There may be nothing more old-bougie than a Mercedes wagon, except maybe a horse trailer full of empty Glenlivet bottles. But these days, wagons are so battered by the SUV onslaught they've almost become a oddity in the US. Take Mercedes's new C-Class Estate. It shares a new sculpted design with its less-commodious sibling; it comes in three trim lines, Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde, and it still looks like a throwback. Paradoxically, driving a station wagon is probably the most avant garde thing to do these days, outside of horses and scotch.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate
Stuttgart - Just a few months following the market debut of the saloon, Mercedes-Benz is now unveilling the estate version of the new C-Class. The estate takes the trademark strengths of the saloon, such as safety, agility and comfort, and combines them with a significant increase in spaciousness and versatility. Quite apart from being able to hold a maximum of 1500 litres, giving it a larger load capacity than any other premium-class estate in this market segment, the new C-Class Estate also offers a host of handy features for easy loading and safe transportation -a tailgate which opens and closes automatically at the push of a button, for example. Compared to the outgoing model, the new Mercedes estate burns as much as twelve per cent less fuel. With an official NEDC consumption of 6.0 litres/100 km, the new C 200 CDI can make a single tank of fuel (66 litres) last for over 1000 kilometres. Just like the saloon, the estate version of the new C-Class has also been awarded an Environmental Certificate, which attests to the environmentally oriented development process as conforming with the international ISO standard. In terms of safety, the new estate blazes a trail with innovations of the likes of PRE-SAFE® and the Intelligent Light System, and distinguishes itself as the safest car in this vehicle class. Seven airbags, belt tensioners and belt force limiters, as well as crash-responsive NECK-PRO head restraints all make up part of the standard specification.
The new estate adopts the C-Class Saloon's customer-focused concept for the design and equipment lines. There is a choice of three models - CLASSIC, ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE - which highlight the vehicle's comfort or agility to differing degrees. The AVANTGARDE line features a large Mercedes star positioned in the centre of the radiator grille that emphasises its sporty, agile nature. This traditional distinctive mark of sporty models from Mercedes is now being employed in an estate model for the first time by the Stuttgart-based automotive brand. In the ELEGANCE model, a three-dimensional, louvred radiator grille with a high-gloss paint finish accentuates other brand-typical attributes such as comfort and luxury. The CLASSIC model, meanwhile, is deliberately more restrained and traditional.
New benchmark figure: maximum load capacity of 1500 litres
During the concept phase for the new estate, the designers and engineers at Mercedes took the expectations of the brand's customers as their yardstick. Consequently, spaciousness, versatility and functionality were given top priority. Compared to its predecessor, the rear of the new estate is slanted far more steeply, a crucial factor for enlarging the vehicle's load volume. This now varies between 485 and 1500 litres (VDA measuring method), depending on the position of the 1/3 : 2/3 split-folding rear seat — more than any of the model's rivals in this class of premium estate car are able to offer. Measured against the outgoing C-Class Estate, load capacity has been increased by as much as 146 litres.
This makes the estate a thoroughly practical vehicle in every respect. It is able to accommodate, for example, four golf bags including trolleys, nine large packing cases or a total of 44 drinks crates each containing six 1-litre juice bottles. The largest possible cuboid that fits into the load compartment now has a volume of 827 litres - that is an increase of 66 litres compared to the previous model and
between 50 and 100 litres more than other premium estate models in this class are able to handle. The maximum utilisable interior length is a whole 2.82 metres, as measured between the tailgate and the front passenger footwell - 17 centimetres more than previously.
Convenient loading: EASY-PACK tailgate and load-securing kit
Thanks to a host of practical details, the new Mercedes estate can be loaded more easily, more conveniently and more safely. For instance, two bag hooks and four rings for anchoring loads are included in the load compartment as standard.
Stowage compartments with net covers and a collapsible shopping crate can likewise be found in all models, as can the combined luggage cover and retaining net. The new EASY-PACK tailgate opens and closes as the push of a button, representing a first in this segment. Finally, the optional EASY-PACK load-securing kit presents drivers with even more possibilities for both partitioning the load compartment — that measures around 1.80 metres long and up to 1.20 metres wide — and for securing the load being carried.
