The outgoing C-Class has racked up more than 2.5 million sales, which can only mean Mercedes is not willing to rock the boat too much with the W206’s styling
Preceded last year by the BMW 3 Series but especially by the Tesla Model 3, the Mercedes C-Class has a new generation with more fuel-efficient and electrified engines to raise its head.
Mercedes unveils its new C-Class this Tuesday, February 23. Its family sedan, launched for the first time in 1993 to replace the 190 (Type 201 or “Baby-Benz”) was for a time the gateway from the brand to the star for new customers. The role of accessible conqueror devolved from 1997 to the A-Class.
A segment in upheaval
The C-Class is part of the D segment, “premium” family sedans, with a battle that has long been fought between German brands, against BMW and Audi in particular. But a troublemaker named Tesla recently changed that with his Model 3.
After a first effect at the launch of the American compact sedan, where the accumulation of pre-orders had already placed it at the head of sales of the category in Europe in early 2019, the Model 3 has indeed completed an impressive performance in Europe in 2020. Over the year as a whole, its sales exceeded those of its two pursuers: the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes C-Class.
An illustration of a certain success of the electric in the face of two thermal competitors?
In France, the BMW 3 Series held up much better than at European level, with stable sales in 2020 compared to 2019 when the market collapsed by 25%. With the Tesla Model 3, this model is one of the current successes of the category, which seems to resist a little to the wave of SUVs, analyzes Eric Espinasse, director of development at Autoways. The decline in sales of the Mercedes C-Class remains quite logical, with the end of the cycle of the current generation. “
Plug-in hybrid diesel, a good compromise?
To counter Tesla, the C-Class will not however convert to 100% electric. This role remains occupied by SUVs EQC and, while waiting for an EQS which must embody the (inevitably) electric future of the S-Class, the flagship of the brand with the star.
On the program a priori, four-cylinder gasoline, and diesel engines, with a more economical solution, light hybridization to reduce emissions, and the new generation plug-in hybrid. Mercedes indeed promises 100 kilometers of autonomy in 100% electric mode (when most current models offer around 50 km) and an unprecedented offer on the market with this technology also applied to diesel. Something potentially attractive to large drivers and companies wishing to benefit from the favorable tax framework surrounding these engines.
It all depends on the regulations, if we stay with the current tax advantages around the plug-in hybrid, it will clearly be a solution adopted by companies, explains Eric Espinasse. But the real question remains to know what use will be made of it? We know that these are road vehicles and that these vehicles will run mainly in thermal mode. Admittedly, the weight penalty should not apply to plug-in hybrids, but if the weight was finally taken into account in the tax system, this could reduce the interest of these engines which would pay the additional weight linked to the batteries. “
Symbol of the end of an era, even the sporty version signed AMG would switch to four cylinders. On the current C-Class, there were still V6 and V8s on the AMG C43 and C63, too complex to maintain in the current antipollution context. To the picture of a Peugeot 508 PSE, the plug-in hybrid should make it possible to offer a supercharged version exceeding 500 horsepower, understands.
Tech up to the task
Another important point to raise your head against Tesla: the technologies offered onboard. The Model 3 broke the codes by offering a very refined interior, even too much for some. The interior of the Model S and Model X is also evolving in this direction, which can leave room for traditional brands, especially with premium customers.
If Tesla clearly has a lead on electric powertrains, on the interior issue, it is more complicated. As much as the brands have taken a slap in the face with the infotainment (large screen and software part in particular) offered by Tesla, we can underline a somewhat conservative side of premium customers, less appetizing to “fun” technology and more research noble materials and a very successful level of finish, emphasizes Eric Espinasse. We can thus highlight the real know-how of traditional premium manufacturers like Mercedes, knowing that putting large screens on board is not the most complicated to do. “
The new C-Class should thus benefit from certain technologies found in the latest S-Class, especially at the digital interface or semi-autonomous driving. Comfort should also be enhanced with an air suspension system and four-wheel steering, a first in the category.