New Mercedes C-Class prepares for 2021 launch

The new Mercedes C-Class has been spied in more detail during winter testing, with the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE rival due in 2021

The next Mercedes C-Class has been spied in the hands of Mercedes engineers testing in the Arctic Circle. The car hints strongly at the final exterior design of the German brand’s answer to the G20 generation BMW 3 Series.

The surfacing and overall shape of the next C-Class doesn’t alter significantly from that of the current car. As expected, the redesign heading the way of the Mk5 C-Class will be an evolutionary step. It’ll be influenced heavily by the brand’s latest design language rather than introducing a new one, and based on recent official shots of the facelifted E-Class, the nose and tail of the car will be similar to those of its larger sibling. Our exclusive images preview how the C-Class could look, when it emerges in full late this year. 

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Alongside Mercedes’ focus on bringing 10 new pure-electric vehicles to market in the next three years, the C-Class plays an equally significant role in the German firm’s future; this model alone accounts for 20 per cent of Mercedes’ global sales. It’ll hit showrooms early in 2021.

The new model will continue to use the rear-wheel-drive MRA platform, which first arrived as the basis of the current C-Class, yet several updates to the architecture are being developed. The wheelbase will grow in length, but more importantly the underpinnings are being prepared for a new powertrain line-up that will be totally electrified across the board, be it four or six-cylinder, petrol or diesel.

Mercedes introduced 48-volt technology to the C-Class range with the existing model. Beneath the skin of the latest C 200, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine links up with an electrically driven belt starter generator fed by a tiny battery. The belt generator enables the engine to deactivate at cruising speed on the motorway for fuel-free coasting, while it can also assist the petrol engine with an additional 14bhp.

This technology is limited to just one model for now, but it will be applied to even the most basic versions of the next C-Class. It will be used in a performance capacity, too, with the addition of a six-cylinder AMG C 53 model to the line-up.

Mercedes will also introduce new plug-in hybrid variants to take on the latest BMW 330e. The new 3 Series PHEV has a maximum range of 41 miles on battery power alone, plus a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. Naturally, the next plug-in versions of the C-Class – both petrol and diesel versions could appear – will major on new battery technology to unlock the potential of up to 50 miles’ range on electric power and significantly reduced CO2 emissions when running in hybrid mode.

Mercedes is also expected to produce a separate all-electric rival for Tesla’s Model 3 at a later stage, using a unique platform developed for the firm’s EQ sub-brand.

One area where the next C-Class won’t chase the 3 Series too hard is in driving dynamics; it will remain a car that’s focused far more on passenger comfort and refinement. Key to this will be the decision to continue offering the C-Class with optional air suspension, something that isn’t available on its BMW, Audi A4 or Jaguar XE rivals.

Semi-autonomous driving technology will also take a big step forward in the new Mercedes, with the deployment of a ‘level-three’ driver-assistance feature, which is due also on the next S-Class. Such a set-up will permit conditional autonomy, and in the case of the next C-Class this will mean that the car is capable of looking after hands-off motorway driving at speeds of up to 81mph. However, the driver must remain ready to take back control.

The C-Class’s exterior design will emulate the platform by being an evolution of the current car’s. We’ve previewed the saloon in these exclusive images, but as ever, estate, coupé and cabriolet versions of the fifth-generation car will follow.

In contrast, the changes inside the new car will be profound, with a totally fresh interior architecture. A large display will dominate the cabin, stretching from the bottom of the centre console, and combining the central display and fully digital instruments. The same set-up is also due to appear in the next S-Class.

Click here to read our in-depth review of the current Mercedes C-Class…

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