2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 Review
2009 Mercedes-Benz C300
2009 MERCEDES-BENZ C300
By Steve Purdy
The entry level luxury/sport sedan segment is populated by some of the most sophisticated and fun cars out there. Think of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35. Most start a tad north of 30-grand. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, redesigned for 2009, fits right into the center of this genre.
We’re testing the rear-wheel drive 2009 Mercedes C300 this week. Price of entry is $32,100. It comes mighty well-equipped at that level with V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power front seats, 8-speaker sound system with auxiliary input and Bluetooth capability, leather multi-function steering wheel with tilt and telescoping functions, automatic halogen headlight, trip computer and all the ambiance you expect from a Mercedes.
This standard 3-liter, 24-valve, 228-horsepower V6 with 221 lb-ft of torque is plenty. Acceleration is smooth, brisk and gratifying with zero-to-60mph time of 7.1 seconds. I thought it an amazing performance for an engine with such modest numbers. Winding it to red line is musical. There is an AMG version of the C-Class, by the way, that pumps out well over 400 horsepower if you need that level of adrenalin.
The optional 7-speed automatic with manual mode shifts decisively without calling attention to itself. We don’t even notice shifts in normal, easy driving. On hard acceleration shifts are more evident but still smooth. All this excellent performance includes EPA mileage ratings of 18-city and 25-highway. In our mixed experience this week we saw an average of 23.5-mpg. Premium fuel is recommended and this Benz is E85 compatible. With a 19.5-gallon fuel tank (including the 2.1-gallon reserve) we can expect a cruising range of nearly 400 miles.
This new 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class follows the styling language of its larger siblings, that is, a squat stance with arched lines implying an athletic, feline character. In darker colors like this one the image is subtle but pervasive. Extremely short front overhang with a slightly bulging wheel arch and squinty headlights add to the aggressive fully modern look.
The rear seat is not so generous. This is a small sedan, after all. Getting through the door and into the seat was a challenge for this admittedly portly reporter. Average-sized people will find it adequate but certainly not the equal of bigger sedans. An optional power rear window shade will cut out the glare back there. Trunk space is respectable at 12.4 cubic-feet.
Suspension is a sophisticated fully independent design all around with a 3-link strut system in front using an anti-dive geometry and a 5-arm system in the rear with substantial stabilizer bar. Our 3,500-pound test car has the sport suspension calibration and we found it pleasantly firm. Drivers more used to domestic sedan suspension tuning might find it disconcerting but it certainly offers a feeling of control and precision.
Safety features on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 are extensive. Lots of airbags, chassis dynamics, designed-in crumple zones, seat belt pre-tensioners, and all the usual stuff make this car as safe as anything in its class. Government safety ratings are maxed out for side crash and rollover protection and one star short on frontal crash protection.
Mercedes’ new car warranty is good for 4 years or 50,000 miles.
It was hard to find anything to criticize with the C300 but one annoyance was the lack of visible cues on the key fob. Raised lines on the fob indicate the functions but especially in the dark it was difficult to find the right button. You must keep tilting it until the light catches the ridges just right to see anything.
When shopping for a classy small sedan in this category I recommend you include the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 in your search.
� Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved
2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class brings multiple refinements. The 2009 C-Class is composed of the C300 Luxury, C300 Luxury 4MATIC, C300 Sport, C300 Sport 4MATIC, C350 Sport, and C63 AMG.
The C-Class was completely redesigned for 2008. For 2009, the infotainment systems have been updated with more capability and a Zagat restaurant guide, front-side pelvic airbags have been added to all but the C63, the C350 and C63 receive more standard features, and Comfort suspension has been added to Luxury models.
A C-Class can be set up as a more traditional Mercedes four-door in the Luxury grade, with or without all-wheel drive. Alternatively choose from four levels of sportier look and feel with a manual-transmission rear-drive Sport, all-wheel drive Sport, more-engine-more-brake C350 Sport, or the C63 AMG, a good substitute for a light aircraft across Europe.
You’ll find everything you expect from Mercedes-Benz in a C-Class from safety features to predictable driving dynamics. And you’ll find more room, especially in the rear seat, than in any previous C-Class since the 190 models evolved into the first-generation C-Class. It’s rare when the same car finds favor with buyers in one country as a status symbol while in other countries the same car is a favorite of taxi drivers for its durability, driving ease and moderate operating costs.
While the styling was updated for 2008, it is the actual driving where equally noteworthy advances have been made. The C-Class has levels of driver feedback, the steering in particular, that it never had before; it has always been rock-solid and so stable it was hard to get in trouble, and it still is, but the driver now has far better grasp, literally and figuratively, on what the car is doing. And it does this without taking away any of the refinement or comfort that makes driving one a fatigue-free process.
The C-Class is not a big car; taller than average families or business-people that routinely transport clients may find they still need an E-Class. Among its primary competition that includes Audi’s A4, BMW’s 3-Series and Lexus IS-F the C-Class is competitive; rear-drive, manual-gearbox fans may also cross-shop the Infiniti G37.
