Mercedes Benz C Class: Revisiting The Generations [W201 To W206]
Meet all the generations of Mercedes Benz C Class in detail, including the two that never made it to India
Mercedes Benz has launched the 2022 C Class sedan in India. The C has been a hugely sought-after MB nameplate globally. It was originally conceived as a compact sedan from the three-point star and had debuted at a time when the idea of compact sedans itself was fairly new. It has had a rich pedigree of five generations over the last 29 years. The C has been in huge demand across the globe all these years and played a vital role along with the E, in driving huge volumes, which over time has contributed much to Mercedes Benz’s global growth. Let’s take a quick walk through the history and generations of the Mercedes C Class.
Mercedes Benz had always been known for making big luxury sedans offering supreme comfort levels. The C-Klasse was the physical form of their thoughts over making something compact, but not losing a bit of Mercedes Benz DNA. It was thus labeled the ‘baby Benz’ from the very initial stages. W201 was the first realization of the compact executive sedan vision. The ‘C-Klasse’ name, however, came after years, in 1993, wherein the ‘C’ stood for ‘Compact’. Living up to his name, the C Class (W202) continued to be the smallest car from Mercedes Benz till when the W168 A-Class was launched in 1997. Time to explore the generations in detail…
Mercedes Benz W201
The W201 could simply be called the ‘Big Daddy of C Class’ ( Or should I say ‘compact’ daddy?!). Sticking strictly to the Mercedes vision of a compact executive sedan, it had a clean, uncluttered design and extremely compact proportions. Launched in 1982, the W201 had a front-engine, RWD layout, and multiple engine-transmission combinations to choose from. There was everything from 1.8L to 2.6L petrols and 2.0L to 2.5L diesels on offer. The car was available in many global markets, selling like hotcakes in most places.
The W201 Mercedes 190 even spawned an AMG version at some point in time, powered by Merc’s 3.2L M103 15 degrees straight-six petrol engines. Just 200 complete cars were made, all with hefty price tags. However, Merc at that time had AMG body kits and M103 AMG engines on sale separately, for those craving to retrofit.
One of the hugely respected W201 versions of all time could be the 190E 2.3-16V, which had set multiple world records at the Nardo Testing facility in August 1983, cruising at an average speed of 248 kph (155 mph) for 50,000 kilometers on the track, over 201 hours, 39 minutes, and 43 seconds, without breaking down! Unlike a few other trims, the 190E 2.3-16 had 183 hp on offer.
In short, the W201 Mercedes 190E was the prelude to the original C Class, a compact sedan family which would shape the brand’s volume supremacy in the time that followed. As is obvious, this model was never brought to India. Mercedes Benz India had officially started ops in the country only in 1994, wherein they brought just the W124 E Class to local assembly. However, there are a few units of W201 in existence here, which had originally landed as private imports in the past.
Mercedes Benz C Class: First Generation (W202) | 1993
This was the first C-Class, or the first car to use the name. Unveiled in May 1993, the W202 had more cabin room and boot space than the W201. Unlike its predecessor, the W202 C had an estate version to it in some markets.
The W202 borrowed its core design genes from the W201, but with a few key reworks that would make it look cleaner and sleeker than the previous car. The smoother design went easier on the eye and even had feeble cues from the W124 E class, W140 S Class, and R129 SL class. Drawing visual connections with more premium higher-end Mercedes cars, instantly upped the appeal of the C. Mercedes Benz kept this tactic safe in the succeeding generations as well.
The rear-drive W202 had a wide range of petrol and diesel engines and transmissions on offer. It also had ABS and airbags as standard across its variants. Further, the C Class Sport had a coil-over suspension setup.
For the performance-savvy, there was even a proper C class AMG, dubbed C36 AMG, with a 3.6L engine producing 287 hp. The C43 AMG, a later addition, had a more powerful 4.3L V8 producing 306hp and 410 Nm. This was the first C Class to get a proper Mercedes Benz- developed V8.
Gen1 C Class had two distinct versions in many global markets: The saloon (W202.033) and the Estate- called the T version (W202.093). The Estate (T) had debuted in 1996 with identical specs and trims as the regular C Class sedan.
The first-generation C-Class received a minor facelift in 1996, whereby it got new wheels, refreshed interior trims, door moldings, and reworked front and rear bumper fascias. The updated C even got supercharged trims and a Kompressor badge on the boot. The W202 was never brought to India, much like the 201.
Mercedes Benz C Class: Second Generation (W203)| 2000
W203, the second generation, is the first C Class that was launched in India. The Gen2 car had a more period-correct, sleek, and good-looking design and improved powertrains. Visual connections with the full-blown S Class were kept safe. It was also feature-packed with the likes of adaptive airbags, multifunctional steering wheel, headlamp assist, etc being offered.
