Hot on the heels of the widely acclaimed C-Class Saloon comes the new C-Class Estate range, combining the same exceptional qualities of safety, agility and comfort with a significant increase in spaciousness and versatility.

As well as a luggage capacity of up to 1500 litres, giving it one of the largest load compartments in the segment, it also offers a host of handy features for easy loading and safe transportation including as standard the Easy Pack automatic powered tailgate which opens and closes at the push of a button.

There are eight engines to choose from, which have been extensively reworked to boost power output by a considerable margin and to improve fuel economy by as much as 12 per cent. The C 200 CDI for example is capable of 47.1 mpg (previously 41.5 mpg), enabling a single tank of fuel (66 litres) to last for over 600 miles on the combined cycle.

Like the Saloon, the C-Class Estate is the first car in its market segment to be awarded with an Environmental Certificate, which confirms its environmentally-focused development conforms to the international ISO standard.

It also blazes a trail in terms of safety, with innovations such as Pre-Safe® and the Adaptive Brake system, along with seven airbags and the crash-responsive Neck-Pro front head restraints all part of the standard specification. The Saloon variant was recently awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Whilst the Estate has not yet been tested it shares the Saloon’s safety armoury.

The new C-Class Estate adopts the Saloon’s three individual model lines, SE, Elegance and Sport which place differing emphasis on comfort and agility and which are distinguished by unique radiator grilles.

Three extended horizontal louvres and a large centrally positioned Mercedes star define Sport models which combine a luxury specification with first class driving dynamics. Elegance models feature chrome highlights on the radiator grille which is finished in high-gloss paint accentuating its comfort and luxury. Finally, the SE line offers the same technical innovations but in a deliberately more restrained and traditional package, and together with Elegance features a more executive design with a bonnet-mounted Mercedes star.

On the road prices start from £24,630 for the C 180 KOMPRESSOR SE, rising to £37,205 for the C 350 Sport.

Simulated shopping

Spaciousness, versatility and functionality were key priorities in the development of the C-Class Estate. A programme of computer simulation with a basket of commodities containing hundreds of different items meant that the new Estate was doing digital shopping trips long before the first driveable prototypes were ready to hit the road. It meant that once they did, real-life loading conditions had been intensely analysed.

Better packaging and overall length increased by 55 mm and width by 42 mm mean the new Estate is considerably more spacious throughout than its predecessor.

The single-action folding rear seats, split 1/3 : 2/3 split, collapse to create a virtually flat load floor measuring around 1.80 metres long and up to 1.20 metres wide. Luggage capacity expands from a thoroughly practical 485 litres behind the seats – 690 litres to the roof – to a cavernous 1500 litres (loaded to roof level, VDA measuring method) with the rear seats folded down. Compared to its predecessor, that’s an increase of as much as 146 litres.

827 litre cuboid

For those with a golfing bent, that means the C-Class Estate can swallow four golf bags and four trolleys. For everybody else, it is perhaps best to imagine the largest possible cuboid that could fit into the load compartment: 943 x 599 x 1465 mm equates to a volume of 827 litres, or approximately two and a half washing machines. That’s 66 litres more than the outgoing model and between 50 and 100 litres more than comparable premium estate models.

Yet another class-beating value is the maximum utilisable interior length of 2.82 metres, measured from the tailgate to the front passenger footwell – a whole 170 mm more than in its predecessor.

But anyone intending to go on holiday with their whole family plus luggage, or move or embark on a major shopping trip, needs more than just a roomy, flexible car; they also need a high payload and once again the new C-Class delivers, offering a maximum DIN payload of 530 kg.

Convenient loading: Easy-Pack automatic powered tailgate and load-securing kit

Thanks to a host of practical details, the new Mercedes C-Class Estate can be loaded more easily, more conveniently and more safely. For instance, two bag hooks and four rings for anchoring loads are included in the load compartment as standard. Stowage compartments with net covers and a collapsible shopping crate can likewise be found in all models, as can the combined luggage cover and retaining net.

The new standard Easy-Pack automatic powered tailgate opens and closes at the push of a button – to open it you either press a switch located on the interior panel of the driver’s door, pull the handle above the rear number plate or press a button on the ignition key; to close it you press either a button on the inside of the tailgate or the switch in the driver’s door panel.