There are six listed C-Class models, but you can simplify by thinking of two of them as merely all-wheel drive versions. All save the C300 Sport Sedan come with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive is available on any 300 with an automatic.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 comes as a Sport sedan ($32,900), Luxury sedan ($34,650), 4MATIC all-wheel drive Sport ($36,200) and 4MATIC Luxury ($36,450). All come with a 228-hp 3-liter V6. The C300 Sport comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, the others with a seven-speed automatic available on the Sport ($1460).
Sport sedans use a different grille with the Mercedes-Benz ringed star in it as opposed to the Luxury with the star on the hood, and Sport cars use AMG-style deeper front air dams, side skirts and rear aprons. All C300s come with 17-inch alloy wheels but Sport cars use wider rear tires and wheels, sit more than half an inch lower, use firmer suspension settings and get a three-spoke steering wheel.
The C300 Sport comes with dual-zone climate control, synthetic upholstery, tilt/telescoping multifunction wheel, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, moonroof, eight-way power sport seats, front and rear fog lamps, cruise control, trip computer/maintenance minder, AM/FM/Weather/CD audio system with aux input, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, alarm, central controller, five-inch flip-up color display, and aluminum trim.
Options on C300 Sport include metallic paint ($720), gray/black walnut trim ($310), leather upholstery ($1570), TeleAid ($650), 6CD changer ($460), iPod integration ($375), Panorama roof ($1050). Premium package 1 ($2150) includes Sirius, heated front seats, auto-dimming mirrors, UGDO, rain-sensing wipers, power tilt/telescope and driver memory system, Premium 2 ($3500) includes Premium 1 plus bi-Xenon headlamps with heated washers and cornering lights, split-fold 60/40 rear seat, power rear shade. The Multimedia package ($2980) includes COMAND navigation and seven-inch screen, 450-watt harman/kardon surround audio system, voice control, 6CD/MP3 changer.
C300 Sport 4MATIC adds all-wheel drive, automatic transmission and a heated washer reservoir. Options mirror the rear-drive Sport except for 18-inch wheels.
The Luxury C300 replaces the sport seats and aluminum trim with cushier seats and burl walnut trim; the 4MATIC adds the same pieces as the Sport 4MATIC. Options on both Luxury C300 match the Sport but 18-inch wheels aren’t offered on the rear-drive 300 either.
The C350 ($39,000) adds a 268-hp higher-revving 3.5-liter V6, seven-speed auto and rear-drive only, plus agility control variable shock damping, sport suspension, bigger brakes, AMG-style wheels, everything in the Premium 1 package, heated front sport seats, and black Birdseye Maple wood trim (walnut at no charge if you prefer). Options include the P2 package ($1350), metallic paint, leather upholstery, TeleAid, 6CD changer, iPod integration, Panorama roof, Multimedia package and 18-inch wheels with wider rear tires than C300 Sports.
The C63 AMG ($56,300 plus required $2100 federal gas-guzzler tax) comes with a 6.2-liter 451-hp V8, AMG Speedshift seven-speed transmission, 18-inch wheels and high-performance tires, and unique brakes, suspension, steering, sport seats with adjustable side bolsters, AMG instrumentation and aluminum shift paddles behind the sport steering wheel. Cosmetically and mechanically it is a different car from the windshield forward. The C63 standard feature list is close to the C350 Sport sedan. Options include metallic paint ($720), premium leather ($2980), P2 ($1100), Multimedia ($2980), iPod, carbon fiber trim ($2500) and the Performance P30 package ($3990) locking differential, composite brakes, leather/Alcantara steering wheel, 186-mph limiter.
Safety equipment includes dual adaptive frontal airbags, front side thorax airbags, front side pelvic airbags (except on C63), side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, PreSafe system, electronic stability control and full traction and brake electronic assists. There are no optional safety systems.
The C-Class was completely redone in 2008, the fourth-generation of the C-Class known to three-pointed tar faithful by its W204 codename. Apart from the V6 engines, transmissions and those three-pointed stars little was carried forward.
While larger than its predecessor its dimensions reflect the class; very similar to BMW's 3-Series and just a couple of inches shorter and less wheelbase than Audi's 2009 A4. Like most vehicles in this class the size gives good urban utility with the ability to carry four passengers and some luggage.
The C is distinguished from earlier versions by its headlamps that feature round lamps within a rectangular housing, eyebrow lights above the main beams, and a wider grille reminiscent of the big CLS and CL-Class Benz coupes. This is more evident on Sport C models with the star in the grille than it is on the Luxury models with more chrome and the traditional hood ornament. At the rear the C has a typical Mercedes light layout and comes across as a scaled-down version of the S-Class sedan, with rounder edges and lots of taper.
