Anchored by the C300, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was redesigned for 2015. For 2016, a new C450 AMG Sport replaces the C400.
The C-Class is more lovely, more charming than ever. With its striking exterior, the current C-Class might easily be mistaken for the much larger (and more expensive) S-Class sedan. Though slightly larger and a lot more luxurious than the previous generation, the C-Class remains the smallest Mercedes-Benz sedan.
The highlight of the C-Class is its interior. No competitor manages to develop the kind of luxury that exudes from the C-Class cabin. Quality of materials, fit and finish, and overall design are all class-leading.
Rivals include the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Audi A4, and Infiniti Q50. Several C-Class versions are available.
The C300 uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, teaming with a 7-speed automatic transmission. For most driving needs, the C300 is swift and satisfying. And, of course, the C300 yields the C-Class’s best fuel economy. It’s the only rear-wheel-drive model, as well as the only model to use regular steel springs. The C300 4MATIC is all-wheel drive.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG Sport replaces the previous C400. A twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 generates 362 horsepower (up from 329 on the C400), sufficient for 0-60 mph acceleration in 4.9 seconds. Adaptive controls affect the sport-tuned air suspension, steering feel, throttle input, and transmission shift timing.
Stepping higher yet on the performance scale are the Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S. With its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 whipping up 469 horsepower, the C63 can reach 60 mph in 4 seconds, just one-tenth of a second slower than the 503-horsepower C63 S. Diesel and plug-in hybrid versions are coming.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the C-Class five stars overall, with four- and five-star ratings for individual tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives it Good scores for frontal and side impacts.
Technology in the C-Class approaches the E-Class and S-Class in terms of safety and driver assistance. An Intelligent Drive package includes adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera system that aids lane-keeping, active parking assist, and a surround-view camera setup. Major options include leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, LED headlights, fragrance dispenser, panoramic sunroof, and Active Curve Illumination.
C300 ($38,950) includes the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker audio, and 17-inch alloy wheels. C300 4MATIC ($40,950) adds all-wheel drive.
C450 AMG 4MATIC ($50,800) comes with a 3.0-liter V6, rev-matching, all-wheel drive, adaptive suspension, 13-speaker surround sound, 18-inch wheels.
C63 AMG ($65,250) has a 469-horsepower V8 engine. C63 S AMG ($73,250) has a 503-horsepower V8.
Standard safety equipment includes pelvis airbags, window airbag, rear side airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag.
Mercedes-Benz made a clean break with its recent past for the 2015 redesign, more closely linked to the S-Class. Sharp corners and blunted details are mostly history, supplanted by the current slippery shape.
Up front, the upright grille is flanked by intricately detailed headlights, with brows made up of LEDs. Large air intakes punctuate the lower front end. Front fenders are flared, and the rear end has a softer, rounder appearance than in the past. AMG models have their own distinctive touches, including a front bumper with larger-yet air intakes.
In design, features, and detailing, the cabin reaches new heights of sensual appeal. As part of the recent redesign, the luxurious cabin grew in size.
Spacious front seats promise plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room, as well as excellent support. Extendable bottom-cushion bolsters provide fine mid-back support, too. Even though space for six-footers isn’t abundant, they should find adequate comfort.
The dashboard arcs gently around the front seats. At the center stack, there’s a glorious waterfall effect in the wood. Depending on model, trim could instead be aluminum or carbon fiber. Passengers can expect a tight, quiet cabin, with wind noise effectively isolated.
Back-seat space is tight. Entry and exit to the back seat are impeded by that relatively low roofline and the door shape. Seatbacks flip forward easily to provide a flat floor.
Trunk space totals just 12.6 cubic feet.
In the new C450 AMG, suede AMG sport seats grip well and reach beyond the usual bolstering, adding power-adjustable headrest height and thigh-cushion extenders. AMG models can get different grades of optional leather, plus a choice of linden wood, piano-black trim, carbon-fiber, or silvered fiberglass.
The C-Class performs well. In AMG trim it’s outstanding. The ground-up redesign for 2015 gave the C-Class new architecture, with more aluminum, cutting weight by about 200 pounds.
With 0-60 mph acceleration times around 6.5 seconds, the C300 feels energetic, not unlike the compact CLA45 AMG. Turbo boost comes quickly, and the C300 feels impressively strong. Electrically assisted steering is one of the best in any luxury car, with precise variable ratios and accurate, predictable operation. The steering ratio is quick, needing only about 2.2 turns lock-to-lock. Thus, tight maneuvers are easy to indulge.
The C300 comes standard with steel springs. The optional air suspension provides continuously variable damping and can be adjusted through Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Sport Plus modes. The Airmatic suspension yields a smooth, comfortable ride with little body roll.
The C450 AMG Sport has a V6 that feels strong in each of its seven forward gears, and a sport exhaust emits pleasantly muted tones.
For more stimulating performance, the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 produces 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque in the C63 AMG. In the C63 S, it’s 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. AMG models offer better steering feel, with bigger brakes and adjustable dampers to control ride quality. All-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential are standard. The transmission has five modes, including a manual, rev-matching choice.
Fuel economy is decent for the class. The rear-wheel-drive C300 is EPA-rated at 25/34 mpg City/Highway, while the all-wheel-drive C300 4MATIC drops those figures to 24/31 mpg. The C450 AMG 4MATIC is rated at 21/29 mpg City/Highway. Least thrifty, as expected, are the AMC C63 models, at 18/25 mpg.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class occupies BMW 3 Series territory in terms of ride, handling, and performance. The C-Class has a sizable list of standard equipment, but prices approach those of the larger E-Class.
Driving impressions by Marty Padgett, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.