Finally, the optional Easy-Pack load-securing kit (£170) presents drivers with even more possibilities for both partitioning the load compartment and securing the load with its aluminium rails, four extra load-securing rings, telescopic bar and retractable belt.

The new C-Class Estate also makes a perfectly good towing vehicle with a braked limit of 1800 kg. Optional self-levelling suspension will ensure it remains at a constant ride height regardless of the load it is carrying (£560).

Sporting elegance

The Estate was developed and styled simultaneously with the Saloon and while the priority was to deliver load space and everyday functionality, it is characterised by the same flowing lines and muscular shoulder line that suggest power and solidity. The standard aluminium roof rails have a black anodised finish on SE models, and a chrome finish on Elegance and Sport models.

In contrast to its predecessor, the D-pillar – and therefore the Estate’s rear end as a whole – is angled far more steeply and results in considerably more load capacity.

The long, uninterrupted silhouette of the side windows combines with black window pillars to give the body as a whole an elongated and elegant appearance. The longer body, wider track, large wheel arches and wings that arch tightly over the wheels combine to provide a sporty persona. 17-inch wheels – standard on the C 320 CDI and C 350 six-cylinder models as well as for the Sport line – fill the wheel arches and emphasise the powerful, athletic look still further.

An AMG front apron, rear apron and side skirts further distinguish Sport models.

Despite the less tapered rear end, larger rear radii, larger exterior mirrors and smaller front overhangs, the C-Class Estate’s ‘drag factor’ through the air is some three per cent better than its predecessor, achieving a Cd value of 0.30.

Exemplary safety

Nothing beats experience – except even more experience – and 60 plus years of expertise in vehicle safety continues to build with every new model launch. The new C-Class is no exception and an exhaustive programme of impact analysis, including more than 100 crash tests and around 5500 computerised simulated impacts have resulted in an immensely safe structure.

The new bodyshell boasts a 12 per cent increase in torsional stiffness, larger dimensions and enhanced safety performance, yet it weighs 4 kg less than its predecessor. That’s down to greater use of high-strength structural adhesives and an intelligent mix of aluminium and high strength steel alloys – around 70 per cent of the sheet metal panels are made from these high-tech grades of steel, while for around a fifth of all parts, ultra-high-strength steels have been deployed.

Like the Saloon, the Estate features four independently acting impact levels which enable forces to be distributed over a wide area while by-passing the passenger cell which deforms only slightly even in a serious accident. As well as robust aluminium front cross member and side members which extend forward to direct impact forces into the side structure, firewall and transmission tunnel, there’s now a subframe made of high-strength steel which serves a similar purpose.

Special struts in the wheel arches prevent the passenger cell from dropping during a collision and on the driver’s side there’s also an X-strut which connects the shock absorber tower with the robust cross member beneath the windscreen and supports it. During an impact, this reduces the rearwards displacement of the shock absorber tower and the main brake cylinder behind it, preventing the pedal cluster from being pushed into the interior.

As only a very small crumple zone is available during a side collision, side impact forces are dispersed over a wide area by quadruple-shell B-pillars and sills partly manufactured from ultra-high-strength steel. The impact forces are transferred from the B-pillar to the opposite side of the vehicle first and foremost via the transversely rigid seat and the centre console. Accordingly, the seats of the C-Class are equipped with tubular sections and impact-absorbing elements in the side mouldings. A further load dissipation path runs from the base of the B-pillars to the cross member under the seats and the transmission tunnel braces.

An effective crumple zone is also included at the rear and consists of multi-piece side members and a bolted-in section that acts as a cross member capable of absorbing large forces and distributing them into the body structure.

The C-Class Estate has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP but its Saloon stablemate passed the crash tests with flying colours, achieving five stars, making it one of the safest cars on the market.

Pedestrian protection: deformation zones under the bonnet

A number of features help to minimise pedestrian injury in the event of an accident including a large deformation space beneath the bonnet; smooth body surfaces; energy-absorbing bumpers; laminated glass windscreens; folding exterior mirrors; rounded door handles; recessed windscreen wipers and a front bumper featuring a flush, foam-filled spoiler lip which provides a pedestrian with uniform support at an early stage in a collision.

