by Adrian-Liviu Dorofte

Mercedes-Benz-Blog TRIVIA: Meeting point Mercedes - 25 years of the C-Class

Because we want you, our faithful visitors, to read some interesting stuff about Merc when there is a lack in news or press releases, as sometimes happens during week-ends or even during the week, we decided to add a new section to the blog. TRIVIA gathers pieces of history, pioneers, technical milestones, iconic cars, 21st breakthroughs and more. All of them from Mercedes-Benz. You are invited to enter in the fascinating universe of the first carmaker in the world, born in 1886.

The first topic of TRIVIA tackles the 25th anniversary of the successful Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse, a brand that has continuously demonstrated its high-class quality and devotion to the driver. So, take your time and read a marvellous piece of history!



Stuttgart, Germany, Mar 26, 2007

C-Class history: Trendsetter in design and technology

* 1983 to 1993: compact Saloon with typical Mercedes qualities

* 1993 to 2000: debut of a new product concept with three lines

* 2000 to 2007: Mercedes bestseller with Saloon, Estate and Sports Coupé variants

* From 2007: new C-Class launched on March 31, 2007

When the Executive Board of Daimler-Benz AG gave the go-ahead for the development of a completely new model series at the end of the 1970s, the scene was set for expansion. The Stuttgart brand wanted to gain new customers, and above all to win younger people over to its products. This required a more compact model with an attractive price, and in addition the company was faced with more stringent regulations covering corporate average fuel consumption in the USA – which likewise made a smaller model necessary.

Price and economy were by no means the only criteria that the new Model 190 had to meet, however, as the Executive Board had further things in mind for the designers and engineers: the compact Saloon was to be a real Mercedes-Benz. In all areas "where the driver and passengers come into contact with the vehicle" it had to meet the usual Mercedes standards of comfort and high quality appeal. And not just that – it had to be a high-tech vehicle offering excellent protection in an accident, maximum stability and absolute reliability. And all that in a car which had to be 30 centimetres shorter, 10 centimetres slimmer and a good 280 kilos lighter than the existing mid-range Mercedes (W 123) – and have an average fuel consumption of only 8.5 litres per hundred kilometres.

These were severe challenges indeed, for in view of the strict safety standards which the company set itself - including, even in those days, side impact and offset crash testing – the engineers at Mercedes found themselves confronted with very ambitious goals.

For six long years, the development engineers puzzled over how to achieve the high standards set by Mercedes in a smaller, lighter vehicle. The new model was soon lovingly known as the "Baby Benz", although the official project code W 201 stood for the most costly and intensive development work ever embarked upon by the Stuttgart company. This began in 1977 – initially in the design studios, where an enthusiastic team created a concept which differed markedly from the previous Mercedes design idiom. This was the right approach, for the Model 190 needed to create a new market and attract new customers. Accordingly the compact Mercedes Saloon needed to be visually provocative to attract attention.

"Diamond cut" design

The team of stylists did this by giving the vehicle clean lines and a rear-end design that caused considerable surprise in some quarters. The result was referred to as the "diamond cut", as the trapezoid surfaces were reminiscent of the faces of a precious stone. This formal theme came out very clearly on the C-pillars and boot lid, and together with an unusually high rear-end (in those days) caused a considerable stir.
This was not something people had come to expect from Mercedes-Benz – a groundbreaking new design. And a technical necessity, for the goal of creating a particularly economical car could only be achieved with the help of top-grade aerodynamics - and this called for a high, tucked-in rear-end which would significantly improve the flow of air behind the vehicle. The result of months of meticulous research in the wind tunnel was impressive: the drag coefficient of the little Mercedes was 0.33 - some 25% below the average for cars in 1981.

Pioneering new technologies

Another crucial point was the car’s weight. 1100 kilograms was the strict limit set for the 190 – without sacrificing occupant safety in any way. This called for a radical rethink, and the engineers pared away gram after gram to achieve their goal. They tried out new materials, developed the first high-strength steel alloys and refined their calculation processes, enlisting the help of the then new finite element method to exploit further potentials for lightweight construction. Thus the new model series also became a pioneer of new technologies and materials which were to revolutionise car-building. And not just at Mercedes-Benz.

