Wednesday, March 29, 2006

4-door saloon future: Mercedes C-class

The technical bits
Mercedes is known for innovation and introduction of new technologies in its cars. Such was the case with ABS and ESP systems, Common-Rail diesel engines and many other technologies. For this model nothing extraordinary is expected since the main innovations were present in the new S-class. So expect to find in the options list Distronic system, Brake-by-wire technology and night-vision cameras. However, one thing will be absent and it is really unfortunate: the Airmatic suspension. The latest information that I could get suggests that the new C-class will not be equipped with this option. I found this somewhat strange because the C-class shares most of its suspension parts with the E-class model, and this one has the Airmatic option. In this class of vehicles the Airmatic would provide the kind on technical superiority that a jetfighter F22 has over its competition. So it’s a real pity if Mercedes doesn’t use this ultimate weapon.

Regarding engines no amazing novelties are expected… in the beginning of commercialization. Mercedes is pursuing research in hybrids and bluetec diesel technology but such versions will arrive later in the program. For now, improved versions of the current engine range will be available.

Let’s try to understand a little bit better the issue of suspension technology and the Airmatic pneumatic suspension. Currently, if one specs 17 inch wheels and a sport suspension in the C-class one can be sure to have excellent road-handling AND still have a very comfortable ride. Such feat is also accomplished by BMW (although a bit more sporty and firm) and by Lexus in the IS series. The key features that allow this are the RWD longitudinal-engine architecture and the big wheelbase that comes with it. Now experiment choosing the nice big 17’s and sport suspension in, let’s say, a Opel Vectra or a Audi A4… it still will not handle curves as well as a 3-series and every bump on the road will remind that you are driving inferior machinery. That’s the difference between the prestige RWD saloons and the cheaper FWD competition. Now if on top of that you can have the Airmatic option in the Mercedes, coupled with adaptive damping then nothing could match it. It is thus a real pity if Mercedes doesn’t use its ultimate technical weapon to further enhance the superiority of its architecture.
Another interpretation, but the rear will be a bit more bland than this.

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