Character lines on the sides of the car present a forward-leaning profile, more of a wedge that certainly aids in making this iteration the sportiest-appearing of any C-Class; the hood seam carries from headlight corner to the window bases, and the lower character line starts behind the front wheels and gets heavier as it rises to the rear, squeezing the window line ever tauter, and ending at the top of the tail lamp opening. Wheels play a big part too, the Sport cars using twin-spoke wheels with some attitude while the Luxury versions use finer more elegant wheels.
Closing the door brings a different sound than the old bank vault Benzes did, perhaps because the outer skin of the doors, hood, front fenders and trunk is aluminum. However, the basic structure is very rigid and has lots of high-strength steel in it, providing three benefits: First, it keeps squeaks and rattles away, as both of our examples made no noise at all when subjected to opening the doors and trunk while parked on just three wheels; second, it makes a good handling and comfort compromise easier to reach; and third, it will help keep you alive should you attempt to rearrange by force any civil engineering.
The hot-rod C63 by Mercedes-owned AMG is the most aggressive C-Class, the Sport-style front end appearing even more imposing because of the 63's extra front track width and bigger coolers lurking behind the grille. The wheels are similar in design and size to the Sport option 18s but the brakes behind them are substantially larger, and at the rear are a lip spoiler, mild diffuser, and four large tailpipes. Look carefully and you'll see at least 15 AMG markers outside (minimum 9 inside), though anyone who hears it will know this is no plain C-Class.
Mercedes claims the new C is at least 12 percent stiffer than the old chassis, partially a result of the C being the first in Mercedes-Benz history essentially designed, developed and validated by computer.
Regardless of model the C-Class interior is familiar Mercedes-Benz function not trumped by form; the miniature seats on the doors used for adjustment, floor-mounted gas pedal, the sophisticated light switch to driver's left, all the control stalks on the left side of the steering wheel (to keep the right hand free for shifting), glovebox latch where the driver can reach it, and no sharp edges even on switches or vent adjusters all staples of Stuttgart.
Upholstery is called M-B Tex and it looks more like leather than the real thing on some cars, wears well and is PETA approved; leather is available on any C. Some cars have aluminum trim, others walnut or maple, and you can pop for carbon fiber on the C63 but whichever you choose it is the real thing. Most of the trim, all the way down to the Mercedes-Benz badges in the front floor mats, is low-glare so errant reflections don't distract or dazzle the driver, and assembly quality is first-rate.
Front seats are electrically adjusted with heaters available and with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel (powered, with driver memory as standard on C350 and C63 for 2009) provide good support and driving position; those of larger sizes may find the Sport seats a tad confining while others will appreciate the lateral support. Luxury model seats are less aggressively bolstered but maintain the hours-long support and comfort.
Relative to some other ultra-performance sedan seats those in the C63 don't look overly racy and hard to extricate yourself from but the deep side bolsters and range of adjustments offer superb lateral support (these seats preclude the pelvic side airbags standard on all other C for 2009). All C63 have aluminum shift paddles behind the steering wheel (upshift right, downshift left); a leather and Alcantara flat-bottom wheel is available.
Cabin styling follows the same forward-sloping theme as the outside, with armrests that gently fall away forward and end in window switch plates angled parallel the dash and center stack of controls. The center console also slopes downward forward, adding control space to the vertical surfaces, and the dashboards arches downward away from the windshield adding a degree of spaciousness.
Instruments comprise analog coolant temperature and fuel left, speed/display center, and tachometer to the right. The speedometer needle rides around the outer periphery of the gauge, the center a digital display used for the extensive information available though the steering wheel controls; everything from oil temperature to directional instructions can be called up here, and for 2009 more trip computer data is available. In events that require immediate attention, such as a manual upshift or loss of oil pressure, the entire display switches to red.
Above the center vents is the screen, which varies in size based on options, and hides below the dash when the car is off or you turn it off. Direct sunlight may wash it out and polarized sunglasses may make some info difficult to read (problems not exclusive to Mercedes) but the screen is very close to line of sight without interfering in it; some of the vision issues are overcome by using the speedometer display for route following.
Below the vents are audio system controls and the 10-key pad for the COMAND system (M-B's audio/navi/phone integration) and below that ancillary switches for bits like the rear window shade and seat heaters. At the bottom of the panel is the standard dual-zone climate control, so you needn't fumble through menus trying to thaw.
For 2009 the electronics have been upgraded, with 6 GB of the HDD's 40 set aside for music and a Zagat restaurant guide; buyers who forego navigation can still use New Car Test Drive's old-school approach of using radar detectors to rule out establishments with microwave ovens. COMAND also adds an auxiliary input for iPods, and the Multimedia package plays CD, DVD and memory-card source material.
The available harman/kardon 5.1 surround sound system features 450 watts to drive 12 speakers, and makes the best of all of them with good sound stage and plenty of impact. It's amusing that a large round controller moves a needle across the radio tuning display screen just as an old radio dial with vertical pointer gliding left and right.
