What's New for 2001
Ever expanding and improving its brood of stately vehicles, Mercedes gives the C-Class a complete overhaul for 2001. A choice of two new engines, increased safety features and sleeker sheet metal tempt those who seek to gain a foothold into the exalted realms of Mercedes ownership.
Ah, to be a Mercedes owner. More specifically, to be able to tell your friends that you've just bought a Mercedes; that is the stuff of which life is made. Unfortunately, your bank account is not yet plump enough to shell out the bucks for one of the big bad muthas. And, frankly, you kind of wish that a Mercedes had a more sporting attitude.
Enter the all-new 2001 C-Class. Designed to appeal to the sport sedan crowd heretofore untapped by the three-pointed star, Mercedes offers the C-Class as a contender in the entry-level luxury sedan playing field.
Motivating the C-Class is your choice of V6s -- the 2.4-liter with 168 horsepower, or a 3.2-liter with 215 horses. And, in an effort to further compete with its venerable statesmen, a six-speed manual tranny will be available for the very first time in a C-Class, but it is reserved for the C240. Those who prefer automatic gear changes will like the tranny on the C320, a five-speeder with TouchShift. It's standard on the 320 and optional on the 240. With an improved five-link rear suspension and a new rack-and-pinion steering system, it should be as pleasurable to go canyon carving in the C-Class as it is to show up at your high school reunion.
Such luxurious features as dual climate control, steering wheel-mounted controls for and wood trim come standard on the C240. Step up to the C320 and receive a Bose stereo system, full power memory front seats and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Options include a stand-alone navigation system and Cockpit Management and Data System (COMAND), the center console interface that controls the navigation system, the audio system and the cell phone, xenon headlamps, heated seats, a six-disc CD changer and a sport package that provides higher spring rates, tighter shock valving, a thicker stabilizer bar and larger tires.
The jury's still out on whether or not we like the figure-eight headlamp design that reminds us of an amoeba splitting in two. But the new silhouette of the car, derivative of the S500 but with coupe-like looks, sculpted hood and triangular taillights deserves kudos.
Mercedes went all out to ensure the safety of C-Class buyers. Turn signals in the side mirrors allow others to better spot you. Standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP) that helps bring the car back in line if the system determines that the driver is losing control and four-wheel ABS (with bigger discs than previous versions to help stopping performance) assist drivers in avoiding unseemly situations. Even if you get into a collision, with dual front, four door-mounted side airbags as well as two side curtains ready to deploy, your cabin will be a veritable padded cell. Then you'll hear a concerned, helpful voice through Tele-Aid, which provides emergency services via the cell phone and GPS system.
Yes, the C-Class is the runt of the Mercedes stable. But in its own excellent clique, composed of other Teutonic and Japanese playmates, such as the 3 Series, Audi A4 or the Lexus IS 300, it could very well hold its own.