Multiple restraint systems

Occupants are protected by a total of seven airbags as standard: two stage front airbags, side airbags, full length curtain airbags and a driver’s kneebag. The driver, front passenger and the passengers on the outer rear seats also benefit from belt tensioners and belt force limiters.

Neck-Pro head restraints move upwards and forwards to cushion the heads of the driver and front passenger at an early stage in a rear-end collision to guard against the risk of whiplash, and are activated when sensors detect a rear-end collision of sufficient severity.

The two outer rear seats are equipped with ISOFIX child seat fixings, while there is the option of integrated child seats which fold out of the rear bench seat cushion at the push of a button, and now offer the benefit of a wraparound head restraint (£270).

Other items provided as standard which make a vital contribution to accident prevention include flashing brake lights and Electronic Stability Program (ESP®).

If the driver is obliged to brake sharply from a speed of over 30 mph, or if Brake Assist comes to the driver’s aid in an emergency situation, the brake lights flash rapidly to warn traffic behind. Studies show that drivers’ braking reaction time can be shortened by up to 0.2 seconds on average if a flashing red warning light is substituted for a conventional brake light, which equates to approximately 5.50 metres at 60 mph, or about the length of a family car.

ESP® now incorporates additional functions including a trailer stabilisation feature and a new control logic which assists the driver even more effectively in critical cornering situations by triggering precisely metered braking pulses on up to three wheels. It will also monitor tyre pressures and warn the driver if there is a sudden loss in pressure.

Pre-Safe® standard on all models

The anticipatory occupant protection system Pre-Safe® gives the new C-Class Estate an edge over other models in this segment. Pre-Safe® makes use of the moments before an imminent accident to prepare the vehicle and its occupants for a collision, considerably reducing the loads exerted on the passengers upon impact.

It detects critical driving manoeuvres involving either high lateral or extreme linear forces using feedback from the ESP® and Brake Assist systems, and triggers a suitable response:

  • During emergency or panic braking with Brake Assist, Pre-Safe® pulls the seatbelts taut and starts to bring an unfavourably adjusted front passenger seat into a better position – provided the car is equipped with the electrically adjustable front passenger seat with memory function. The system corrects both the backrest and seat cushion angles as well as the height and fore-and-aft adjustment of the seat as required.
  • If there is a danger of skidding owing to heavy understeering or oversteering, the side windows and sliding sunroof (optional) begin to close as a precaution. Closed side windows are better able to brace the windowbags which deploy during a side impact. This preventive measure also lessens the risk of the occupants being thrown from the vehicle or objects penetrating into the interior during a crash.

Intelligent lighting according to the driving situation

The optional Intelligent Light System, the only system of its kind in this market segment at the current time, features five different lighting functions configured for different driving and weather situations (£1,055 for SE models, and £975 for Elegance and Sport). A powerful bi-xenon light package is included in the price of the Intelligent Light System or is available separately, priced £725, and includes a cornering light function, headlamp wash and LED rear indicators.

  • Country mode illuminates the verge more broadly and brightly;
  • in motorway mode the range of vision is increased by up to 60 per cent above 55 mph, while at 70 mph the beam of the bi-xenon module on the nearside is elevated slightly;
  • enhanced fog lamps, activated at speeds below 40 mph when the rear fog lamp is switched on, improve driver orientation – the bi-xenon headlamp on the nearside is pivoted outwards by eight degrees, while lowering its beam of light at the same time which illuminates the left half of the road more brightly and reduces the degree of glare from light reflected back by the fog.
  • Depending on the steering angle, yaw rate and vehicle speed, the active light function pivots the headlamps sideways by up to 15 degrees in fractions of a second to greatly improve road illumination – on a long sweeping bend with a radius of 190 metres, the driver is able to see 25 metres further;
  • finally the cornering light function integrated into the fog lamps in the bumper improves safety at junctions, when turning into side roads and on tight bends.