Behind the ashtray Mercedes' auto shifter solves the dilemma about whether the up/down shift direction should be forward/backwards respectively or vice-versa by making downshifts to the left and upshifts to the right. Automatics offer multiple modes requiring nothing more than a button push or holding the lever left of right for one second; it's a simple setup many could do well to emulate.
Under the driver's right arm are clamshell-opening armrests and the controller that's become the de facto computer mouse in modern premium cars. With just a few buttons and click/rotate wheel it can execute a wide variety of commands, and while the system may not be as intuitive as the benchmarks it's far better than employing 200 buttons to do the same thing. When pressed we'd label it better than BMW's 2008-or-older iDrive and not quite up to Audi's MMI but these are akin to Mac vs. PC decisions best left to individual owners. Do, however, have someone else do a test drive so you can see which commands can be done, and how easily, while the vehicle is in motion.
As in most compact sedans rear-seat legroom is likely the defining measurement because it's fine for kids and smaller adults but perhaps not the best for need-impressing clients or big golf buddies. Size aside, those riders do get a nicely shaped and proportioned seat, reading lights, door pockets, comfy center armrest and AC vents; available on most C are a folding 60/40 rear seat and rear window shade.
Driver visibility is very good, especially on cars with the bi-Xenon headlamps, although by compact sedan standards the side mirrors are relatively large and shorter drivers may find themselves having to peer around sometimes. There are three rear headrests but they don't obscure rear vision.
Trunk space amounts to about 12 cubic feet, adequate but not class-leading. Load height is reasonable and the well isn't too deep so you won't need a crane to unload overstuffed suitcases.
The C-Class offers an interesting performance bang-for-the-buck scenario at each end of the model lineup. At $32,000 the entry-level C300 Sport is the lightest and has the interaction of a manual gearbox to use engine power as you choose. At the other end, the C63 rocket is very competitively priced against its BMW M3, Lexus IS-F and outgoing Audi RS4 competition; only Cadillac's CTS-v offers significantly more power for about $4000 more.
A C300's 228-hp is a bit more than Audi's 211-hp turbo four, well ahead of Lexus IS250's 185, and on par with BMW's smoother inline six. Mercedes' 3-liter V6 is also quite flexible, with maximum torque for 90% of your driving needs available from 2700 rpm to 5000.
The standard six-speed manual is easy to operate with light clutch and shifter efforts; there is a hint of notchy-ness in the shifter we haven't found in cars with some miles on them. Ratios are well-spaced to take advantage of the power and deliver good highway fuel economy; we have bettered the EPA's highway value by 20% in some cases.
Whether in the C300 or 350, we find no fault with the seven-speed automatic transmission. It shifts quickly and cleanly, seamlessly transparent in comfort mode, with intelligent feedback in sport mode, and manually within parameters allowed by road speed/engine speed/gear.
Called 4MATIC, the all-wheel drive system offered on either C300 is fully automatic…the driver does nothing. At a cost of 1 city mile-per-gallon, 145 pounds of added mass and $2000 (remember the C300 Sport price does not include an automatic transmission) it adds inclement weather traction and directional control. All-wheel drive does nothing for braking in the snow, and many flat-grounders will do as well with a set of dedicated winter tires. An all-wheel drive with snow tires will likely embarrass most of your neighbor's SUVs.
At 268 hp the C350 packs the power of the very first C-Class AMG car, the C36. Plant your right foot and 60 mph comes up in a shade more than six seconds (one quicker than the 300), and there isn't much to it; Lexus' IS350 with its 306 hp and BMW's twin-turbo 335 are both faster but they both require more effort to extract maximum performance. Audi's 3.2-liter A4 V6 is very similar and usable as it comes only with all-wheel drive.
Both the Luxury and Sport versions have better road feel and steering than the previous C-Class, to the point that BMW's advantage is no longer as distinct and a rear-drive C-Class competes with a front-drive A4 or rear-drive IS. The C350 responds to the steering wheel crisply, allows minimal body roll to keep you more aware, and changes direction quickly all while retaining a compliant ride that moves only the tires around impacts, not the whole car.
The Luxury prioritizes ride comfort over ultimate response and grip, the shocks designed to allow free suspension movement over smoother surfaces while firming up on rougher roads so the car doesn't bounce and wallow about. Mercedes-Benz cars have always been extremely competent, inspiring driver confidence, but now they inspire the driver as well without losing any of the confidence factor.
Sport models flop the Luxury paradigm, with quicker reactions and higher cornering ability, without losing the compliance that maintains ride quality and automobile integrity. You can upgrade sporting ability with the 18-inch wheel package that adds a half-inch to front wheel width, a half-inch to rear tire width, and employs lower profile, stickier tires. If you local infrastructure is questionable consider this carefully…replacement wheels aren't cheap.
All C-Class brake systems are sized appropriately and get the job done. Initially you may feel there is a lot of pedal but this allows easy modulation from stopping dive-free to bruising your ribcage if someone pulls out in front and you hammer the pedal (as you should…and electronics will aid in that respect).