The new C-Class Estate also makes a perfectly good towing vehicle and, indeed, offers a class-beating towing capacity of as much as 1800 kilograms. The self-levelling suspension that is optionally available keeps the vehicle at a constant ride height regardless of the load it is carrying.
Accredited environmental protection: a twelve per cent cut in fuel consumption
Environmental considerations played a key role in the development of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class from the very start. This is corroborated by the Environmental Certificate that was awarded by the TÜV Technical Inspection Authority in Germany. Mercedes-Benz is the only automotive brand in the world to have obtained a certificate under the terms of ISO standard 14062 for environmentally acceptable product development.
With brand new or redeveloped engines under the bonnet offering greater power and torque, the C-Class Estate consumes up to twelve per cent less fuel than previously. The four-cylinder power units were the focus of the development work: in the case of the C 180 KOMPRESSOR and C 200 KOMPRESSOR petrol models Mercedes-Benz modified the engine management and fitted a more dynamic supercharger and improved pistons to boost output by 10 kW/13 hp and 15 kW/20 hp respectively. At the same time, the fuel consumption figures for the two models could be cut by as much as 10.3 per cent to 7.7 and 7.8 litres/100 kilometres.
Mercedes-Benz also gave the four-cylinder diesel engines a thorough overhaul too, making improvements not only to the injection system, the turbocharger and the intercooler but to more than 90 other components too. The upshot is engines delivering more power and higher torque, combined with fuel consumption that is around twelve per cent lower. The new C 220 CDI now has an output of 125 kW/170 hp (previously: 110 kW/150 hp) and musters up 400 Newton metres of peak torque (previously: 340 Newton metres) from 2000 rpm. Fuel consumption on the NEDC driving cycle comes in at just 6.1 litres for every 100 kilometres (previously: 6.9 l/100 km).
In the new C 200 CDI, power has been upped by eleven per cent (100 kW/136 hp instead of 90 kW/122 hp before) and fuel consumption is 6.0 litres/100 kilometres (previously 6.8 l/100 km).As for the six-cylinder engine range, there is a choice of three petrol units developing 150 kW/204 hp, 170 kW/231 hp and 200 kW/272 hp, as well as the new C 320 CDI with an output of 165 kW/224 hp. With the exception of the C 350, all engine variants are coupled to a six-speed manual transmission. The C 350 is partnered by the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission.
Sporty agility: shock absorbers that change with the driving situation
The unique blend of agility and comfort that forms one of the exceptional strengths of the new C-Class is basically down to the standard-fit AGILITY CONTROL package. This features shock absorbers which automatically adapt to the current driving situation for a noticeable improvement in ride comfort when driving normally. As soon as a more dynamic driving style is adopted, on the other hand, the maximum damping forces are set to stabilise the estate effectively .
A steering system that is six per cent more direct and a short-throw six-speed manual transmission also form part of the AGILITY CONTROL package.
The dynamic handling package that is available as an option bestows the new C-Class Estate with a degree of agility worthy of out-and-out sports cars. The driver is able to choose from two drive modes which determine the fundamental suspension characteristic: Comfort and Sport.
Within these modes, the shock absorbers at each wheel are regulated by means of an infinitely variable electronic control. What's more, the body is lowered by 15 millimetres and the suspension equipped with shorter springs and thicker torsion bars. The dynamic handling package also encompasses the new speed-sensitive power steering with a more direct ratio and variable centring.
The body index devised by engineers at Mercedes clearly illustrates just how agilely the new C-Class Estate performs out on the road. This index is calculated from the readings for various driving manoeuvres, thereby forming a new composite formula for a vehicle's dynamic handling abilities. The larger the body index, the better the suspension is linked to the body and the firmer the suspension's tuning. The standard AGILITY CONTROL suspension gives the C-Class a body index of 1.91 to 2.01 hertz, while the new model attains sports-car-like values of up to 2.46 hertz with the dynamic handling package fitted.