A cabin of high end quality and pleasant ambience

Inside the C-Class Estate, the attractively styled dashboard, high-grade materials and appealing colour schemes create a homely atmosphere. Surfaces with pleasant tactile qualities, precision edges and tight radii set the tone for the cabin’s high-quality ambience.

Depending on the chosen appointments, the two-tone colour scheme, with the darker, contrasting colour continued from the upper section of the dashboard to the door linings, extends as a feature right into the load compartment.

Each model line has a unique interior finish: aluminium trim and Liverpool cloth/Artico upholstery in Sport models; eucalyptus wood and Artico upholstery in Elegance models; and an elegant high-gloss black and Brighton cloth upholstery combination for SE.

Leather upholstery is available as an option for £955 on Elegance models and £1,295 on Sport models.

Seats: long-distance comfort as standard

The levels of comfort and freedom to move inside the new C-Class Estate match the exemplary standards set by the Saloon and are made possible by a longer, wider body. Passengers also sit slightly higher than before, and together with the larger front door aperture and the new shape of the seat cushions in the rear, climbing in and out is now even easier.

Long distance comfort has been enhanced by a new front seat design in which more prominent side seat bolsters and firmer foam padding used in the outer edges offer good lateral support, with the inner area of the seat cushion and seat back deliberately made softer and with an increased depth of foam.

Finding the optimum driving position is made possible by a steering column adjustable for height and reach, and front seats with electrically adjustable height and backrest angle and manually-adjustable fore-and-aft position and seat cushion angle. Driver’s seat lumbar adjustment relieves the strain on back muscles. At 290 mm, the new C-Class Estate boasts the longest longitudinal seat travel in this market segment.

Front seats with more pronounced cushion and backrest side bolsters affording greater lateral support are standard on Sport models.

A Memory Package comprising front seats, steering column and driver’s door mirror electrically adjustable with three memory settings is available as an option for £950, while the ultimate in luxury is provided by multi-contour front seats (£310) which allow occupants to adapt the contours to suit their anatomy or personal preferences. This is made possible by separately controllable air chambers beneath the seat padding.

The rear seat features a centre armrest with an integral stowage compartment and two cup holders as standard.

The illuminated glove compartment has a capacity of 6.4 litres and accommodates a 12 volt power socket and a jack for connecting an external audio device such as an MP3 player.

Logical displays designed for clarity

The main analogue dials with their chrome bezels, black faces and white markings are illuminated in white and each incorporates an additional display – a clock in the water temperature/fuel gauge dial; total and trip mileage, plus any warning messages within the central speedometer; and outside temperature within the rev counter. The display functions can be selected using four buttons on the multifunction steering wheel.

In Elegance and Sport models, the instrument cluster is linked to an enhanced multifunction steering wheel with 12 buttons and in the centre of the speedometer there is a 4.5-inch display whose upper section can be used to show a variety of information such as the odometer reading, range, oil level, distance and time travelled, average fuel consumption, average speed, radio station selected and telephone numbers. If a navigation system is installed as part of the optional Audio 50 APS system, this display area also shows route directions.

The buttons on the right-hand side of the multifunction steering wheel are used to adjust the volume, switch to mute and operate the car phone. Below is an additional button with which the driver can activate the Linguatronic voice control system (see below).

The colour display in the centre of the dashboard and standard on all models is linked to an aluminium controller on the tunnel console which can be used to operate the audio and navigation systems or the telephone. Rotating the controller selects the main and sub-menus in the display, pressing it confirms the relevant function. A clear menu control structure makes it simple to use; alternatively, there are direct selection keys in the centre console.

State-of-the-art technology: Bluetooth standard across the range

Mercedes-Benz developed three new infotainment units for the C-Class: Audio 20, Audio 50 APS and COMAND. They all feature a keypad for entering telephone numbers and radio frequencies, as well as a standard Bluetooth interface which allows mobile phones to be connected wirelessly to the hands-free system.