The C63 is in another performance dimension. At 6.2 liters its engine is larger than any Audi, Lexus or BMW so it makes a very quick compact sedan. Mellowed to 451 hp (from the 500+ in other Mercedes using it) the C63 has more horsepower than the M3, RS4 or IS-F but the 443 lb-ft of torque, 90% of it on tap from 2000 rpm-and-up, obliterates the competition's numbers. With traction control off it also obliterates the C63s rear tires.
When you do it right a C63 reaches 100 mph coincident with the average car reaching 60 mph, which the C63 eclipsed in just more than four seconds. The Speedshift AMG automatic can be shifted manually…be ready with that upshift trigger…and full-bore acceleration feels like you're driving a car with five first gears. Alas, at 12/19 mpg, there is no way to get good mileage with a 6-liter engine.
Unlike any previous C-AMG car this one has a unique front-end, including fenders, air dam, chassis, suspension, brakes and wheels. Steering resistance adds up nicely the harder you push, limits are a long way off but 3-stage electronic stability control makes them relatively easy to find when you have a racetrack for exploring, and the big engine's compression barking lets you just lift the throttle to load up the front tires for crisper turn-in, no braking needed to upset the balance.
The C63 is arguably the best-steering, best-handling, best driving car Mercedes builds; certainly it is in the sub-$125,000 range. And it does so without active suspension or other techno-wizardry that often uses electronics to fix a chassis that wasn't ideal in the first place. BMW and Audi loyalists will stick to their marques as each has advantages, but there is no denying that the C63 moves the C-AMG model beyond mere straight-line supremacy.
The Mercedes C-Class has something for everyone, unless they seek four-cylinder economy in a premium compact sedan. Redesigned in 2008 and further refined for 2009 it adds an element of driving enjoyment to known Mercedes characteristics of safety, stability and luxury defined by driving performance. And if you don't need the larger rear seat, it does so for about $18,000 less than an E-Class.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent G.R. Whale filed this report from Los Angeles
|Model Line Overview|
|Model lineup:||Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport ($32,900); C300 Sport 4MATIC ($36,200); C300 Luxury ($34,650); C300 Luxury 4MATIC ($36,450); C350 Sport ($39,000); C63AMG ($56,300)|
|Engines:||228-hp 3.0-liter V6; 268-hp 3.5-liter V6; 451-hp 6.2-liter V8|
|Transmissions:||7-speed automatic; 6-speed manual|
|Safety equipment (standard):||frontal airbags, side-impact airbags, pelvic airbags, curtain airbags; electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, Pre-Safe, active front headrests|
|Safety equipment (optional):||4MATIC all-wheel drive|
|Basic warranty:||4 years/50,000 miles|
|Assembled in:||Sindelfingen, Germany|
|Specifications As Tested|
|Model tested (MSPR):||Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport ($39,000)|
|Standard equipment:||M-B Tex synthetic upholstery, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping multifunction wheel, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, moonroof, 8-way power sport seats w/driver memory, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear fog lamps, cruise control, trip computer/maintenance minder, AM/FM/Weather/CD audio system with aux input, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter, alarm, central controller, 5-inch flip-up color display, and wood trim|
|Options as tested (MSPR):||metallic paint ($720), leather upholstery ($1570), P2 package ($1350), Multimedia package ($2980), TeleAid ($650), iPod integration ($375), Panorama roof ($1050), 18-inch wheels ($1010)|
|Gas guzzler tax:||N/A|
|Price as tested (MSPR):||$49580|
|Engine:||3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6|
|Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):||268 @ 6000|
|Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):||258 @ 2400-5000|
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:||17/25 mpg|
|Track, f/r:||60.4/59.6 in.|
|Turning circle:||35.6 ft.|
|Head/hip/leg room, f:||37.1/52.3/41.7 in.|
|Head/hip/leg room, m:||N/A|
|Head/hip/leg room, r:||36.9/54.9/33.4 in.|
|Cargo volume:||12.4 cu. ft.|
|Suspension, f:||independent, three-link, coil springs, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, r:||independent, five-link, coil springs, gas shocks, stabilizer bar|
|Ground clearance:||4.1 in.|
|Curb weigth:||3615 lbs.|
|Tires:||225/40ZR18 front; 255/35ZR18 rear|
|Brakes, f/r:||vented disc/vented disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist|
|Fuel capacity:||17.4 gal.|
|Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of June 13, 2009.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 800-334-9200 - www.mercedes-benz.com|
Driven: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport
By Winding Road Staff
September 22, 2008
After spending some time with Mercedes’ hot-burning C63 AMG, we thought it apt to give the rest of the C-Class range a shot to see if the new Benz C can all-around top other premium sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS. While we did enjoy our C300 Sport, we found the $45,000 as-tested price a little high, especially when a BMW 335i offers better performance for a more reasonable price. Still, much of the blame for the hefty price tag is down to heavy treading on the options list...