Compact dimensions and low weight with maximum safety – the Mercedes engineers were able to meet these apparently irreconcilable demands by developing a completely new type of body design which used all elements to absorb energy in the case of a serious impact, thus compensating for any shortcomings in terms of deformation paths at the front end. The forked front member system used for the S-Class at the time was adapted for this smaller model, and the engineers reinforced the tunnel and floor panelling to absorb the forces it diverted to the rear in the case of a frontal collision. An airbag, belt tensioners and an anti-lock braking system, as well as other Mercedes innovations from the luxury class, were also available for the new Mercedes-Benz 190, placing it well ahead of other cars in this vehicle class.

Another new development - which to this day remains unbeaten - ensured that the car offered typical Mercedes levels of driving comfort, directional stability and safe cornering - multi-link independent rear suspension. The sales brochure proudly referred to "a suspension that has never been seen before", and called the new rear axle a "revolutionary" design. "This enables us to achieve the handling characteristics of the larger Mercedes Saloons even in this new, compact Mercedes class." Five independently acting steering arms locate each rear wheel, ensuring that in all driving situations, the camber, toe-in and track width are controlled in such a way that "the attributes of even the best conventional rear suspension systems are exceeded". Other special features of this suspension technology included front damper struts, recirculating ball steering and disc brakes all-round, and these were by no means a matter of course in this vehicle class at the time.
Under the bonnet, depending on customer requirements, there was a four-cylinder engine producing 66 kW/90 hp or 90 kW/122 hp. For the more powerful version, the engineers for the first time used a mechanically/electronically controlled fuel injection system which reduced consumption according to the Euromix formula to 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres. A four-speed manual transmission was standard equipment, with the option of a five-speed transmission and a newly developed, four-speed automatic transmission which already offered a choice of two shift programmes.

At the world premiere Mercedes-Benz already made it clear that the two four-cylinder petrol models were only a start. A more extensive engine range was planned, and at the end of 1983 the existing units were joined by a newly developed four-cylinder diesel with 53 kW/72 hp. This allowed a maximum speed of 160 km/h and was happy with a Euromix fuel consumption of 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres. Two years later this was followed by the 190 D 2.5 with 66 kW/90 hp, and in autumn 1987 Mercedes-Benz introduced the 190 D 2.5 Turbo with a turbocharged diesel engine generating 90 kW/122 hp.

World records as image-boosters

Mercedes-Benz had invested a total of around two billion German Marks in the W 201 project – not just for development work, but also for the construction of a new plant in Bremen and expanded production facilities in Sindelfingen, Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and Düsseldorf. For one thing was clear: the new 190 might have been the smallest Mercedes-Benz, but in terms of units produced it was to loom very large in the company’s fortunes over the years to come.

The sales personnel had to work hard to convince the market, as many customers refused to believe that the 190 was a real Mercedes-Benz. However most people lost their scepticism as soon as they went on their first test drive – or at the latest after the little Mercedes-Benz had proved its qualities during a famous non-stop test drive in August 1983: at an average speed of 247.54 km/h the Saloon absolved 50,000 kilometres on a circular course in Nardò, southern Italy, breaking three world and twelve class records. The vehicle used was the new 190 E 2.3-16 (136 kW/185 hp) with a four-valve engine, which was to be launched in the autumn of 1983. Three years later a six-cylinder engine powering the 190 E 2.6 (122 kW/166 hp) became available in this Mercedes model series for the first time. At the same time the 190 E 2.3 with 100 kW/136 hp appeared.

Rounded contours for the C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz 190 had hardly been on the market for four years, and was just establishing its popularity, when people already began thinking about its successor. This was in the autumn of 1986, when the automobile and Daimler-Benz were celebrating their 100th birthday. So one thing was clear – the Stuttgart manufacturer was determined to keep its finger in this particular automotive pie. The original idea of the ”Baby Benz” now formed the starting-point for a project targeted at the future, and one which was of great strategic importance for Mercedes-Benz.

First the details had to be planned. The dimensions, bodywork, drive train and chassis of the 190 were once again subjected to close scrutiny in a bid to identify whether there was any room for improvement. New ideas were put forward: for example the future generation of the so-called “compact class” was to be provided with a through-loading facility linking the boot and the interior; more room was to be created in the rear; modern safety systems such as airbags and belt tensioners were to become standard equipment and the engines were to be designed to conform with emission regulations which were already in the offing. The name was also a new one, as the Model 190 developed into the C-Class.

