W206 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will reportedly get just four-cylinder engines – chief engineer explains why

It won’t be long before Mercedes-Benz unveils the fifth-generation C-Class, with the W206 set to make its debut on February 23. Previously, the German carmaker said that the new C-Class will only be offered with four-cylinder engines, and that unlike the outgoing W205, there will be no six- or eight-cylinder options.

This is certainly a big deal, but why did the company come to such a decision? According to Christian Früh, who is the chief engineer for the W206, there are a number of reasons for this, and it isn’t just to meet regulations.

Speaking to Automotive News Europe, Früh said that using an engine with more than four cylinders would have changed the original dimensions and dynamics planned for the W206. “With the 3.0 litre [straight-six] engine, the front end would have grown by 50 mm in length, not to mention the higher axle load and its impact on driving dynamics,” he explained.

However, while the C-Class won’t get a six-cylinder engine or a meaty V8 – the latter for the performance-focused C 63 variant – Früh is certain that with plug-in hybrid technology, the company’s four-cylinder engines will be more than capable. “Besides a slight increase in smoothness, these engines have significantly better efficiency,” he noted.

On the mention of electrification, the entire W206 range will have some form of it – mild hybrid or a plug-in hybrid – but there will be no provisions for an all-electric variant. This is because the upcoming C-Class will use the company’s MRA (Modular Rear-wheel-drive Architecture), which cannot be fully electrified without some significant changes.

These include repackaging the existing floor assembly to accommodate batteries, but also to increase wheel diameters and height, which is both costly and “distorts the DNA of the C-Class.” Früh added that the Electric Vehicle Architecture (EVA), which underpins the EQS and EQE, goes beyond the “dimensional concept and budget of the C-Class.” While not mentioned, the future Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) would be a better case for a fully electric C-Class.

Früh also commented on why the All-Terrain version of the C-Class won’t get Airmatic, explaining that the option wasn’t very popular among customers. “In 2020, unfortunately, only one in a hundred customers opted for the air suspension. That is not profitable. We cover the all-terrain requirements with an off-road chassis including appropriate tyres,” he said.

Rear-wheel steering will also be available for the W206, although not as extreme as the rear-axle steering system on flagship W223 S-Class, which has a steering angle of up to 10 degrees. Instead, the C-Class will have a rear maximum steering angle of 2.5 degrees, which is more than sufficient to drop the turning circle by 0.4 metres to 10.6 metres. “For larger angles, a steerable axle would have to be installed – there is neither space nor money for this,” said Früh.

We’ll only get complete details about the new W206 C-Class on February 23, although the design won’t be much of a surprise as official photos have been leaked prior to its debut. The sedan will look like a “mini S-Class” on the outside and inside, the latter featuring a large touchscreen covering almost the entire centre stack.

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