Perhaps I’m still enduring a performance hangover from guns-blazing C63 AMG we had a while back, but despite having the same shape and basic genetic makeup, this (rightfully) feels like an altogether different vehicle—one that I wasn’t always in-tune with.
Mind you, it’s still terribly accomplished, with a well-resolved interior and an exterior shape that at once looks aggressive and premium. But with just 228 horses in its stable, this C300 doesn’t really warrant Benz’s “Sport” designation in my book, with what feels like a 0-60 miles-per-hour time in the mid-sevens and a default stability control intervention point that’s set to “early-and-often.”
As good as the seven-speed automatic is, I would definitely prefer a row-it-yourself gearbox to make the most of the power on offer. Of course, not everything issued from Europe needs to be a sport sedan, but given that this is fitted with the “Sport” package (aero bits, grille, seventeen-inch staggered width alloys, “sport suspension and braking system,” interior frosting), I would like a bit more driver engagement, both in terms of the throttle response and steering feel.
It’s worth saying at this point that I think Mercedes’ all-in-one Command user interface has really come into its own. I think I prefer this interface to any of the others currently available from the competition (that includes Infiniti, Audi, and BMW—although in fairness, I haven’t experienced the latest iDrive incarnation in the 2009 7-Series for myself). It’s quite intuitive in use, and the controller itself has a high-quality feel and action.
Uneventful acceleration aside, this C300 enjoys the sort of well-calibrated, rattle-free ride, firm seats, and sober interior (especially in this color palate) that recalls the “bank vault” Benzes of yore. Given the automaker’s very public battle with quality lately, that’s probably as good a message as any to start with.
Don’t get me wrong—I do think there’s a lot to like about this C300. But the loin-stirring C63 stole my heart, and this one only made it beat a smidge faster.
Now that the C-Class has an interior and exterior that matches or beats that of a BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS (don’t think so? Let me know in comments), you’re going to have to think long and hard about why you actually buy a car. If your monthly payments are always earmarked for driving machines, you’re likely not reading this review anyway. The fattest part of the entry luxury curve—those buyers who want a lot of show and maybe a little bit of go—will find another layer of confusion as they pick their next $35,000 sedan. The C300 is very good for those buyers who are shopping with a high priority on design, interior quality and curb appeal.
Having driven the C63 AMG a few weeks back, I was surprised to see a lot of what I loved about that car found in this “base” model C300 Sport. Of course, the 451-horsepower V-8, demon body kit and hip-hugging seats are gone (along with a host of other bits and pieces related to going and stopping in a most expeditious manner). But, you never feel like you’re in a stripped down model in the C300. It’s a Mercedes, after all. The large-face grille and Gehry-esque interior are all here. The brakes are surprisingly good. The power isn’t magical by any means, but for freeway merging and scooting around traffic it’s serviceable.
It’s common for people to beat up on the C-Class because it’s not a “sports sedan.” Let them complain all they want—from stem to stern there’s little evidence that the car was supposed to be a replacement choice for the manual-driving 3-Series buyer (C63 AMG would take umbrage with that, of course). For most buyers of the C-Class—who seek a true luxury car without the trappings of curb weight and overall length of a bigger sedan—there’s little reason to look elsewhere.
Oddly, one could argue that the new 3-Series has one of the most “sporting” design aesthetics in the segment, which belies its luxury panache. It’s a clever game. And we must admit—we all love a hologram.
The C300 is a fine car, balanced, adequately luxurious, and a great standard-bearer for Mercedes-Benz after a longish period of sliding public opinion about the automaker. The C-Class isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with its power or speed, though I’d be hard-pressed to say that I ever found myself needing any additional grunt, despite wanting it on a number of occasions. Thankfully the fine steering and composed chassis mostly made up for the lack of outright thrust in most cases. There is also a bit more room for passengers than can be found in BMW’s 3-Series, should that be a concern for buyers. Our example was optioned out to a rather immodest 45 grand or so, a figure for which we’d hope the car would feel just a little bit more special. Keep a clear head when furnishing your C-Class and you can walk away with something a bit more reasonable though.
Steven J. Ewing
Production and Test Fleet Manager
I really like the new C-Class. Though I wish that the base C300 had some more power, the way this car makes use of the minimal 228 horses is what's most impressive. The engine in no way feels inadequate, though I'm sure that true enthusiasts might shell out some extra money for a C350 Sport or even a top-dollar C63 AMG (meow!). The C-Class is one of the most attractive cars in this class -- especially in Sport guise -- and it makes me wish that the base BMW 3-Series would strut its stuff a little more.
In all, the C-Class is really good car, and its shortcomings in performance are easily made up for with its style and interior refinement. Then again, I must take into consideration the nearly $45,000 price tag of our test car. For that kind of money, I'll stick with a BMW 335i, what with its twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine. Still, for those who must have the Mercedes, the C300 is never a bad choice.