The Audio 50 APS system (£1,075 (SE) or £995 (Elegance and Sport)) also features pan-European DVD navigation using arrow symbols for route guidance. With the COMAND multimedia system (£2,075 (SE) or £1,995 (Elegance and Sport)), the navigation data is stored on a hard disk. A high-resolution map which can be viewed from different perspectives appears on the tilting colour display. The COMAND also comprises a DVD player with an integral six-disc DVD changer, a music server able to store up to 1000 MP3 tracks, and a PCMCIA slot which enables various PC memory cards to be connected.

The Linguatronic voice control system is automatically included on C-Class Estate models equipped with the Audio 50 APS plus the six-disc DVD changer or with the COMAND system. One of the most sophisticated voice recognition systems available – it requires 10 Megabytes of computer memory to operate – the new improved system is now able to recognise whole-word commands when entering a destination, selecting a radio station or calling up a name from the telephone directory. The driver no longer needs to spell out the names of countries, towns or roads, for example, but is able to speak them as whole words instead.

The system has undergone an exhaustive ‘learning’ process to enable it to cope with the variety of pitch, speed and local accents likely to be encountered in any particular language.

Linguatronic also lessens the driver’s workload, making it easier to concentrate on what’s happening on the road ahead.

As a £560 option, passengers can also enjoy Logic7 surround-sound which Mercedes-Benz developed in conjunction with harman/kardon®. The system delivers three-dimensional sound as a natural 360-degree musical experience for all passengers, from both DVD and CD and regardless of whether the source was recorded in 5.1 surround or normal stereo. The audio signals are distributed via a 450 watt amplifier connected to 11 speakers plus a bass box in the load compartment’s side trim.

Climate control: three-zone comfort is a first in this model class

Enhanced performance dual zone automatic climate control is standard on all models and features air vents with enlarged cross-sections which reduce the speed of the airflow and the risk of irritating draughts. There are 16 air outlets and with the exception of the defroster vents below the windscreen and the air outlets in the footwells, the quantity of air passing through each is incredibly adjustable.

An optional three-zone system at £470 is the first to be offered in this class and allows rear seat occupants to select their own temperature settings. It also features an automatically controlled, upward-pointing diffuser nozzle in the dashboard, which provides indirect and therefore draught-free ventilation. Thanks to a dewpoint sensor, inflowing air can be cooled and warmed up again if required, depending on its moisture content. This makes the air conditioning system all the more economical.

Sliding sunroofs: panoramic effect now available for Estate passengers too

In addition to the optional tilting/sliding glass sunroof (£910), the C-Class Estate is offered with a panoramic sliding sunroof, whose glass surface covers almost twice the area and extending from the windscreen right back to the load compartment. At the touch of a button, the front section of the glass roof rises up and slides to the rear over the fixed section, while a wind deflector pops up at the front. The moving section of the panoramic sliding sunroof can also be moved into a tilted position (£1,295).

Eight engines offer greater power and substantially better economy

Five petrol engines and three diesel engines cater for any customer’s requirements and extensive development has brought wide-ranging improvements in their efficiency and performance.

The two 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engines feature revised engine management, new pistons and a more powerful supercharger which, in the entry-level C 180 KOMPRESSOR, contribute to a boost in power output from 143 to 156 hp, while maximum torque rises from 220 to 230 Nm and combined consumption is a frugal 39.8 mpg.

The results are even more impressive in the C 200 KOMPRESSOR and an extra 20 hp takes peak output to 184 hp, while maximum pulling power of 250 Nm is generated from 2800 rpm. That shaves 0.6 seconds off the 0-62 mph benchmark, but best of all, combined consumption improves from 35.3 to 38.7 mpg.

There’s a choice of three V6 petrol power units – 204 hp 2.5-litre (C 230), 231 hp 3.0-litre (C 280) and 272 hp 3.5-litre (C 350). Key technological highlights include variable camshaft adjustment on both intake and exhaust sides, a variable intake module and intake ports with tumble flaps, all of which help to enhance power and torque yield while improving fuel consumption. The C 350 can sprint to 62 mph in just 6.5 seconds, yet manages 28.5 mpg combined, for example.

Meanwhile, the 2.2-litre diesel engines of the C 200 CDI and C 220 CDI have been subjected to a thorough overhaul and now incorporate more than 90 new components, including most importantly third generation piezo-injectors and a new turbocharger and intercooler. The C200 CDI also gets a balancer shaft for the first time to give it the refinement levels of a six-cylinder engine.

