Mercedes-Benz's smallest car offers a wide range of power, equipment, and price, spanning the frugal C250 to the snortin' C63 AMG. As a driver's car, the C-class doesn't deliver the same all-around balance that makes the BMW 3-series so great. However, Mercedes places a larger emphasis on luxury and refinement, and it shows. Regardless of model, every C-class has a quiet cabin, a composed ride, excellent build quality, and an assertive but unobtrusive powertrain. It offers comfortable seats; a slick, three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel; and a new 5.8-inch display that integrates HD Radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a USB port in the center console. The downsized C250 achieves a respectable 21/31 mpg fuel economy rating, but the smallish 1.8-liter displacement means the four-cylinder isn't as potent as BMW's new 240-hp turbo four. Buyers who demand all-wheel drive are restricted to the C300 sedan, which uses a 228-hp V-6. The C350's direct-injected 3.5-liter revs eagerly and accelerates quickly when the right pedal is planted. All C-classes come with a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic, but it's not quite as quick as the eight-speed gearboxes offered by some competitors. While the proletarian C-class models may cede some performance to the BMW 3-series, there's one big exception: the C63 AMG, which packs a normally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that charges off the line with an authority that is absent in BMW's M3. The high-performance BMW boasts a more neutral and more tactile chassis, but the Mercedes is just as fun around a track.
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