Though still several months from its official world debut, Mercedes this week gave fans a sneak peak at the interior and key safety features of its next-generation C-Class sedan.
The compact sports sedan -- Mercedes' biggest seller -- is a perennial rival to the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4, as well as others in the segment such as the Lexus IS, Cadillac ATS and Infiniti Q50.
The current generation of C-Class has been with us since 2008, and is one of the oldest cars in the segment. The new 2015 model probably will debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show in January and will certainly be on sale next fall.
When it does bow, the new C-Class will carry with it a radically redesigned interior that favors minimalism over flash. The center console has a clean, open design, with a large infotainment screen at the top.
A rotary dial and all-new touchpad sit just ahead of the armrest, and control most of the interior functions. The touchpad will operate a lot like a smartphone, Mercedes said, and will have haptic feedback (a faint vibration when you touch it).
Also new will be a high-resolution heads-up display, that will show the driver such details as speed, speed limits, and navigation info.
Though Mercedes hasn't revealed what the outside of the C-Class will look like, it has said the car will be lighter, by about 220 pounds. Much of the weight savings will come from extensive use of aluminum in instead of steel in the car's body.
High-strength steel will still be used for the passenger shell, in an effort to keep everybody in one piece during a crash. In addition to structural safety features, Mercedes said it will offer a number of high-tech safety items seen in its more upscale E- and S-Class sedans.
These include collision-mitigating braking, active lane-keeping assist and cross-traffic monitoring.
The next-generation C-Class will also grab other goodies from the upscale parts bin. Mercedes' AirMatic air suspension will be optional, as will a glove-box-mounted feature that will perfume and ionize the air with one of four scents.
For the first time, Mercedes will also build all North American C-Class models on our own shore, using its Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant for assembly. Currently, the automaker builds its ML and GL SUVs there, as well as the R-Class for export to markets such as China.