There were inline-four and V6 petrol engines and inline-four and inline-five diesels. In a later update, a V6 diesel was also added. The diesel engines on this car used CRDi tech and had variable geometry turbochargers. However, markets like India got just the C180 with a 2L petrol and the C200 with the 2.2L diesel. Yes, the supercharged version was also on sale here, with the ‘Kompressor’ name, which in the course of time, amassed huge respect from enthusiasts. To add to this further, there was a proper 6-speed manual transmission available on the C class here! All of these set the perfect scene for the nameplate to take off well, and scale epic heights with the generations that followed.
The W203 received a minor facelift in early 2004 (North America had had this in 2005). The refreshed model had improved interior styling in all the available body styles (saloon, station wagon, and coupe) The instrument cluster, central console, audio system, etc were updated on the facelift. An improved Bluetooth phone system and a fully integrated iPod connection kit were also introduced. On the exterior, an updated grille, new wheels, aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and clear-lens headlamps came into being.
The most critical update on the facelift could be the mechanical revisions. The powertrains were improved, a sportier suspension and steering tuning were introduced and a new 367hp supercharged 5.4L V8 premiered on the C55 AMG. It was on the facelift that the new 7G-Tronic automatic transmission made its debut.
As mentioned above, the W203 C Class was available in three different body styles- coupe, estate, and sedan. The coupe could be a rare find for many, as this fastback was available in select markets. Called the C Class Sport-Coupe, this car had a proper fastback roofline and a functional rear spoiler for added downforce. Even with the same wheelbase as the regular sedan, the coupe was around 178 mm shorter in its overall length. It also had a bunch of attractive drivetrains on offer including the supercharged petrol. It was the Sportcoupe that later spawned the CLC-class lineup of fastbacks in 2008.
While the Sportcoupe invoked mixed emotions among enthusiasts globally, the station wagon (T Model) continued to garner fans. It was sought after by many. The front design resembled that of the sedan sibling, but the estate differed sharply in its silhouette and the rear. It obviously had curbs on its boot capacity owing to the body style’s inherent traits, but Mercedes Benz made sure it looked classy towards and at the rear. The cabin had generous room for four and a tad limited space for the third-row occupants.
Mercedes Benz C Class: Third Generation (W204) | 2007
W204, the third generation of C Class rolled out in 2007 replacing the previous 203. With Karlheinz Bauer and Peter Pfeiffer at the helm of its design, the W204 C Class had enough design deviations from its predecessor. It was available in the sedan, coupe, and estate body styles.
This generation of the C Klasse was available in three distinct trims- Classic, Elegance, and Avantgarde with clear visual and equipment differentiations. Classic was the base-spec and came with a small 4-pot engine. The mid-spec Elegance and Classic had the traditional Merc grille, with horizontal Chrome bars and a hood-mounted emblem, while the Avantgarde had a more aggressive ‘Sport’ grille with 3 matte-finished horizontal slats with a large central logo and AMG body kits. It also had sports seats, 3-spoke sports steering wheel, lower and stiffer sports suspension, better brake calipers, and larger wheels. With its overall flair, the Avantgarde felt to belong to a different league than the Elegance or Classic variants.
As it was based on the C207 E Class coupe’s platform, the W204 was fairly larger than its predecessor with 50mm of extra wheelbase. The cabin was thus roomier than the previous generation. Key design highlights of the third generation included square angular headlamps, body-colored door handles, and sculpted profile. It was an evident visual departure from the W203 and soon gained much global acceptance. W204 was the most sold Mercedes Benz car of its time, selling a total of 2.4 million units worldwide.
The cabin saw the addition of multiple new features like new infotainment options ranging from audio 20 to multimedia command APS with a 7-inch colour display, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, and a new steering wheel with integrated controls. Dial gauges inside gave the car a sportier appeal.
The global W204 offered a range of petrol and diesel engines and both manual and automatic transmissions. Among the key engines, particularly in the Indian context, were the 1.8 petrol and 2.2L diesel units that featured multiple upgrades in this generation. As for the enthusiasts, there was the C63 with a massive 6.2L V8. Unlike the previous generations which used to be RWD cars, the W204 came in both RWD and AWD (4MATIC as Mercedes calls it) layouts.
The W204 C Class received a facelift in 2011, wherein the design evolved to a sharper, sportier one, mostly at the front. New bumpers, reworked headlamps with DRLs, 17-inch alloys, and a new dual-tone paint scheme premiered on the update. On the inside, the steering wheel, and minor bits of the dashboard were updated. Merc’s new 7-speed automatic transmission replaced the previous 5-speed unit, on the facelift. Further, the engines now featured Mercedes-Benz CGI tech allowing for better performance and efficiency.