2009 MERCEDES-BENZ C300 SPORT
Engine: V-6, 3.0 liters, 24v
Output: 228 hp/221 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: 7.1 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)
Fuel Economy, city/hwy: 18/25 mpg
Price as Tested: $45,590
2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 First Drive
Is the Volume Seller the One To Buy?Mercedes-Benz C-Class Full Overview
We've tested and reported extensively on the Mercedes-Benz C350 and like it a lot: modern, aggressive design, grippy front end, willing powerplant, superb seven-speed auto trans, more room than in any previous C-Class, and a feeling of quality that previous Cs have lacked. Yet this 3.5L V-6-powered model accounts for only about 10% of all C-Class sales. The other 90% is the "base"-level C300, with a lower MSRP, less power, and slightly less standard equipment. We figured it was time to check in on the C that most people buy.
Much of it comes down to numbers. Forty is the horsepower difference between them; 228 for the C300, 268 for its chestier brother. One is the difference between their 0-to-60 times, 7.1 versus 6.1 seconds, respectively, according to Mercedes-Benz. And 6100, as in dollars, is the base price premium for a C350 ($39,875, vs. $33,775 for the C300). Six grand sounds like quite a spread, but hang on: Option them each to the gills and the difference narrows to less than $2500. Why? The 350 includes things as standard for which you must pay extra on a 300. So, the more heavily optioned car you want, the less price advantage there is.
There are also two flavors of C-Class among which to choose. One is the Luxury sedan trim level, which gives you a more heavily chromed grille, a stand-up three-pointed-star hood ornament, less aggressive rockers and fascias, and other detail differences. The other is the Sport sedan version -- our choice by far -- which has a big three-pointed star built into the grille, foglamps, and fascia/rocker treatments not all that different from the pit-bullish C63 AMG, an MT favorite.
Our Sport sedan tester was as loaded as a C300 can get, including every audio and infotainment option, dual glass sunroofs, and a leather-and-wood-trimmed interior. The only major option not included in its $46,305 sticker is all-wheel drive, which is available only on the 300 and sells strongly in snowy and wet-clime markets, especially the Northeast. One option we wouldn't buy a C-Class without (if your road surfaces allow) is the 18-in. AMG alloy-wheel package. This is a Plus-1 fitment over the standard 17s and of course includes the larger rubber. These wheels are handsome, light, and strong; a bargain at $1010. At a quick glance, it would be easy to confuse this with the white C63 we tested last year.
Equipped with the 18s, the C300 drives much as the C350s we've sampled. The steering is heavy, yet offers good feel and quick response. Braking inputs and feedback are well matched to the steering, devoid of the wooden pedal feel that has plagued many Mercedes models over the last 10 or so years. The ride/handling balance is on the sporty side of firm, but still comfortable on all but the worst road surfaces. Body roll is minimal. It's relatively quiet -- not Lexus IS quiet, but the C300 is a more responsive car. The body structure is drum tight, with no squeaking or creaking, and the trunk is large and useable.
Mercedes has worked hard over the years to make its various controls and audio systems logic easier to understand and use. It takes a little learning to master the entertainment, nav, and COMAND controller, but once done, it's logical -- easy even. As with the rest of the car, the seats are firm, supportive, and easy to adjust via the pictogram-style controls on the door panel. We've talked about previous C-Classes being "built to a price and not to a standard," but that's no longer the case for the current generation, which was all-new last year. It's not trimmed to S-Class levels, but everything looks and feels of quality. You could call the IP design plain or businesslike, depending on your viewpoint, but this writer likes the clean surfaces and lack of gingerbread trim.
Will you miss that 40 horse? Yes. It's just a fact: The C300 feels noticeably slower than does the C350. You'd expect that, but the difference seems more than the horsepower curve and 1.0-sec 0-to-60 time difference would indicate. The C350 feels particularly punchy in the low and mid range, where the 300 needs to be rung a bit. That's the 37 lb-ft of additional torque talking, or in the 300's case, not talking. Few complaints with the seven-speed automatic transmission. There's a ratio for every occasion, it's always in the right gear, it melts through the shifts in Comfort mode, yet is nicely responsive in Sport. The only gripe is the unfortunate side-to-side motion required in Manual mode, instead of the more natural front-to-back whap of the shifter that everyone else now employs. It's nice that Mercedes got with the program in the exhaust system department; the old C's small, black, unfinished pipes would look at home on the average rental car. Today's sports nice oval pipes and a throaty-yet-understated rumble; trappings of a quality machine, not a cheap one.Fuel mileage isn't a criterion here. The C300 is EPA rated at 18/25, the C350 at 17/25 (for automatic trans-equipped models), so there's no measurable advantage or savings at the pumps.