Thinking ahead was the order of the day – on the design side as well. The design team pondered long and hard on how they could make the second generation of the vehicle class attractive, and what sort of lines would last until the end of the millennium. The language of form was beginning to change – more rounded, natural shapes were on their way in -- and the Mercedes designers were aware that sharp lines of the Mercedes-Benz 190 were the one feature that would begin to betray its age. Accordingly they created a Saloon with softer, more flowing lines.

Unlike the 190, whose lines were deliberately designed to provoke, the idea was now to create a more relaxed design idiom which would convey an image of dynamic elegance. By 1987 the designers were already able to express their ideas in the form of 1:1 clay models – five were made of the exterior and four of the interior.
Then the computer experts set to work simulating crash tests, testing the ergonomics and manoeuvrability of the vehicle under a wide variety of conditions, so as to be able to give the engineers early information on what was technically feasible. The better the virtual preparatory work, the more mature the first actual vehicles produced in 1989 would be, and the better the basis for the crash-testing phase. The prototypes, which took weeks to build by hand, were tested to see whether the thickness of the panels, the reinforcements and mounting points would stand up to the stresses and strains of everyday motoring. Then endurance testing began.

Individuality on wheels

But times change rapidly – particularly in the automotive industry. While the future C-Class was being put through its paces on test rigs and tracks, the situation in the markets was changing. Competition was hotting up, and customers were becoming more sophisticated, more demanding - and more price-conscious. “Greater individuality and emotionality on wheels,” was the new catch-phrase when it came to selling cars, with traditional virtues like quality, safety, environ-mental compatibility, comfort or reliability losing their importance. Customers quite simply took them for granted.
A rethink was clearly necessary – and the development of the new Mercedes-Benz compact Saloon was also affected. In addition to technical features – which had loomed so large in the case of the 190 – new, marketing-related concerns were now becoming just as important. More than ever before, the company paid attention to market impulses and made every effort to meet the wishes of its customers. Specialists now consider that this was the key to the success of the new C-Class, and indeed the entire Mercedes-Benz brand, during the nineties.

The watchword was "more valuable, but not more expensive", and this was ample evidence of a new dynamism and determination on the part of Mercedes-Benz. A previously unprecedented design and equipment concept characterised the C-Class, in order to meet the increasing need of customers for automotive individuality. Three lines were offered in addition to the classic version, namely ESPRIT, ELEGANCE and SPORT. Both externally and in the interior, each of these exuded a very special aura. The emphasis was either on classic and discreet, youthful and fresh (ESPRIT), on dignified and elegant (ELEGANCE) or on dynamic and technical (SPORT).
Like the basic model, the ESPRIT, ELEGANCE and SPORT variants were not only to be had with specific engines. The sporty outfit of the SPORT version could be equally well combined with the entry-level engine (C 180 with 90 kW/122 hp), the C 200 DIESEL (55 kW/75 hp) or the C 280 with a six-cylinder engine and a maximum output of 142 kW/193 hp.

The price as part of the message

But the product-planners at Mercedes-Benz were aware of one thing from the very outset – individuality, attractive design and a good brand image would not in themselves be enough to establish the new car in the market and win over new customers. The price had to be right as well. The company did its sums very carefully – with the result that it achieved another first, in addition to the concept of design and equipment lines. For the first time at Mercedes-Benz the purchase price became an active element of the advertising message: for a mere DM 40,825, customers were offered a fully-fledged Mercedes with all the usual standards of engineering and high-tech developments. This was a pretty convincing argument.

Premiere of the diesel with four-valve technology

When the C-Class had its European launch on June 18, 1993, there was a choice of six different engines which included three petrol units with modern four-valve technology:

* C 180 with 90 kW/122 hp
* C 220 with 110 kW/150 hp
* C 280 with a 142 kW/193 hp V6-engine

The model C 200, whose four-cylinder engine generated 100 kW/136 hp, entered the market at the beginning of 1994.

