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Mercedes-Benz reveals new C-Class, talks up CLA

8:33 AM, Jan 13, 2014   |    comments
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DETROIT - Mercedes-Benz revealed the 2015 version of the new C-Class, its most popular sedan around the world, at an elegant unveiling Sunday night in the city's fanciest hotel. And along the way, executives indicated the model that took C-Class' place as smallest, the CLA-Class, is proving to be a big success.

"The new C-Class offers several 'bests,'" said Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes parent Daimler of Germany. He noted that it will be offered in different styles, has better fuel economy and at 220 pounds less than the outgoing version, will be the "new lightweight leader" among its luxury compact rivals.

A year ago on the same stage, Mercedes rolled out an even smaller model than what used to be known as the "Baby Benz." The CLA-Class started selling last year at less than $30,000, raising fears that it might steal sales from C-Class. But Steve Cannon, head of Mercedes in the U.S., says cannibalizing C-Class sales hasn't been a problem. That's because CLA is tapping a whole new market for Mercedes.

CLA buyers tend to be 10 years younger than other Mercedes buyers and 18% of sales are to customers in their 20s, Cannon says. As a result, Mercedes game plan is playing out: "Get 'em young, wow them with the best experience in the business and keep them for life."

They are also helping C-Class sales. He says customers coming to showrooms to check out CLA are leaving with C-Classes. CLAs are in short supply so customers check out the C-Class and discover they can move up right from the start.

The new C-Class will be set apart even farther from CLA. The new C-Class is 3.7 inches longer and more than an inch wider. Most of the extra space goes into the rear seat and trunk. Why? All the luxury makers have been adding more rear-seat room lately mainly to cater to the Chinese luxury market, where more luxury car owners have their own drivers.

It is expected to be 20% more fuel efficient.

In the U.S., the C will come in two versions. One is the the C300 4MATIC, which will have a 2-liter turbocharged direct-injection in-line four -cylinder engine. It is expected to be rated at 235 horsepower. The other is the C400 4MATIC with a 3-liter, turbocharged, direct-injection V-6. It's good for 329 horsepower.

Inside, C-Class has a new head-up display to try to reduce driver distraction.

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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