Power output from the C 200 CDI rises from 122 to 136 hp and fuel consumption gets a boost from 41.5 to 47.1 mpg combined. Improvements to the C 220 CDI are even more striking: power output increased by 20 hp to 170 hp, peak torque now 400 Nm (was 340 Nm) and combined consumption improved by 5.4 mpg to an efficient 46.3 mpg.

The C 320 CDI’s 224 hp 3.0-litre V6 remains unchanged; with peak torque of 510 Nm available between 1600 and 2800 rpm it remains one of the most powerful engines in its class.

C-Class Estate engines with the exception of the C 280, C 350 and C 320 CDI are coupled to a six-speed manual transmission with Hill Start Assist making manual hill starts extremely easy; the car is held on the brkaes for a second, to enable a smooth drive-off characteristic. The larger capacity engines are equipped with the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission.

Sporty agility: shock absorbers that change with the driving situation

An almost perfect balance between the front and rear axles, a 45 mm longer wheelbase, track increased front and rear by 36 and 68 mm respectively, and engines mounted lower and further back add to an even more inherently stable chassis.

Like the Saloon, the C-Class Estate’s chassis dynamics are defined by a unique blend of agility and comfort thanks to the standard-fit Agility Control Package featuring shock absorbers that automatically adapt to the driving style. Generally, these are designed to maximise ride comfort, but as soon as the driver switches to a more dynamic driving style firmer damping provides greater stability and a sportier response. Maximum body roll has been reduced by as much as 10 per cent compared to the previous Estate without any loss of comfort. The technology is purely hydromechanical and so requires no complex electronics. The suspension is complemented by six per cent more direct rack and pinion steering and short-throw gear shifts on the six-speed manual transmission.

Parameter steering

Optional on SE and Elegance (£205) and standard on Sport models is Parameter speed-sensitive power steering which adapts the degree of power assistance to the vehicle speed: the lower the speed, the greater the assistance. What’s more, the degree of centring also increases with speed to provide the driver with a secure and stable feeling in the straight-ahead position.

Dynamic Handling Package – even sportier characteristics

Sport models already have 35 per cent flatter handling compared to the previous C-Class Estate thanks to a 15 mm lower suspension, shorter springs, firmer shock absorber settings and thicker stabiliser bars. But for those customers seeking an even sportier driving experience there’s the optional Dynamic Handling Package (£490). This offers a choice of either Comfort or Sport modes in which the shock absorbers are regulated by means of an infinitely variable electronic control together with an even quicker steering ratio, sharper accelerator response and, on models equipped with an automatic transmission, quicker shift times, initiated via steering wheel shift paddles.

All Sport models feature an enhanced braking system with larger discs, perforated at the front. They look the part too, with front callipers featuring Mercedes-Benz lettering.

Established suspension design: detailed improvements

A new design of sub-frame mounted MacPherson strut front suspension with two separate aluminium lower link elements achieves more precise wheel location and compensates for any vibrations caused by tyre imbalance or fluctuating brake forces.

At the rear is the tried and tested Mercedes-Benz five-link design has undergone subtle modification – the subframe is now supported by an additional strut which reduces weight and improves comfort levels.

A new self-levelling rear suspension is available for £560. This uses an automatically pumping hydropneumatic system in which all components are fully integrated into the rear shock absorbers, saving space and weight. The energy required by the system is derived while the vehicle is on the move from the relative movements between the axle and body.

Brakes: Adaptive Brake with handy support functions

The sophisticated braking system includes Adaptive Braking as standard, which means that when the driver switches abruptly from the accelerator to the brake pedal during emergency braking, the system is primed by increasing the pressure in the brake lines and bringing the brake pads into light contact with the brake discs. In this way, the system complements the functions of the standard Brake Assist which maximises the braking force in the same circumstances. What’s more, it will also briefly apply the brakes at regular intervals in wet conditions to wipe the film of water from the brake discs – prompted by the windscreen wipers operating for a certain length of time.

The new C-Class Estate is available to order now, with deliveries starting on 1st March 2008.