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Renaissance in Germany of Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has finally made its debut at the companyís museum in Stuttgart, Germany. For the meantime however, the only people to drive the 2008 C-Class are those who wear Mercedes-Benz identification badges.
The car is supported by a new and more spacious passenger cabin and a wider array of technology. A damping control system called the Agility Control adapts suspension settings depending on driving conditions. The new C-Class also gets the PreSafe safety system, optional COMAND driver's interface and optional Thermotronic automatic air-conditioning.
This is a slightly larger car than before, as the second-generation C-Class it replaces.
Though Mercedes will not yet provide the media with the precise dimensions, the auto fanatics during the carís debut observed the wheelbase of the new Benz has been stretched and the track has been widened fractionally in the front and rear. The result is a wider car with a significant increase in rear legroom.
The interior is spacious in the rear, with plenty of room for 6-footers. This is a matter of importance, because the C-Class is a popular choice for taxi companies in Germany, where 30 percent of production is sold. There's also a new look for the interior, notably a vast expanse of plastic for the dashboard that's relieved by a two-tone color treatment. The instrumentation for the Sport models has a coupe like style treatment, with silver bezels, black dials and orange indicator needles.
Once it arrives in the market, this 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will be available in two different models. One is the C300, which will have two levels of equipment, namely Sport and Elegance. The other one is the C350, which will be available only as a Sport model.
The C300 will be equipped with the 24-valve DOHC 3.0-liter V6 featured in the current C280, where it delivers 228 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 221 pound-feet of torque at 2,700-5,000 rpm. In the new 2008 C300, Mercedes says this engine will produce 231 hp.
The C350, on the other hand, will have the 24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter V6 now seen in the current C350, where it produces 268 hp at 6,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 2,400-5,000 rpm. In the new 2008 C350, Mercedes says this engine will deliver 272 hp.
For transmission choices, the C300 Sport will have a short-throw, six-speed manual, while the C300 Elegance will feature the seven-speed automatic currently available in the present car. Meanwhile the C350 Sport will also have a seven-speed automatic.
Mercedes has also brought the adaptive brake technology of the S-Class to the entry-level Benz. The system includes brake assist to improve response in critical situations, a mode that lightly skims water from the rotors in wet weather to improve brake action, and even start-off assist to help the car hold its position on steep hills.
The Standard 17-inch wheels carry 45-series tires, while the 18-inch wheels with 40-series tires will be available as an option.
When the cars in come out in Europe in March, there will be three exterior trim levels: Avantgarde, Elegance and Classic. The striking Avantgarde has a coupe-like front end with a unique cover for the front bumper plus a three-louver grille with a large, centrally positioned Mercedes star. The Elegance and Classic trim levels have traditional upright grilles and wear the Mercedes star in the traditional spot on top of the nose.
The center stack of controls has been inspired by the S-Class and attempts to position frequently used functions within easy reach of the driver. A multifunction steering wheel with links to the instrumentation cluster will be standard equipment.
The audio-navigation system offers more infotainment features, including a Bluetooth-compatible telephone connection, a 30-gigabyte hard disc for the navigation system that includes a music server with a 4-gigabyte memory, and a DVD player.
Improved safety has been one of the primary goals of the redesign, so 70 percent of the 2008 C-Class' new body shell is built with high-strength steel. There's the usual complement of seven airbags, including curtain-type head protection bags that extend from the A- to C-pillar in a side impact.
The engineering process was expedited with extensive computer-modeling. Thomas Breitling, the Director of Vehicle Dynamics and Active Safety at Mercedes-Benz, said that the company's "digital prototyping" ensured a faster attainment of quality during development.
The engine range offers increased power and reduced fuel consumption. In Europe, engine choices will be: C180 Compressor with 156 horsepower (previously 143 hp), C200 Compressor with 184 hp (up 20 hp); three six-cylinder units with unchanged horsepower numbers at 204, 231 and 272 hp; and a new C200 CDi with a four-cylinder, common-rail diesel engine, capable of 170 hp.
The third-generation C-Class (code-named "W204") will go on sale in the U.S. late this summer.
It remains to be seen if the new C-Class can in fact measure up to the standard set by the BMW 3 Series, which Mercedes-Benz officials admit, is the standard of measure. Perhaps would be possible because later this year will come a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, and this 500-hp 6.2-liter V8 will require something special to get its power on the ground. A wagon version is also not far behind.
The next step is the Geneva auto show, where the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will be officially introduced and car enthusiasts will finally be able to get behind the steering wheel and the Mercedes tie rod, and turn the ignition key.
About the Author: James Russel grew up in Los Angeles and is 35 years old. He works as a marketing analyst for a supplier of automotive parts in the United States. On his spare time, he loves to spruce up his vehicle.