Kitting out the new estate with the AMG sports package adds a sports suspension with shorter springs and firmer shock absorbers to the specification, along with 17-inch light-alloy wheels. The body is also dropped by 15 millimetres.
Hallmark Mercedes quality: the safest car in its class
The C-Class Estate has come through an exhaustive programme of testing, during which it demonstrated its typical Mercedes-like levels of safety in over 100 crash tests in all. The occupant protection concept is underpinned by an intelligently designed bodyshell, 70 percent of which consists of high-strength and ultra-high-strength grades of steel. The front-end structure comprises four impact levels which act independently of one another and enable forces to be distributed over a wide area while bypassing the passenger cell. The occupants are protected by a total of seven airbags as standard. The driver, front passenger and the passengers on the outer rear seats also benefit from belt tensioners and belt force limiters.
The NECK-PRO head restraints in the front have a crash-responsive design, meaning that they move to cushion the heads of the driver and front passenger at an early stage in a rear-end collision to guard against the risk of whiplash. The integrated child seats, which fold out of the rear bench seat have undergone further development and are now also fitted with a wraparound head restraint.
Standard features such as the flashing brake lights, Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Program make vital contributions to accident prevention. The ESP® system now incorporates additional functions: not only does it monitor the tyre pressure it also helps to enhance safety when towing a trailer with an automatic trailer stabilisation function.
The anticipatory occupant protection system PRE-SAFE® gives the new estate the edge over other models in this segment. This optional system makes use of the time before an imminent accident to prepare the vehicle and its occupants for a collision. The result is a considerable reduction in the loads exerted on the passengers upon impact. The Intelligent Light System is another technical innovation borrowed from the higher-end models in the Mercedes range and is the only system of its kind in this market segment at the current time. The system's five different lighting functions are each suited to various typical driving and weather conditions.
Excellent comfort on long journeys: newly developed seats and air conditioning system
Inside, the attractively styled dashboard, the high-class materials and appealing colour schemes create a homely atmosphere. For the first time, the colour concept has been extended to the load compartment too. On CLASSIC and ELEGANCE models, the customer's selected appointments colour is used for both the carpeting and the side trim. On the AVANTGARDE line, the rear compartment is carpeted in black too. Newly developed seats, which can be specified with a multicontour function as an option, as well as a powerful air conditioning system add to the estate's excellent comfort on long journeys.
The new estate from Mercedes-Benz is the first model in this class to offer the option of individually adjustable three-zone climate control. And the expansive panoramic sliding sunroof can be found on the list of optional extras for an estate car for the first time too.
The colour display in the centre of the dashboard is linked up to the controller on the tunnel console. This is where the driver can operate the audio and navigation systems or the telephone. A clear menu control structure makes it simple to access all of these functions and more besides. Alternatively, there are the direct selection keys in the centre console: the car radio, CD/ DVD player, navigation system or telephone can be switched on at the push of a button. Subsequent operating steps are performed using the controller in unison with the colour display in the dashboard.
State-of-the-art technology: voice-controlled infotainment devices
Mercedes-Benz developed three new infotainment units for the C-Class: Audio 20, Audio 50 APS and COMAND APS. They all feature a keypad for entering telephone numbers and radio frequencies, as well as a Bluetooth interface which allows mobile phones to be connected wirelessly to the hands-free system. The Audio 50 APS system also comprises pan-European DVD navigation using arrow symbols for route guidance. With the COMAND APS multimedia system, the navigation data is stored on a hard disc. A high-resolution map which can be viewed from different perspectives appears on the tilting colour display. The COMAND APS also comprises a DVD player, along with a music server for storing up to 1000 tracks.
The LINGUATRONIC voice control system is automatically included on C-Class Estate models equipped with the Audio 50 APS plus the six-disc DVD changer or with the COMAND APS system. For the first time, the new improved system is now able to recognise whole-word commands when entering a destination, selecting a radio station or calling up a name from the telephone directory. The driver no longer needs to spell out the names of countries, towns or roads, for example, but is able to speak them as whole words instead.
Following its public premiere at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt/Main, motorists will be able to place their orders for the new C-Class Estate with Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlets and dealerships from September 2007.