With the launch of the C-Class, Mercedes-Benz was able to celebrate a further world premiere with respect to the diesel engines: for the first time in a passenger car, the C 220 DIESEL (70 kW/95 hp) and C 250 DIESEL (83 kW/113 hp) were equipped with four-valve technology, which had the combined effect of increasing output while reducing exhaust emissions and fuel consumption. The diesel range was rounded off by the further improved two-valve unit of the C 200 DIESEL (55 kW/75 hp). All the diesel engines featured an oxidising catalytic converter and exhaust gas recirculation as standard, and complied with the stringent "Töpfer standard" named after Klaus Töpfer, the German Environment Minister at the time. The Euromix fuel consumption of all the C-Class model variants was between 6.7 and 10.6 litres per 100 kilometres.

In September 1995 an upgraded C-Class range was launched, the 500,000th example having left the assembly lines as early as February of the same year – just 22 months after the start of production. The main purpose of this model facelift was to update and upgrade the design and equipment lines, and to add two more engines to the range. Great interest was shown in the C 230 KOMPRESSOR, whose newly developed 2.3-litre engine was equipped with a Roots blower for the first time in more than 50 years. This supercharger helped to give the 142 kW/193 hp engine a remarkable torque of 280 newton metres, which was available over a wide engine speed range.

The second new model also featured a charged engine, though this followed a completely different concept. With the C 250 TURBODIESEL, Mercedes-Benz presented the first turbocharged diesel car with four-valve technology and intercooling. The new model, whose power unit had been developed from the well-proven, naturally aspirated four-valve engine, was among the most powerful diesel units in its class with an output of 110 kW/150 hp and a maximum torque of 280 newton metres from 1800 rpm.

Estate model with recreational value

In January 1996 the C-Class was enhanced with a further attractive model: for the first time Mercedes-Benz also introduced an estate car into this model series, recommending it as "an automobile with many varied attributes for touring, hobbies or sport". In terms of safety, comfort and environmental compatibility the Estate model possessed all the typical characteristics of the C-Class, but rounded these off with even more spaciousness and versatility. According to the VDA measuring method, the luggage compartment of the new Estate model had a capacity of up to 1510 litres (when loaded to roof level), which set a new standard in this vehicle class.

In August 1996 further changes to the C-Class lineup were announced: the C 220 was replaced by the C 230 (110 kW/150 hp), whose 2.3-litre engine had proved very successful in the E-Class for more than a year or so. Modifications were also made to the other four-cylinder petrol engines. Both the 1.8-litre power unit of the C 180 and engine of the C 200 were given a modified fuel injection system in which the previous engine management system was replaced by the technically more sophisticated HFM system with a hot-film air mass sensor. Like the two supercharged variants, both engines were also equipped with the variable intake camshaft already familiar from the other petrol engines. The new, electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission also became available for all C-Class models from August 1996. The new generation of transmissions allowed a lower fuel consumption, more comfort with respect to engine noise and frequency and quality of gearshifts, and greater reliability and durability.

New six-cylinder engines and even more safety

In June 1997 the C-Class, of which more than one million units had been sold in the four years since the start of series production, was presented with a revised design, more extensive standard appointments and even more modern technology. Despite the enhanced appointments, which offered significant safety and comfort benefits in all the lines, the selling prices remained unchanged in accordance with the price-value strategy of the Stuttgart brand. The highlight of this model facelift was the introduction of two newly developed V6-engines with displacements of 2.4 and 2.8 litres. On the domestic market, the C 240 with an output of 125 kW/170 hp was positioned as the successor to the four-cylinder C 230 model, enabling Mercedes customers to enter the six-cylinder class at a favourable price. The 2.8-litre engine (145 kW/197 hp) replaced the previous in-line six-cylinder unit.

In addition to discreet styling modifications affecting the bodyshell and interior, the model facelift also involved a considerably upgraded package of standard appointments which now included sidebags in the front doors, high-performance belt tensioners with belt force limiters for the front seats and the electronic Brake Assist system. With the exception of the C 220 DIESEL and C 180, all models in the C-Class were equipped with acceleration skid control (ASR) as standard.

Into the future with common-rail technology

Mercedes-Benz had a further technical sensation up its sleeve for the International Motor Show in autumn 1997: the C 220 TURBODIESEL, which was renamed the C 220 CDI shortly afterwards. This diesel model opened up a new chapter in the history of car diesel engines, for it was powered by a four-cylinder engine featuring direct fuel injection on the commonrail principle. This made significant advances possible in the areas of fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and noise characteristics. This four-cylinder unit had an output of 92 kW/125 hp and already developed a remarkable, constant torque of 300 newton metres from 1800 rpm to 2600 rpm. The fuel consumption of the C 220 CDI was just as exemplary, as the Saloon was happy with just 6.1 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined consumption).

