Mercedes sees new C-Class as a high-tech small sibling to the S flagship image

In order to boost its bid to surpass BMW in sales, Mercedes-Benz is adding touchpad technology pioneered by the iPhone and an iPad-like display to the C-Class sedan, while the design slots it as a downsized version of the S Class.

Mercedes is offering its best-seller with trendy smartphone-like features and technology from the flagship S-Class sedan, including a 360-degree camera and six radar sensors to enhance safety systems.

The new C-Class goes on sale in Europe in March and the U.S. and China in September and will help Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes overtake Audi for second place next year, according to forecasts from IHS Automotive. By bolstering the 33,560-euro ($45,690) C-Class with top-of-the-line gadgetry, Mercedes is looking to further its effort of leaping to No. 1 from third in global luxury-car sales by the end of the decade.

The 28,980-euro CLA compact sedan, which was introduced last year, replaced the C-Class as the main entry-level Mercedes by focusing on aggressive styling to lure buyers from other brands. To set the C-Class apart from its cheaper stable mate, Mercedes made the car essentially a downsized version of the iconic S-Class.

Including a wagon, coupe and an extended-wheelbase version for China, the line’s sales are forecast to surge 30 % in 2015 from last year, IHS estimates. That would help lift Mercedes deliveries 17 percent to more than 1.7 million vehicles next year, nipping ahead of Audi as the C-Class outsells the Volkswagen AG unit’s A4.

The small sedan, which accounts for about 25 % of Mercedes sales, is the cheapest model available that has the right to place the trademark three-pointed star in its traditional position upright on the hood rather than embedded in the grille like in the brand’s compacts.

High-tech options include a head-up display, which projects speed and navigation instructions on the windscreen to avoid distraction, and an air suspension that lets the driver to switch between four settings from sporty to comfort.

The touchpad allows the customer to flip through functions or zoom in and out of maps or other images on the central display, which juts out of the dashboard and resembles a small tablet computer. The touchpad, which can also be used to enter letters or numbers, vibrates to give the driver feedback that the command was received to help keep focus on the road.

Via Bloomberg