In a nutshell
BMW beware! Mercedes vows its new C-class will finally give the 3-series a run for its money, when the new model hits the market in spring 2007. The design is funkier, the chassis sharper and there are gadgets galore. With the range undergoing shakedown tests around the world, CAR Online has spied the flagship AMG saloon and the T-model wagon.
What it does/how it looks
Today's C-class was pitched as a junior S-class, and the next generation follows a similar brief. The new limousine's look has influenced the C-class's, with its wide grille, angular lamps and far more flair in the sheet metal. Benz's now trademark swoosh will enliven the flanks, for example. The estate arrives around six months after the four-door. Like its BMW and Audi rivals, the T-model majors on sleek looks rather than a voluminous cargo bay. With its sloping roofline, the rear end has hints of a coupe, although the wide tailgate offers easy loading. The estate measures 4556mm, with its 2760mm wheelbase slightly longer than today's car's.
Under the skin
The C-class chassis is naturally rear-drive, although 4Matic four-wheel drive will be available. Engineers have overhauled the rear suspension, while a new steering rack and tauter damping settings should also make this C-class far more dynamic to drive. The transmission choices are six-speed manual on the entry-level fours, while the V6 and V8 versions use the 7Gtronic seven-speed automatic. Some parts are shared with the E-class, although the C foregoes big brother's air suspension and roll-suppressing ABC active body control. Benz is planning two hot models, tuned by its AMG division. The milder version continues with today's 388bhp, naturally aspirated V8. The red hot version runs AMG's all-new, big bore V8, which kicks out 481bhp - a tasty 67bhp advantage over Audi's RS4.
The inside story
It's the same story inside as out, with the new C taking inspiration from the S-class. Its new Comand controller, a dial that toggles through on screen menus, makes an appearance. There are plenty of additional buttons, though, a new multi-functional steering wheel, pop-up sat nav monitor and a set of classic chrome-framed instruments. There should be a little more space in the cabin, too, with marginal stretches for the wheelbase and track.
How much and when?
The new C-class saloon arrives in spring 2007, with the estate following in September. Expect prices to kick off at around £21,000, with a premium of at least £1000 for a five-door.