Innovative technology, individual design and equipment lines and a good price/value ratio were the great strengths of the C-Class, which promptly shot into the fast lane. The first full year of sales saw production rocketing to more than 314,000 vehicles – some 47 per cent more than in the heyday (1985) of the Mercedes-Benz 190.
Dynamism continues into the third generation
All this augured well for the third generation of the original "Baby Benz", which appeared in the showrooms of Mercedes-Benz sales outlets and dealerships in May 2000, after a development time of four years and an investment of around 1.36 billion Euro. But it was not just the strong market position that offered grounds for optimism – the entire concept developed for the new model was to play a crucial role in its market success.

Even before the Executive Board approved the specifications of the new model early in December 1995, ordinary car owners – including some of the new customers which Mercedes-Benz intended to win over - had been consulted and had come up with important ideas for the model concept. One theme kept reoccurring during these many discussions with customers: the car must be fun to drive, it must offer an enjoyable motoring experience.
The product planners responded to this by giving the new model a youthful, sporty appearance and incorporating important new advances in handling, comfort and safety. Accordingly the new C-Class made a distinctly lively and stylish appearance at its world premiere in Sindelfingen on March 21, 2000 – and with even more scope for individuality, for in addition to the innovative lines concept, Mercedes customers were able to choose from a wide range of new optional extras to fulfil their personal wishes.

High-tech features à la S-Class

Dynamism and individuality were combined with a third attribute, namely high-tech features adopted from the S-Class. For the first time the engineers transferred pioneering technical innovations from the S-Class to the C-Class, and would even proudly refer to the latter as the "compact S-Class". New developments such as windowbags, adaptive airbags for the driver and front passenger, Headlamp Assist, the multifunction steering wheel and a central display made the year 2000 C-Class more special than ever before in this market segment – a real high-tech vehicle. All in all, more than 20 technical innovations adopted from the luxury Mercedes models were included in the standard appointments of the C-Class.

The greatest possible safety was ensured by systems such as the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®), Brake Assist, belt tensioners and belt force limiters in the front and on the outer rear seats, head restraints for all the seats and sidebags in the front doors. The electronic speed limiter SPEEDTRONIC and a six-speed manual transmission were also included in the standard appointments.
Mercedes customers also benefited from the technological leadership of their car brand where the choice of optional extras was concerned. For the first time, the very latest systems from the S-Class also became optionally available for the C-Class: the sensor-regulated, luxury automatic climate control system THERMOTRONIC, the display system COMAND, the dynamic route guidance system DYNAPS or a sound system with automatic driving noise compensation. The LINGUATRONIC voice control system, which previously controlled the telephone, now also became optionally available for the radio and CD-player in the C-Class.

The output range of the four petrol and three diesel engines extended from 85 kW/115 hp to 160 kW/218 hp. Particularly when equipped with the newly developed, supercharged 2.0-litre engine, the C-Class became one of the most dynamic cars in this displacement class. Thanks to its mechanical charger, the 120 kW/163 hp four-cylinder offered the performance characteristics of a larger six-cylinder: with a torque of 230 newton metres, the C 200 KOMPRESSOR accelerated from zero to 100 km/h in only 9.3 seconds and reached a top speed of 230 km/h. Another new addition to the C-Class was the 3.2-litre V6-engine, which developed 160 kW/218 hp to guarantee effortless performance and occupy the peak position in this market segment.

The diesel models were no less impressive: the new five-cylinder C 270 CDI achieved a maximum speed of 230 km/h, and was therefore 27 km/h faster than the previous C 250 TURBODIESEL. A variable turbocharger and modern common-rail fuel injection made this possible, also ensuring that the C-Class consumed 14 percent less fuel than its less powerful predecessor. The same technology was also used in the four-cylinder C 200 CDI and C 220 CDI, whose fuel consumption remained the same despite a higher output: 6.1 resp. 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined consumption).

