The C220d 4MATIC provides a healthy 143kW and 400Nm.
There’s also more performance for the mighty range-topping C43 4MATIC, which boasts a V6 biturbo engine that combines powerful output with low consumption and emissions.
For the new C-Class, the AMG development engineers have increased the output of the 3.0-litre V6 engine by 17kW to 287kW. The peak torque of 520 Nm is available from 2,500 to 5,000 rpm.
This package allows impressive performance figures: the new C 43 4MATIC Sedan accelerates from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 250km/h.
Another new feature is the automatic notification if the vehicle suffers an impact caused by another vehicle when parked, is towed away or there is a break-in attempt. The highly sensitive sensors of the standard “Anti-theft alarm system (ATA)” can detect such situations and immediately send a "push notification” message to the Mercedes me App.
The optional feature includes the new sensors and the corresponding software.
Vehicle PricingC -Class
Sedan - C180 R586,500;Coupe - C180 R666,000Cabriolet - C200 R793,500Sedan - C200 R613,500Coupe - C200 R766,000Cabriolet - C300 R884,000C220d R651,000C300 R716,000Mercedes-AMG C43Sedan - R948,500Coupe - R983,500Cabriolet - R1,100,000