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The New Mercedes C-Class: A Tesla Competitor? (Update 1)

**UPDATED from 06:00 AM EST to add video interview with Mercedes Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In 2013, Mercedes edged BMW in terms of selling more cars in the U.S. The best-selling Mercedes -- both in the U.S. and elsewhere -- is the C-Class, which is the sedan sitting below the E-Class. A typical transaction price, which includes various optional equipment, can be between $42,000 and $48,000.

It is therefore important when Mercedes introduces a new C-Class. Coming on the back of a rapid-fire set of introductions in 2013 -- S-Class, a refreshed E-Class, the CLA and the GLA -- the C-Class completes the recent design transformation away from Mercedes' older and more conservative styling to its new look for the future.

It is more than the styling that's new with the 2015 Mercedes C-Class. In recent years, the U.S. has become the largest market for the C-Class, so production of the new car will begin in Alabama in September 2014. Mercedes' most futuristic-looking sedan, made in Alabama -- noodle on that!

I have not yet had the opportunity to drive the all-new 2015 C-Class, but I recently had a few hours to examine the interior in detail and talk to several senior Mercedes executives about most aspects of the car. Here are my initial findings:

Dashboard, center console and inside of doors: This is a supremely well-designed interior. It is elegant and modern at the same time. There is really nothing like it in the automotive industry. The center console has three round vents and a "floating" tablet above it, sort of like the smaller CLA and GLA models.

However, the C-Class has its buttons and knob groups laid into a big monoblock, sort of like the way Volvo has been doing it for many years now. This monoblock is huge in the C-Class, and when the chosen material is wood, it reminds me of the wood inside the doors of the 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith. Considering that the Wraith starts at $285,000, that's one smart design cue to show that this near-$50,000 car can actually be an outstanding value.

The exquisite design continues to the insides of the doors. The Burmester speaker grilles look every bit as expensive as they do in the $100,000+ S-Class. I hope you're getting the message here: In terms of expensive design, the C-Class punches at least one full class above its weight.

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