Mercedes unleashes larger, more luxurious C-Class

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Mercedes Benz unveiled Sunday a larger, much better-appointed version of its best selling C-Class model to further distinguish it after introducing the cheaper CLA last year as its new "entry level" car.

The car that has made Mercedes (Xetra: 710000 - news) the leading luxury car maker in the United States was the starter Benz for years.

But the company has given it a makeover that raises its class and promises a new life in the mid-range of the luxury market.

Mercedes Chairman Dieter Zetsche said the company has taken some of the high-level styling and functions of the pricier E- and S-Class cars and added them to the C-Class, including driver assistance systems -- partly autonomous driving -- and the Airmatic suspension technology.

The car has also lost 220 pounds (100 kilograms) helped by the use of lightweight materials.

"We believe this star will rock the mid-sized segment" of the market, Zetsche said at the launch, on the occasion of the annual Detroit auto show.

The C-Class has been Mercedes' most popular model in the United States and around the world for several years, and helped lock the company's lead over its rivals BMW (Berlin: BMW.BE - news) , Audi (Other OTC: AUDVF - news) and Cadillac in the US market.

"To be honest, that feels pretty damn good," Zetsche said at the launch in a swank Detroit hotel.

Zetsche said the CLA has been a "breakthrough car" enjoying "overwhelming demand," allowing the company to migrate the C-Class up a notch in market segment.

"The huge excitement which goes around the CLA is beneficial for the brand altogether. It brings more dynamics, more coolness to the brand," he said.

"A typical S-Class customer certainly appreciates a younger more dynamic brand rather than an old-fashioned brand."