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2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuts with crazy tech, electrified drivetrain

Benz's all-new compact luxury sedan piles on S-Class tech smarts and standard mild-hybrid power.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - front three-quarter view
The 2022 C-Class is still the most-affordable way to slip into a proper rear-wheel-drive sedan from Mercedes.

It'd be pretty easy to forgive Mercedes-Benz if they had held off renewing the C-Class for a while. After all, even though today's model dates from 2016, it still looks and feels fresh, and drivers around the globe have been trading in sedans in favor of SUVs, anyway. But the company's long-running C-Class sedan remains a critical part of its portfolio and Mercedes-Benz developed a ton of new tech in the last five years, so here goes everything. Making its debut Tuesday, this is the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

No longer assembled in Alabama, all North American-bound C-Classes will henceforth be assembled in East London, South Africa. Poised to arrive in US dealerships early next year, this latest C-Class sedan looks quite a bit like today's smaller and swoopier A-Class, but with a generous dash-to-axle ratio and more of a "cab-backwards" design, the new C not only looks different enough, it carries a more upscale attitude that recalls Benz's top-dollar S-Class.

Mild-hybrid details and performance specs

Riding atop a new platform and carrying standard 48-volt mild-hybrid technology, the 2022 C-Class will only be available with Benz's M254 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. This twin-turbocharged I4 is good for 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, but the aforementioned mild-hybrid assist with its integrated starter-generator can deliver up to 20 additional horsepower and a whopping 148 pound-feet of torque for short-term boosts. A nine-speed automatic transmission is mandatory.

Like pricing data, fuel economy figures won't be released until closer to the model's on-sale date, but company officials tell Roadshow they're ballparking a 10-15% improvement in fuel economy thanks to the mild-hybrid electrification. This e-hardware allows for coasting with the engine shut off under light loads as well as regenerative braking and a smoother stop/start system. For reference, the outgoing C300 RWD sedan achieves an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon city, 35 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. That suggests the new car could get as high as 26 city, 40 highway and 31 combined.

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Mercedes has yet to unveil complete performance specs, but regardless of whether a buyer selects rear-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive, the German automaker is touting a 0-to-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds en route to an electronically limited top speed of 130 mph. Interestingly, that's actually 0.2 seconds slower than the company's time for an equivalent 2020 C300 sedan (which has 255 hp and 273 lb-ft).

The 2022's slightly slower acceleration may have something to do with the new model's larger -- and presumably heavier -- size. The C-Class' new, stiffer platform rides on a slightly longer 112.8-inch wheelbase and at 187 inches, the body is longer by 2.5 inches.

That's a whole lot of screens and not many buttons.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class interior

Bigger, more luxurious interior

That extra length means that, despite the car's slightly lower overall height (less than half an inch shorter), there's still more space inside. That's especially true in the backseat, which has always been on the tight side. Mercedes says second-row headroom has increased by 0.5 inches, rear knee room is up almost 1.5 inches and there's more shoulder room thanks to 1.9-inch wider rear track. Luggage capacity remains unchanged at 17.9 cubic feet.

The new, more spacious interior looks substantially richer and more sophisticated and there's a lot of fresh cabin tech available, including some features ported over directly from the new S-Class.

MBUX and fingerprints

The new dashboard features a standard 12.3-inch reconfigurable digital gauge cluster, but the most notable feature is a portrait-oriented 11.9-inch center screen running the latest in MBUX infotainment. The next-generation system allows for over-the-air updates for downloadable features and bug fixes, as well.

Despite a lower roofline, Benz says there's more room inside, especially in the backseat. 


For the first time in a Mercedes sedan, the center screen is canted towards the driver for more of a cockpit-like feel and there's been a concerted effort to minimize physical switchgear in favor of touchscreen and voice-activated functionality. This is an industry-wide trend that we've seen executed with wildly varying degrees of success. We'll have to wait for a test drive to see how intuitive and responsive these new controls are.

Key additional tech upgrades include fingerprint recognition for enhanced information security as well as optional augmented-reality navigation. The latter adds turn-by-turn instructions overlaid onto the front-camera video feed seen in the digital gauge cluster. We've sampled similar tech on the 2021 Cadillac Escalade and it's pretty remarkable how the directional arrows look like they are floating over the road to guide you.

Purely from a styling perspective, the C's new cabin looks both attractive and more modern, and the driver can set the interior ambience in one of three modes: Classic, Sporty or Understated. These settings govern the way the screens look and what they display, all while coordinating color motifs with the C's 64-color rainbow of ambient lighting options.

The C-Class comes with mandatory twin-turbo four-cylinder power and mild-hybrid assist.


What about dynamism?

Interestingly (and perhaps tellingly) Benz's press materials and media background sessions for this new model focus primarily on the C-Class' new look and additional tech -- powertrain, cabin and safety among them. The company hasn't offered many details about new handling bogeys.

When asked about dynamic performance targets, Daimler executive Markus Schäfer told us, "The nature of this car is more sporty," and he cited the car's lower and wider stance as proof. Schäfer also referenced the availability of different suspensions to suit varying driver tastes (the base C-Class includes continuously adjustable dampers and a firmer AMG Line Sport suspension is optional). An air suspension is no longer available.

The latest driver-assistance tech

Naturally, the new C-Class gets a lot of trickle-down driver-assistance systems from the S-Class for improved safety, as well. Chiefly, improved cameras and sensors now integrate together more completely and effectively than before. For example, Benz's updated lane-recognition tech works with the available 360-degree camera system for improved performance in corners and on highways alike. The car can now look farther down the road, detecting and reacting to parked cars at speeds of up to 62 mph (the old system only managed 37). The C-Class also features Vehicle-to-X tech to share road-condition data with other cars and connected infrastructure.

Yes, Mercedes will make the C-Class in a wagon again. No, you still can't have one, America.


C-Class coupe, convertible or wagon?

At the moment, Mercedes is only promising a four-door C-Class sedan for America. According to Schäfer, there is "no plan to bring the wagon for the time being to the US. Obviously, the demand is not high enough. Great car, but the demand is too low. We're going to talk about the offering for coupe and cabriolet at a later point in time; there's nothing to announce [now]." Last June, Automotive News reported Mercedes plans to substantially trim its range of coupes and convertibles in order to invest more into SUVs, but the report didn't specifically mention that such C-Class models were on the chopping block.

Still a brand cornerstone

The C-Class remains Mercedes' best-selling model line over the last 10 years, but with changing consumer tastes, it seems unlikely to hold onto that title over the next decade. That seems especially likely given Benz's mushrooming SUV lineup, as well as ambitious electric plans. While the new C-Class' new architecture supports greater electrification, a battery-powered model seems unlikely because of the company's flurry of forthcoming EQ-branded EVs. Instead, keep an eye out for a plug-in hybrid C-Class.

Ultimately, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class probably won't be able to stem the compact luxury sedan segment's sales slide, but it certainly looks capable of winning a few more converts who might otherwise jump into a new Audi A4, BMW 3 SeriesGenesis G70 or Lexus IS. Who knows, with its winning looks and strong tech hand, it might even keep some shoppers from climbing into yet another SUV, too.