There is an all-new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which would have been a big deal if this were the 1990s or the 2000s. It would’ve sent all the junior executives, account managers and young bankers marching into the nearest Mercedes dealer, briefcases in hand. There would have been a sea of silver and grey C-Classes in office parking lots because the C-Class – like its old nemesis, the BMW 3 Series – was almost a default choice for a certain set of upwardly mobile young professionals.
That was then, but today there’s so much more choice for anyone who has around $600 to spend on a monthly lease payment. For one thing, SUVs have usurped sedans’ supremacy. In Canada, Mercedes’ own GLC utility vehicle has outsold the C-Class since 2019, according to GoodCarBadCar data. For another thing, the C-Class is being undercut by a smorgasbord of smaller, more affordable alternatives from Mercedes, as well as Audi and BMW. And there’s plenty of strong competition from other auto makers as well.
This leaves the new 2022 C-Class with a lot to prove when it arrives in Canadian showrooms early next year. The compact sedan is still a big piece of Mercedes-Benz’s bottom line – for now – but since it’s no longer the obvious choice, it needs to get out there and sell itself.
“It was really critical that we hit a home run with a new version,” said Matthias Luecke, product manager for the C-Class. The development team focused on three areas: sustainability, design and “modern luxury,” he said.
The new sedan’s main claim to sustainability is the fact the only powertrain available at launch in Canada will be a mild hybrid. The all-wheel-drive C 300 4Matic has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine mated to a 48-volt integrated starter-generator (ISG). It’ll be marginally more efficient than the old model, but by how much we don’t yet know.
Mercedes is lagging behind when it comes to fully electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles, at least in this country, and the new C-Class won’t help the situation. BMW offers seven PHEVs, including a version of the 3 Series, while Mercedes offers none. (PHEVs generally offer a good balance of affordability and low emissions.)
A PHEV version of the new C-Class does exist – and it has a very impressive 100 kilometres of electric-only driving range – but it’s not being sold in Canada, which is a shame. A spokesperson for Mercedes-Benz Canada wrote that the company expects to offer more PHEVs in the future, but wouldn’t say if the C-Class version will be among them.
For those less concerned about sustainability and are looking for a more powerful engine with six or eight cylinders, you’ll likely have to pony up for the yet-to-be-announced AMG versions. The C 300′s mild-hybrid engine makes 255 horsepower, with the ISG kicking in a boost of 20 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque. Despite that, the new car is a fraction of a second slower from 0-100 km/h than its predecessor.
If all the talk of sustainability seems a bit hollow, the claims about design and luxury are anything but. Mercedes has thrown everything into this car, and it looks impressive inside and out – which is the whole point of a junior luxury car like this.
The new C-Class is longer and slightly wider than before. That means extra leg and shoulder room for front and rear passengers. A rear-wheel steering system – unusual in a compact car – should more than offset the extra size and make the Merc especially adept at squeezing into tight parking spots.
The outgoing C-Class had one of the best cabins in the business, and the new one looks as if Mercedes has raised the bar again. There’s a lot going on inside, from the air vents modelled on jet engines to the new steering wheel to the double-decker dashboard.
The cabin is dominated by huge screens, as you’d expect, and powered by the latest MBUX infotainment system that features haptic feedback, over-the-air software updates and biometric authentication by voice or fingerprint scanner. Touch the scanner, and the car will adjust the seat and set your favourite radio station, or let you buy things (perhaps apps or services) from the Mercedes Me store. An augmented-reality head-up display system is said to project real-time info about what’s around the car onto its windshield; it sounds like fighter-pilot stuff, but we’ll have to see how well it works in practice.
The C-Class gets the same suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) as the flagship S-Class, including the ability to recognize stop signs and red lights. The steering assistance is said to help drivers stay in their lane at speeds up to 210 km/h – but we’d advise against testing that out unless you have an Autobahn nearby.
The new C-Class brings bad news for the (few, proud) station wagon fans out there. The C-Class wagon will be discontinued in our market; you can bet the handful they sold in Canada just weren’t enough to justify its continued existence.
Could the C-Class itself face such an ignoble end in the decade(s) to come? In the 2010s, the C-Class was Mercedes’ overall best-selling model. It’s doubtful that will be the case in this new decade. Still, the 2022 C-Class will likely be a strong contender in its class, but it’s going to have to prove its value to the company and its customers like never before.