2015 Mercedes-Benz C250

This is the C generation that moves from the entry-level car for luxury aspirants to a truly luxurious sports sedan. (Daimler)

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Mercedes-Benz showed off the next-generation C-Class at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday. The 2015 C-Class will be roomier than the current model and offer more safety features and amenities.

Mercedes is growing the car and adding features because it is no longer the luxury brand’s entry-level vehicle. That role has fallen to the smaller CLA, a just-released sedan starting at about $30,000, roughly 20% less expensive than the expected starting price of the new C.

“It’s not uncommon for lower-priced models to slowly move upmarket and get replaced by all-new, entry-level models,” said Karl Brauer, an analyst at auto information company Kelley Blue Book.

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“The C-Class was never the sportiest car in that segment, so making the next version larger and more luxurious isn’t a major shift for the model’s image or role,” Brauer said.

Mercedes’ challenge will be to pack enough luxury features into the new C while still keeping the price competitive, he said.

The new C will launch with two engine choices.

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The C300 will come with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder that will produce an estimated 235 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.

The C400 will have a 3.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected V6 making an estimated 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Expect a diesel option later.

Initially, Mercedes will offer only the all-wheel-drive version. A rear-wheel-drive model will follow.

The new C grows by four inches in length and 1.6 inches width. Mercedes has used that extra room to make a cramped back seat more comfortable. The trunk capacity also has grown to 17 cubic feet from 12.4.

The bigger C gives Mercedes slots in nicely in the brands lineup, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at HIS Automotive, fitting between the CLA and the larger E-Class and S-Class models.

And like Ford, with the 2015 F-150 pickup truck also introduced at the Detroit show Monday, Mercedes is making a much greater use of aluminum alloys to shave weight from the car and increase fuel economy.  The new C-Class will be about 220 pounds lighter than its predecessor.

Nearly half the new C-Class platform is made from aluminum, compared with 10% in the outgoing model. This lightweight construction cuts fuel consumption up to 20% over the current model without any loss of performance, Mercedes said.

Mercedes has not released fuel consumption numbers for the new car, but the current generation gets 24 or 25 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, depending on the engine choice, according to Environmental Protection Agency ratings.

The new model will be the first passenger car built by the German manufacturer in America.  Mercedes plans to assemble the C-class at the automaker's factory in Alabama, where it already produces sport-utility vehicles.  The shift is part of as strategy by Mercedes to build cars closer to their markets to avoid the negative effects of currency fluctuations.

 

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