Mercedes Benz C-Class: Fourth Generation (W205) | 2014
The fourth-generation C Class (W205) made its global debut in 2014. The key highlight here was that courtesy of its new platform, the new C had lost significantly. It was now around 100 kilograms lighter than its predecessor, and more importantly, the lightest C ever made. Sedan, Wagon, coupe, and cabriolet body styles were available in the global market. There was even a long-wheelbase (LWB) version to this generation- codenamed V205.
In its design, the W205 was significantly cleaner, smoother, and better-looking than the car it replaced. Neat lines and sculpted surfaces along with bits like LED lighting, sportier wheels, and refreshed grille, made sure this design went straight into the hearts of Mercedes fans.
More up-market features made their way into the W205’s cabin. A large central freestanding display with COMAND integration, premium audio, keyless ignition, ambient lighting, round air vents with metallic surrounds, a touchpad controller with haptic feedbacks mounted on the center tunnel, head-up display, etc were among the major catches inside. There was more room inside than in the previous car, due to the bigger dimensions of the new platform.
On the mechanical front, the W205 was underpinned by MB’s new MRA platform (Modular Rear Architecture), and had a wide range of engines on offer globally – turbocharged, NA, and hybrids- both petrols and diesels. India, however, had 2.0L petrol and 2.1L diesel as the major volume drivers. The diesel was available here in two states of tune with evidently distinct output figures. The 7-speed auto continued to be the most popular transmission. This generation also featured AWD and was also the first Merc to come with the carmaker’s electronically-controlled pneumatic suspension (AIRMATIC).
In this generation, the C Class spawned two different AMG iterations- C43 and C63S. We had driven the C43, and boy, what a car! 0-100 in just 4.7 seconds, thanks to the 3.0L twin-turbo V6 and the 367 horses it houses! The C63 S was much faster with its 503 hp!
The W205 C Class had received a facelift in 2018, that made it a sportier-looking design, stuffed in more features (including semi-autonomous driving tech in multiple global markets), and revamped the powertrains. The facelift was soon launched in India in 3 trims- C220d progressive, C220d Prime, and C300 AMG line. The engines here were then updated to 1.5L mild-hybrid turbocharged petrol and 2.0 L diesel. However, the turbo petrol unit did not make many fortunes here and was soon dumped for a 2.0L conventional petrol on the 2020 facelift.
Mercedes Benz C Class had got the first cabriolet in its history, on the W205. The C Cabrio was first revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. The car had the same wheelbase as the coupe, four seats, and a soft-top that was operational at speeds of up to 50 kph (31 mph). It was quite a candy to look at and went on sale in many markets including India. Two diesel and six petrol engines were offered globally on the convertible.
Mercedes Benz C-Class: Fifth Generation (W206) | 2021
The latest and apparently the best-till-date generation of C Class is the W206 that had made its global premiere in February 2021. Available in the long-wheel V205 form in markets like China, the Gen-5 C bears strong resemblances to the outgoing S Class in its design and cabin experience. It is underpinned by the second generation MRA platform, which also forms the base for W223 S Class. Globally, the fifth-gen is available in just the saloon and estate body styles. The coupe and convertible have been axed for now. Though there are a few digital renders out on the internet detailing what a W206 coupe/cabriolet could look like, there is no word yet on the actual possibility of these getting realized immediately. A few recent spy shots of W206 Cabrio protos being tested, however, lend us hope.
Much in keeping with the manufacturer’s ‘Baby S’ label, the new C Class borrows multiple design cues from the new S. It looks cleaner and classier. The wedge-shaped tail, slim tail lamps, and sleek boot design are all reminiscent of the S. The front fascia of the AMG kitted variant, however, stands free of S-influence overdose. It looks sporty and dynamic with a star pattern grille and aggressive bumpers. The regular car gets a subtler front end and looks suave.
The C Class gets a set of fuel-efficient hybrid powertrains on its fifth generation. The smallest engine available is a 1.5L mild-hybrid petrol. There is also a 1.5L turbo petrol with mild hybrid, 2.0L turbo petrol hybrid, and 2.0L mild hybrid diesel on offer in various international markets. The 9-speed G-Tronic remains the sole transmission on offer. C300e, a plug-in hybrid with the hybridized M254 2.0L turbo petrol is also on sale in some markets. This gen is the first to get hybrid powertrains on all available variants.
The station wagon based on Gen5 C Class has evolved into something very recognizable- a crossover wagon with ‘All-Terrain’ in its name and SUV-ish cues in design. I said familiar because 2016’s Mercedes Benz E Class All-Terrain (X213) had gathered many eyeballs back then and in the course of time, rose to much acceptance globally. (The vehicle debuted in India in 2018.) The new C All-Terrain is apparently the second usage of the ‘All Terrain’ moniker after this and lives up to the expectations in terms of design and character. It stands 40mm higher off the ground and has a design that many a time, resembles those of modern Mercedes SUVs. Maybe, that is how MB prefers to envision its future station wagons!