Buy a C300 and save a few bucks, or ante up the difference and go for the power? There are two answers. The Average Joe or Jane who putters around town, slogs through a daily commute, or cruises the freeway with two aboard probably won't care about the performance difference. They'll be fine with a 300. That's probably why it accounts for 9/10ths of C-Class sales. But if you want something that's all that plus fun to drive, as we believe most MTOL readers would, we say pass on a few of the pricey options and spend the money under the hood. The C350's extra power and response make the most of the C-Class's capable chassis and turn it from just a nicely trimmed Euro sedan into a much more enthusiastic driver's machine.
|2009 Mercedes-Benz C300|
|Price as tested||$46,305|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|Engine||3.0L/228-hp/221-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight||3550 lb (mfr)|
|Length x width x height||182.3 x 79.5 x 56.3 in|
|0-60 mph||7.1 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||18/25|
|CO2 emissions||0.94 lb/mile|
|On sale in U.S.||Currently|
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C300 reviews 2009 mercedes benz
Mercedes-Benz’s smallest offering in the U.S. is the C-class. Available only as a four-door sedan (other markets get a C-class wagon), the C offers buyers a choice of two V-6 engines and is available with all-wheel drive. The C300 is powered by a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, and the pricier C350 comes with a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. A six-speed manual is available on the C300, but most C-classes are equipped with an excellent seven-speed automatic transmission. For those who want even more power, the AMG-tuned C63 comes with a sweet-sounding 451-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that, along with other extensive changes, helps turn the C-class into one of the world’s best sports sedans.
Redesigned for 2008, the C-class has handsome exterior styling that mimics the top-of-the-line S-class sedan. C-class Luxury models come with a more traditional upright grille with the signature three-pointed star hood ornament. The Sport models have the three-pointed star within the grille itself, a treatment that Mercedes usually reserves for its coupes and convertibles. Inside, the C-class is comfortable up front, but the back seat is small compared with its competitors’—even the Honda Civic has more interior space. The controls are laid out logically and have an expensive feel to their action, but some of the interior plastics in the C-class look a bit cheap.
Over the road, all versions of the C-class feel solid and refined. Few noises make it into the hushed cabin. Handling errs on the side of luxury—even on Sport models—and the C300 and the C350 can’t match the dynamics of the BMW 3-series or Infiniti G37. The Sport models improve the handling by firming up the chassis, but even these seem to be more about solidity and luxury than carving up curvy roads. The C63 AMG has a specially tuned suspension that makes it ready for the racetrack.
In a recent comparison test of $38,000 sports sedans, a C300 Sport took on the BMW 328i, Cadillac CTS, and Infiniti G35. The Mercedes finished last, but that result isn’t quite as bad as it looks given the stellar competition. The C300 impressed us with its solidity, subdued mechanicals, supple ride, and easy-to-use navigation and radio controls. The last-place finish is largely due to the car’s smaller size, unimpressive interior materials, and bias toward luxury. We also pitted a C63 AMG against the BMW M3 and Audi RS4. The Benz finished second to the M3, on account of its rough ride and abysmal fuel economy.
Yes, some of the interior plastics aren’t up to par, but the C-class experience is about more than plastic. The C-class is instead a car that relies on mechanical grace and a quiet, solid, and refined driving experience—all hallmarks of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The non-AMG models might not provide the dynamic thrills of a BMW 3-series or Infiniti G37, but they are every bit as refined as any car in their class, and that should be enough to satisfy most buyers. The C63 is a monster that any enthusiast worth his or her salt should want to own.
Click here to read our full review of the Mercedes-Benz C-class.
Click here to read our latest comparison test involving the Mercedes-Benz C-class.
Click here to read our full review of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
Click here to read our latest comparison test involving the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
What’s New for 2009
For 2009, the C-class is almost completely unchanged except for the addition of pelvic airbags for the front-seat passengers. The airbags sit lower in the door than side-impact and curtain airbags and help prevent injuries in side-impact collisions. Other changes include standard 10-way power seats with memory for C350 models and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror.
Highlights and Recommendations
The C300 and the C350 come as Luxury models or Sport models. Luxury models have wood-trimmed interiors, a traditional upright grille with a three-pointed star hood ornament, and softer chassis settings. The Sport models have a different hood with the star integrated into the grille and firmer chassis settings with larger tires. Being performance enthusiasts, we gravitate toward the Sport versions, but the Luxury models do live up to their name and provide quiet and refined comfort.
The standard manual transmission in the C300 seems intended for enthusiasts, but it’s not particularly satisfying to use. Most car nuts would tend toward a BMW 3-series, a Cadillac CTS, or an Infiniti G37 as a matter of course, anyway. Consequently, the C300 with a manual transmission is a rare bird.
The C63 AMG might be more power and performance than most shoppers would want or need, but we love it all the same. Those who suffer through snowy winters should take a look at the C300 with 4Matic all-wheel drive; C350 and C63 models are only available with rear-wheel drive.
Dual front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags, curtain airbags, side-impact pelvic airbags, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners, front-seat active head rests, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and tire-pressure monitoring are standard across the C-class range.
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