What would you expect to see in a premium car interior? Forget rear seat heaters, think wellness retreats. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class spec list takes driver comfort to a new level by offering something called 'Energising Comfort Control'. Debuted on the S-Class, it links the air-con, fragrancing, seat heating/cooling/massage function, audio and ambient lighting to improve driver comfort and even lift their mood. All in all, the fourth-generation C-Class has some 6,500 components new to the range. Continuing QUBE/just-auto's review of interior design and technology trends, we slipped inside the luxurious interior to see what stands out.
Once seated with the engine purring, you feel immediately engaged. The cabin of this desirable and cosseted family estate is cloaked with solid-feeling, posh-looking materials. Facing the driver are two separate displays. The C-Class adopts the display concept of the current S-Class, with an optional fully digital instrument display offering three different display styles: Classic, Sport and Progressive. Using touch-sensitive steering wheel controls (that respond to swiping motions like the screen of a smartphone), the display styles can be reconfigured to suit. Alongside certain menu items, such as trip data or consumption figures, the driver can now also view the navigation display data or Eco display in the instrument cluster.
As with the instrument cluster, the chunky tablet-style widescreen media display (not a touchscreen) mounted high up on the dash also offers three display styles. As with a new smartphone, it all takes a bit of time to navigate but you soon get the hang of it. While there are lots of chrome steering wheel controls, it all works harmoniously with everything where you expect it to be.
As we would expect from Mercedes, the cockpit incorporates classy materials to define the luxury carmaker's interior style, including open-pore woods, wood with a yachting look with flowing lines as a contemporary interpretation of inlaid wood and a novel metal fabric. The use of authentic materials is continued in the leather-trimmed doors and beltline. Flooring, acoustics systems and headliners are supplied by IAC. While forward visibility around the A-pillars is good, thick rear pillars make it less easy to reverse; the rearview parking camera and sensors take over in this respect.
There are plenty of other styling cues from the bigger S-Class, too. The centre console itself swoops from the armrest to form a wide centre stack with just a few logically laid out controls. Beneath the central media display are four swivelling metal air vents. Lower down on the centre stack is a row of switch-like buttons to control the HVAC and driving assistance systems. On the centre console, a touchpad with rotary controller in situ to operate the multimedia system and sat-nav (similar to BMW's iDrive system). Vehicle functions such as the heated front seats can be operated by voice control or using buttons on either door panel. There are lots of places for storage, including a deep centre console, cavernous glovebox, generous-sized door bins and airline-style magazine storage areas behind the front seats.
The keyless-go starting function is standard across the range and the start/stop button features a fresh turbine-look design. Even the car key offers a new design: customers have a choice between three variants here – black with high-gloss chrome surround, white with chrome surround or high-gloss white with matt chrome surround. There can be no denying that such attention to detail truly matters in this segment.
The multimedia system features two USB ports, an SD card reader, Bluetooth connection and media interface while the automaker's Comand Online system incorporates 3D hard-disc navigation with map display, photo-realistic 3D buildings and 3D map rotations. Comprehensive information is displayed on the navigation map: in addition to real-time traffic density information it can, for example, include Car-to-X warning messages, the weather, filling stations including current fuel prices and free parking spaces.
Fuel level and range are available on the 'Mercedes me' app plus mileage, battery voltage, parking time and the date of the next service. The app will also automatically save the car's parking position making it easier to find later.
The Burmester surround sound system incorporates nine speakers and an output of 225 W is another delight.
The heated, powered, saddle brown leather AMG sports seats are supportive and comfortable on long journeys. An electrically-driven pneumatic pump enables the side bolsters and lumbar support to be individually adjusted. A massage effect in the lumbar area is provided by air chambers which are inflated and deflated in a pulsing or wave-like motion when the function is activated. The multimedia system allows operation of the seat's pneumatic functions.
The rear seats split 40/20/40 with a slick fold-down centre arm rest with two cup-holders that flip out. Pressing a button on either side of the boot folds flat the rear seats, liberating some 1,480 litres of luggage space (460 litres with the rear seats up). Although it's a five-seater, adults seated in the middle of the rear will have a less than comfortable ride with their legs splayed around the wide transmission tunnel.
The powered boot lid and luggage cover is another welcome touch that can be activated via a button on the boot lid itself, driver side door panel or key fob.
Err, anything else in this classy cabin? The C-Class certainly has plenty of optional kit to keep the driver's mood upbeat. It comes in the form of Mercedes-Benz's so-called 'Energising Comfort Control' that links the functions of the climate control system (including fragrancing), seats (heater, ventilation, massage) as well as lighting and audio, and enables a specific wellness set-up tailored to the mood and need of the driver.
Depending on the equipment level, up to six programmes are available. The programmes all run for ten minutes. They are visualised in the central display with colour graphics and backed by suitable music. Five songs are already stored in the programme. The key function in the Vitality programme, for example, is fast music with many beats per minute. If personal music selections are available, e.g. via the Media Interface, the system analyses them in the background and assigns them to a programme based on the beats per minute. Individual functions of the programmes can be deactivated.
During night time driving, the C-Class takes on an entirely different feel thanks to the ambient interior LED lighting that can be personalised using a palette of no fewer than 64 colours. It really does start to feel like a cockpit, adding illuminating highlights to the trim, central display, front stowage compartment on the centre console, handle recesses, door pockets, front and rear footwells, overhead control panel and mirror triangle.
Advanced driver assistance system
While we would expect a Mercedes-Benz to come bristling with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technologies, the C-Class is able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations. To do this it uses camera and radar systems to allow it to see up to 500 metres ahead. The vehicle's surroundings are scanned by radar across a distance of up to 250 metres to the front, 40 metres to the sides and 80 metres to the rear, while with the camera a range of up to 500 metres is possible to the front, including 90 metres in 3D. The C-Class also uses map and navigation data for assistance functions. For example, Active Distance Assist Distronic as part of the Driving Assistance package is able to support the driver in numerous situations on the basis of map information and predictively adjust the speed e.g. when approaching bends, junctions or roundabouts.
Other ADAS technologies fitted to the C-Class include lane change assist, emergency stop assist and brake assist. The latter can help to mitigate the consequences of rear-end collisions with slow-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead, and even with crossing pedestrians and cyclists, or prevent them altogether.
Although our focus is on the interior, the headlights are also worthy of note. Our press review car incorporated multibeam LED headlamps. Each headlamp incorporates 84 individually controllable LEDs, allowing the light beam to be electronically adjusted to suit the current traffic situation. New functions in comparison to the previously available LED Intelligent Light System are junction light, roundabout light, city light and bad-weather light.
Aluminium components make up about 50 per cent of the body of the C-Class estate. That's a considerable increase compared to the predecessor model, Daimler says. The use of the innovative aluminium-hybrid construction method poses new challenges to joining technology because steel and aluminium cannot be welded together.
On the road
At first glance, the sporty AMG Line has a confident, extroverted road stance, defined by its diamond radiator grille front, oversized three-pointed star, touches of chrome around the bumper and swooping headlamps. While it has plenty of style and badge presence, our brisk drives from A to B over the past week made it an absolute pleasure. The interior ticks all the boxes and the build quality cannot be faulted. The whacky icing on the cake is the Energising Comfort Control that transforms it into a spa on wheels. The C300 AMG Line versatile variant we took out for a spin turned out to be the perfect companion for some long and leisurely journeys. While our drive insulated us from the outside world, it also felt cossetted and poised at every turn, providing a fabulous driving experience.