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W206) For India: What Is New?
Quite literally, everything! Mercedes uses the tagline ‘Baby S’ to describe this car, and you wouldn’t disagree with this claim, once you get to experience it. It is not just the design that has it this time. The interiors and overall cabin experience would invoke strong memories of the flagship Mercedes.
The overall layout and design of the dashboard, steering wheel, and center console resemble the ones on the new S Class way too much. (And that’s a great thing!). A restyled steering wheel with touch-sensitive controls, a huge, vertically placed tablet-styled infotainment system, Burmester premium audio, mood lighting, dual sunroof with touch-slider operation, a 12.3-inch digital cockpit, are the major attractions inside. The infotainment software has been updated with the latest tech, and there are even voice commands on the fifth-generation car.
With the new platform in place, the C Class has grown considerably in size and is now the largest car in its segment here. The room and comfort at the rear have increased fairly.
2022 Mercedes Benz C Class gets the 1.5L petrol and the 2.0 L diesel engines with 48V hybrid tech and an integrated starter generator motor. The hybrid petrol produces 204 hp and the diesel hybrid churns out 200 hp on the C220d and 265 hp on the range-topping C300d AMG line.
Much like its previous generation, the W206 for India, uses double wishbones at the front and an independent multi-link setup at the rear for suspension duties. The damping and spring rate calibrations, however, are different on the new car. This should mean more occupant comfort and better dynamics.
2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Price In India
Going by the prices, the C 220d seems to have a clear upper hand over the petrol-powered C200, in the value offered, especially considering the differences in torque between the two. However, going by the market trends, the C300d could garner maximum acceptance.
Mercedes Benz C Class FAQ
What does C-Class mean?
C Class (or C- Klasse) is the family of compact luxury sedans manufactured by Mercedes Benz, that rose to acceptance over the years for the comfort and luxury on offer. The C in its name stands for ‘Compact’. The name would thus be an acronym for ‘Compact Klasse’.
What’s the difference between A-class and C-Class Mercedes?
Of course, there are many differences between the two of these. The common point, however, is that both the nameplates have adorned the title for being the entry point to Mercedes Benz family and of being the smallest Mercedes Benz on sale at some point in time.
Talking of differences, the key deviations would be in the dimensions, capabilities, and cabin experiences. The C is significantly larger than the A and has more number of S-class design cues in it. Also, the cabin offers more space, comfort, features, and luxury than the A-class.
The key difference in character is that the A-class is an FWD car, while the C has been a proper RWD since its inception. (And yes, there is an optional AWD on some variants)
Is Mercedes C-Class all-wheel drive?
The C Class has always been built on proper RWD platforms. The newest generations- W205 and W206 are underpinned by the MRA (Modular Rear Architecture) chassis, which is again an RWD platform. All the regular variants retain their RWD layouts in the newest generation as well. However, Mercedes Benz is offering its AWD setup- the 4MATIC on the AMGs.
Does the C-class have rear-wheel steering?
Rear-wheel steering is something we have been drooling over on Mercedes cars like the S Class and EQS. The technology allows the rear wheels to undergo small degrees of movement (or steer slightly) to improve the overall agility, dynamics, and body control around corners.
MB has introduced rear-wheel steering on the sportier variants of the W206 C class in many global markets, but not on the India-spec car!
Will there be a new C-Class Cabriolet?
There has been no official word yet from Mercedes on any plans around a W206 cabriolet. The C Class convertible was realized for the first time on W205 and had gotten quite popular in many global markets. However, after the advent of the W206 generation, multiple reports in European publications had suggested that MB could axe the convertible on W206. However, a recent set of spy pictures, reportedly of the W206 cabriolet mules being tested, have given us hope. Further details about markets and release dates of these are yet to be known.
When will the W206 C class AMG launch in India?
Mercedes Benz had recently revealed the new W206 C43 AMG with a 2.0L turbocharged 4-pot, hybrid petrol engine (M139) with an output of 402hp and 500Nm, and mated to the 9-speed automatic transmission. Several other mechanical changes have also been implemented on the new car. However, it seems the carmaker would not launch this car in India anytime this year. If the new C43 is to launch this year, it would have to be priced extremely close to the full-blown E63 AMG, which could bring a bit of cannibalization and is thus definitely not the wisest practice from a business perspective. The next generation (W214) E Class saloon is hoped to break cover in late 2022 and could come to India soon after. The W214 E63 could then push the ante for specs and price further up, making enough room for the new C43 to sit comfortably. This could be MB India’s plans while the bosses there comment: “no plans of the C43, at least for this year.”