The C-Class also set new trends in the field of bodyshell development. In aerodynamics, for example: with a drag coefficient of 0.26, the C 180 was the most streamlined notchback Saloon in its market segment. At the same time Mercedes engineers reduced front and rear axle lift by up to 57 percent, creating the conditions for excellent handling stability.
The engineers also devoted great time and effort to improving the axles, steering and brakes, so as to better the already high standards of the preceding model even further. Innovations in suspension technology included a new three-link front axle with McPherson struts, an up-to-date rack-and-pinion steering system and large disc brakes with an improved cooling air flow for maximum braking comfort. The multi-link independent rear suspension was completely revised and reconfigured.

Youngster with two doors

But Mercedes-Benz wanted even more – even more customers, and even more model variants. Accordingly a two-door Sports Coupé was developed on the basis of the C-Class, and this was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show in September 2000.
The C-Class Sports Coupé is easy enough to characterise. It was youthful, dynamic, innovative and decidedly configured for driving pleasure; it was and still remains the "youngster" in the C-Class, and has carved out an autonomous role for itself alongside the Saloon and Estate; it offers the young and young-at-heart an attractive entry into the sporty world of the Mercedes-Benz star.

The Sports Coupé was technically based on the C-Class Saloon, and therefore featured all the trailblazing innovations of this Mercedes model series. In styling and conceptual terms the Sports Coupé was a completely new departure, however. Its sporty appearance was characterised by the compact dimensions of the body, which was around 18 centimetres shorter than that of the Saloon, as well as by muscular proportions. In addition the typical, louvred radiator grille with its centrally positioned star and the striking ellipses of the headlamps clearly identified the two-door model as a new member of the family of sporty Mercedes coupés.

Up-to-date four-cylinder engines with a high performance potential powered the two-door model. Initially Mercedes-Benz only offered the high-torque, 2.3-litre power unit (145 kW/197 hp) adopted from the SLK Roadster in the Sports Coupé. Other engines available were the 120 kW/163 hp 2.0-litre unit with a mechanical charger, the four-cylinder of the C 180 (95 kW/129 hp) and the 2.2-litre CDI (105 kW/143 hp) with common-rail direct injection.

Sporty elegance in the Estate model

The Estate model presented in January 2001 rounded off the C-Class model range. This sporty and elegant Estate appeared in the showrooms of the Mercedes-Benz sales outlets and dealerships at the same time as the Sports Coupé in March 2001. From September 2001 Mercedes-Benz also offered the C-Class Estate in the USA.
The Estate featured the same technical innovations as the Saloon, reflected its outstanding characteristics such as exemplary safety, and attractive design, excellent handling dynamics and high quality, and complemented these attributes with a spacious interior plus intelligent practicality and versatility. Depending on the position of the multi-functional rear seat unit, the compact Estate had a load capacity of 470 to 1384 litres according to the VDA measuring method.

The Mercedes designers had developed the Saloon and the Estate simultaneously. While the front end of both variants was characterised by the familiar sporty and elegant lines, the Estate particularly emphasised its dynamism with a long, strikingly contoured roof whose sweeping lines dipped down abruptly at the rear to form a transition to the heavily inclined rear roof pillars. In this way the Estate underlined its autonomy without foregoing the acknowledged dynamism of the Saloon.

TWINPULSE under the bonnet

From mid-2002, Mercedes-Benz also took a further step into the future in the field of four-valve technology by introducing a new engine generation. These ultra-modern power units, which initially became available in the C-Class and later also for other Mercedes model series, set standards in terms of fuel consumption, torque characteristics, agility, lightweight construction and smoothness.

Different variants of the 1.8-litre engine were available -- all with what was known as the TWINPULSE system, which ensured maximum driving pleasure and smoothness for a minimal fuel consumption thanks to a combination of various technologies such as supercharging, intercooling, four-valve technology, variable camshaft adjustment, balancer shafts and adaptive drive dynamics.
The output generated by the Mercedes four-cylinder units ranged from 105 kW/143 hp to 141 kW/192 hp.

