Mercedes is Marketing Screen Size Over Performance in the New C-Class

“Grampa, tell us again about the ‘80s!”

“Well, okay kids, gather round an’ I’ll tell ya’ ‘bout my 190E Evo. See, in the ‘80s – and even ‘afore that – we cared about handling and performance, about how a car felt droppin’ down into an apex, about…”
“Grampa? What’s an apex?”

These very conversations are going on right now all across America. Kids these days, excuse me a second, I gotta go yell out the window, – “You kids get off my dad-blumbed lawn! I mean it! I’ll call the cops!” – where was I? Oh yeah, performance. Nowadays car buyers are more concerned with connectivity, the kind where your smart phone connects with your car in new and fascinating ways. Contact patches and slip angles just don’t fit into the equation. Why when I was your age… hey, wait, where ya goin’? Get back here! I’ll call the cops! I mean it!

And so it goes. The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class was revealed today, and Mercedes spent almost the whole time talking about how great the MBUX was and how many interior electronic features it has directly from the big, expensive S-Class, and… aw, it just wasn’t like it used to be. Why one of my favorite drives ever, and this is after 37 years in the car mag biz, one of my favorites is still when we drove a bunch of Mercedes 190E Evo IIs across the Alps from Switzerland to France on some great roads and… aw never mind.

The thing that sells cars nowadays, well, the few remaining cars even offered in a sea of crossover utility vehicles, the main thing that sells cars now is screen size. That TFT touchscreen on the dash that allows you to access a host – excuse me – a suite of features is what customers look at when choosing a car. The coming Byton electric SUV has the record, with a screen that sits four feet across, from A-pillar to A-pillar. It’s like a fish tank on the dashboard. Tesla has that 17-incher that is wowing all the techies. And now, here comes Mercedes-Benz with respectably grosse 11.9- and 12.3-inch screens on the new C-Class that’re connected right up to many of the features you could previously only get on the mighty, mighty S-Class.

In fact, the C-Class info started out not with engine specs or tire size but with a bunch of connectivity and screen facts:

Then they finally started talking about all the other stuff. The C-Class will come in two basic powertrain configurations: C 300 Sedan and C 300 4MATIC Sedan. Just those two, at least at launch, which will be early next year. The Europeans, as usual, get the wagons, the diesels, the plug-in hybrids, the All-Terrain, and even something as seemingly simple and basic as rear-wheel steering, none of which we get here. But that’s how it’s always been. The danged Europeans get everything. Hey, Europeans, get off my lawn!

The U.S. C-Classes do get (here we go) the first application of the new M 254 twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder with integrated starter-generator that makes it a hybrid. ISG uses a 48-volt onboard electrical system that can add up to 20 more horsepower and 148 more lb ft of torque. That gives the new C-Class 255 peak hp at 5,800 rpm and 295 lb ft of torque from 2,000 to 3,200 rpm. That’ll launch the C from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and to a top speed of 130 mph.

The new engine is mated to Mercedes’ 9G-TRONIC transmission specially developed to work with the ISG.

All that sits in a new “cab-rearward” chassis that is longer, wider and with a longer wheelbase and wider track.

Inside, the design “represents the latest interpretation of modern luxury,” with highlights from the S-Class like new-generation MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system, better voice control and MBUX Augmented Video for Navigation. It’s not clear if the new C will get the cool head-up display from the S, but it will get some kind of HUD as an option, along with just about every safety acronym you can think of, as well as PARKTRONIC parking assist and enhanced ambient lighting.

Driver Assistance Systems include: adaptive cruise control, with route-based speed adaption and stop and go assist, active steering assist with active emergency stop assist and lane change assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist, integrated toll pass and a dash cam. And that’s probably not everything.

Because, you see, that’s what buyers want nowadays.

We should be able to drive one of these by the end of the year to tell you what that’s like, but for now, it looks like you’re getting a lot of S-Class for a lot less money. How much less we don’t know yet, but pricing on the current C-Class ranges from $41,600 to $43,600, minus destination and all that. Loaded with all the tech it will have, the new C-Class will almost certainly represent a techno-bargain when it comes out in 2022.

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