Under the microscope: heritage: Model history of the C-Class

Mar 7, 2011
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a multitalented character that exists in the form of a compact saloon, a variable estate and a successful racing car. The C-Class is the highest-volume model series and is thus of particular importance to Mercedes-Benz. Since 1982 Mercedes-Benz has sold a total of over 8.5 million vehicles in this segment.
The history of the C-Class began back in 1982. That was when the 190 model (model series W 201), the direct forerunner of the C-Class, was presented. The 190 became the third model series – alongside the S-Class and E-Class. Customers in North America began calling the new saloon the “Baby-Benz”. But beneath its sheet metal panels lay some very grown-up values. Groundbreaking features led to high standards in passive safety, the drive system and in other automotive technology disciplines. In 1982 the flyer for the 190 model promised “Top Mercedes technology in a compact form”. The model kept this promise and the C-Class has continued to live up to it ever since.
A short model history of the C-Class:
Model series 201
In 1982 Mercedes-Benz unveiled the 190 model. Created by designer Bruno Sacco, the saloon (model series W 201) transferred the Mercedes-Benz values to the mid-series. These values included a passion for technical innovation: accordingly the W 201 was given a multi-link independent rear suspension, a weight-saving construction using high-strength steels, an aerodynamically exemplary bodyshell and outstanding passive safety features.
The 190 model also set benchmarks where the engines were concerned: amongst the diesel units this was achieved using an encapsulated assembly that led to the 190 D model being known as the “whispering diesel”. And there were four-valve engines for the petrol models, making the compact class highly powerful and turning it into a successful athlete on the race track. A total of 1,879,629 units of model series 201 were sold.
Model series 202
The 202 series was the first to bear the name Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The saloon (W 202) was launched in 1993. The C-Class offered more space and comfort with exterior dimensions that were similar to those of the 190. At comparable prices, the standard equipment was also much more extensive. In 1996 the model range was extended to include the estate (S 202), which offered exemplary spaciousness for this vehicle class.
The 202 series had a decisive effect on the further development of passenger car diesel engines at Mercedes-Benz: it was in the C-Class that four-valve diesels for passenger cars first celebrated their world premiere. This was followed by the first turbodiesel car with four-valve technology and intercooling. Finally, the diesel engine with direct injection in accordance with the common-rail principle (CDI, Common Rail Direct Injection) made its debut in the C-Class in 1997. But the model series also set trends amongst the petrol engines: for the first time in more than 50 years, Mercedes-Benz began using a positive-displacement belt-driven supercharger again in the C 230 Kompressor model – for performance-enhancing engine charging. In total 1,847,382 vehicles of the 202 model series rolled off the production line.
Model series 203
The third generation of the compact class (W 203) presented in the year 2000 was characterised by a particularly sporty design. And in the autumn of 2000 a sports coupé (CL 203) made its debut in the C-Class. The new estate (S 203) arrived on the scene in 2001 and reinforced the predecessor’s character as a lifestyle vehicle with a high utility value.
The new model series comprised a whole raft of technical innovations as part of its standard equipment. Alongside safety, exemplary comfort and reliability, it was above all the C-Class’s sporty agility that was to the fore. Amongst the technical innovations which were premiered in this generation of the C-Class were the automated six-speed transmission SEQUENTRONIC. Overall more than two million vehicles of model series 203 were built.
Model series 204
The succinct design of the fourth-generation C-Class which arrived in the dealerships as of March (saloon) and November (estate) 2007 was based on Mercedes-Benz’s latest design idiom. For the very first time the design and equipment lines for a Mercedes saloon bore their own individual vehicle looks. For instance the AVANTGARDE design and equipment line with its Mercedes star positioned in the centre of the radiator grille created a decidedly agile C-Class in a sporty design. And especially for customers preferring the emphasis to be on comfort and elegance, Mercedes-Benz offered true hallmark style in the form of the ELEGANCE and CLASSIC design and equipment lines and the traditional Mercedes radiator grille.
The new C-Class’s technical innovations included the AGILITY CONTROL package with selective damper control and even more direct steering. With ADAPTIVE BRAKE, another innovative feature in the field of chassis technology, the C-Class offered additional assistance functions. For the first time in this segment, the innovative Intelligent Light System with five different lighting functions plus the PRE-SAFE® occupant protection system was available in the C-Class. The latter system autonomously activates protective measures for the driver and front passenger before an imminent accident. By the end of 2010 the current model series already had over a million customers.