Upgraded design and technology

When Mercedes-Benz presented the technically and stylistically upgraded models of the C-Class in spring 2004, around 1.3 million drivers worldwide had already decided in favour of the Saloon, Estate or Sports Coupé. This set a new record, as Mercedes-Benz had never before sold so many units of a model series in such a short time.
As part of the model facelift, the designers and engineers accentuated the well-proven attributes of the C-Class, but also enhanced its dynamism, comfort and perceived value. The redesigned front end with its bumper, radiator grille and headlamps already suggested the dynamic properties of this Mercedes model series when at standstill. The watchword for the new agility of the C-Class was DIRECT CONTROL, a package of measures which included newly developed front and rear axle bearings for more agile cornering without any loss of comfort, a more direct steering ratio and reconfigured standard and sports suspension systems. The likewise new six-speed manual transmission, which came as standard, excelled with its light, precise operation and short shift travel.

The supercharged 141 kW/192 hp four-cylinder engine from the Sports Coupé was now also available for the Saloon and Estate, and the output of the C 220 CDI had increased by 5 kW/7 hp to 110 kW/150 hp. With the new 270 kW/367 hp C 55 AMG, Mercedes-Benz also offered an eight-cylinder engine in this model series for the first time.

The interior was made even more luxurious with a new cockpit design featuring attractively styled controls, line-specific seats and THERMATIC automatic climate control as standard. Moreover, the C-Class further reinforced its reputation as the technological trendsetter in this market segment with further innovations for even more safety and comfort. These included e.g. powerful bi-xenon headlamps, which Mercedes-Benz combined with a special cornering light function.
On March 31, 2007 this series will be followed by the new C-Class (W 204), which takes the field with even more advances in safety, comfort and agility.

Model chronology: from the Model 190 to the C-Class

Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 201 series)


The fourth Mercedes model series is launched with two engine versions: the 190 (66 kW/90 hp) and the 190 E (90 kW/122 hp). The basic price is DM 25 538. In November these models are joined by the 190 D (53 kW/72 hp) and 190 E 2.3 16 (136 kW/185 hp). In southern Italy the 16-valve version achieves average speeds of over 247 km/h and sets three new world records.

From October the engine output of the Mercedes-Benz 190 increases to 77 kW/105 hp.


In May the model range is extended with the 190 D 2.5 (60 kW/90 hp).

The 190 E 2.3 (100 kW/136 hp) and the six-cylinder 190 E 2.6 (122 kW/166 hp) are launched in October. For the first time Mercedes-Benz also offers a closed-loop catalytic converter for the petrol models.

Mercedes-Benz presents the 190 D 2.5 Turbo (90 kW/122 hp) with a five-cylinder diesel engine at the International Motor Show.

In spring the one millionth vehicle in the 190 series rolls off the assembly line. The Saloons are given a modified body design with a new front apron and side mouldings. The new 190 E 2.5 16 with 142 kW/195 hp forms the basis for a Group A racing car used in the German Touring Car Championships (DTM).

The 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution (143 kW/195 PS) appears with a modified braking system and 16-inch wheels. This Saloon is capable of 230 km/h and costs DM 87,204. All models are also available with the “Sportline” equipment package. The diesel models are given redesigned engines with lower levels of particulate emissions.

In March Mercedes presents the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II as the most powerful variant in this model series: the four-cylinder engine generates 173 kW/235 hp and allows a top speed of 250 km/h. The Evolution II costs DM 115,259. The new 190 E 1.8 (80 kW/109 hp) marks the end of carburettor engines at Mercedes-Benz. From October an oxidation catalytic converter is available for the diesel models.


With the exception of the basic 190 E 1.8 and 190 D models, all 190 sedans are fitted with ABS as standard equipment.

In March Mercedes-Benz presents a limited edition of three particularly youthful models under the title of “Avantgarde”.

In February the Sindelfingen plant stops production of the Mercedes-Benz 190, though the Bremen plant continues to produce export models until August.

C-Class (W 202 series)


The C-Class enters production in May, with four separate design and equipment lines and seven different engines (55 kW/75 hp to 142 kW/193 hp). The basic model C 180 costs DM 40,825. The diesel versions feature four-valve technology. A driver airbag, side impact protection, power steering, ABS and central locking are included in the standard appointments.

Within 22 months over 500,000 examples of the C-Class have been produced. The Saloons are given remodelled rear lights and wider tyres (195/65 R 15) as part of a model facelift. Newcomers to the range are the C 230 KOMPRESSOR (142 kW/193 hp) and C 250 TURBODIESEL (110 kW/150 hp).

In May Mercedes-Benz presents an Estate model for the first time in the C-Class. According to the VDA measuring method, the luggage compartment has a capacity of up to 1510 litres (when loaded to roof level), which sets a new standard in this vehicle class. In August the C 230 (110 kW/150 hp) replaces the C 220. A new, electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission becomes available as optional equipment.

The C-Class appears with a modified design, additional standard equipment and a number of high-tech innovations. Sidebags, belt force limiters and Brake Assist become standard equipment. New V6 units producing 125 kW/170 hp in the C 240 and 145 kW/197 hp in the C 280 complete the engine range. In September 1997 the new C 43 AMG with a 225 kW/306 hp V8 engine is introduced. Another newcomer is the C 220 CDI (92 kW/125 hp), the first Mercedes-Benz with common-rail direct injection.

The C 200 CDI (75 kW/102 hp) is added to the diesel range.

The Electronic Stability Program ESP® becomes standard equipment.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W 203 series)


The new C-Class appears with the typical Mercedes twin-headlamp face and more than 20 technical innovations which were previously only available in the Mercedes luxury class. There is a choice of three lines: CLASSIC, ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE. The output range of the four petrol and three diesel engines extends from 85 kW/115 hp to 160 kW/218 hp. The petrol engines already meet the EU-4 exhaust emission standard valid from 2005. Mercedes-Benz presents the new C-Class Sports Coupé at the Paris Motor Show.

Mercedes-Benz presents the new C-Class Estate in January. The market launch takes place in March, together with the Sports Coupé. The basic C 180 version of the Estate costs DM 54,223. The 3.2-litre V6-engine (160 kW/218 hp) and the 2.7-litre CDI unit with 125 kW/170 hp are new additions to the C-Class range. The new C 32 AMG with a 260 kW/354 hp V6-engine is also launched.

The newly developed four-cylinder petrol engines become available from mid-year, featuring a supercharger, intercooling, variable camshaft adjustment, four-valve technology and Lanchester balancer shafts. The output range of the new engines extends from 105 kW/143 hp for the new C 180 KOMPRESSOR to 141 kW/192 hp for the C 230 KOMPRESSOR, which Mercedes-Benz initially reserves for the C-Class Sports Coupé. From the autumn, the Saloon and Estate variants of the six-cylinder models C 240 and C 320 are optionally available with the permanent four-wheel drive system 4MATIC. Another new model joins the range from Mercedes-AMG: the C 30 CDI (170 kW/231 hp), the first diesel model by AMG.

With one million units in less than three years, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sets a new record in the Stuttgart brand’s car production. Never before have so many examples of a model series been produced in such a short time. From the spring Mercedes-Benz offers two optional sports packages which include stiffer springs and dampers, as well as wide-base tyres in size 225/45 R 17 at the front and 245/40 R 17 at the rear. A maintenance-free particulate filter becomes available for the CDI models from October.

Four years after its launch, Mercedes-Benz upgraded the C-Class in design and technology. The suspension, steering and six-speed manual transmission were given a more sporty configuration. The 141 kW/192 hp supercharged four-cylinder engine from the Sports Coupé now also became available for the Saloon and Estate. The C 220 CDI has an output of 110 kW/150 hp, and with the new C 55 AMG developing 270 kW/367 hp, Mercedes-Benz offers an eight-cylinder for the first time in this model series.

With four completely new V6-engines, the C-Class occupies the peak position in its market segment with respect to output and torque from mid-2005. The new engines are three V6 petrol models (C 230, C 280 and C 350) with outputs up to 200 kW/272 hp, and a new V6 diesel unit (C 320 CDI) with 165 kW/224 hp. The special model "Sport Edition" is also new. In many countries these diesel models are equipped with a particulate filter as standard.

According to the latest ADAC breakdown statistics, the C-Class is the most reliable car in the medium class. Just a few weeks before the world premiere of the new model, the last W 203 Saloon leaves the assembly line in Sindelfingen on December 14.

On January 18 the new C-Class (W 204 series) celebrates its world debut in Stuttgart. There is a choice of eight four and six-cylinder models. The basic model C 180 KOMPRESSOR costs 29 988 Euro ex factory.

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The C-Class looks so much better after the re-design. So much smoother and cleaner lines.

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