2009 Mercedes Benz C300 4Matic

I first drove the newest Mercedes-Benz C-class in Europe in the summer of 2007. I was impressed. The steering was a big step up from the old car’s yet the baby Benz still felt like a proper Benz. My impressions of the car in the USA later in 2007 weren’t as good. I found the ride quality a bit harsh on U.S. roads, the interior plastics not up to spec, and the steering not as linear as the model I tested in Europe. This latest C-class test car reminded me that the small Mercedes is indeed a very nice car. Sure, I prefer the way the newest BMW 3-series drives when pushed, but this latest C-class runs the BMW much closer than ever before. I’d still like to see nicer dash materials, and the seven-speed automatic transmission is sluggish, but if you want a Mercedes but don’t want to spend big money, the C-class delivers.

Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor

I never much cared for the exterior styling of the last-generation C-class, but I really like the aesthetics of the current car. No, it’s not radical or ornate; it’s cleanly sculpted with just a pinch of boxiness. Some may say it’s too conservative, but I see it more as a throwback to the original W202 C-class, along with its oh-so-successful 190 (W201) forebear. For some reason, it just feels like a proper baby Mercedes.

So, too, does the interior. Although it’s a bit boring to look at (especially in this all-black scheme), it’s ergonomically first-rate. Everything, from the bank of window switches to the Comand wheel on the center console, is positioned within a wrist’s flick away from the steering wheel or armrest. The interior may not excite the senses, but it’s totally Teutonic-and I love it.

I’m sadly not quite as enthused for the powertrain combination. Yeah, that 228 hp figure for the 3.0-liter six cylinder isn’t bad, but I thought the seven-speed automatic would truly help it shine. It’s smooth as can be when you’re casually rolling through town, but it loses its composure once a surge of power is demanded. You’ll wait forever for a downshift (when it comes, it may be a bit harsh), which belies the ‘SPORT’ designation our C300 carries.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

I, too, really like the overall styling of the new C-class, and I’m impressed by how it drives. Of course, nearly $47,000 is a lot of money for a base-engine C300, but this car is loaded with some $10K in options, including a gigantic sunroof, M-B’s excellent Comand navigation/entertainment system, satellite radio, and more. Plus, it has the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. All that stuff adds weight, however, and I think this is the slowest new Mercedes I’ve ever driven, aside from perhaps a G-wagen. The transmission’s Sport mode keeps the car on its toes a bit more, but the shifts are still a bit sluggish. I wouldn’t choose bright red (sorry, “Mars red”) for a German sedan as reserved as this, either.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

Base price (with destination): $35,400
Price as tested: $46,710

-Black Leather – $1570
-iPod Integration Kit – $375
-TeleAid – $650
-Panorama Sunroof – $1050
-Burl Walnut Wood Trim – $310
-Premium II Package – $3500
-Multimedia Package – $2980
-Sport Sedan – N/C

Fuel Economy: 17 / 25 / 20 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 3.0 DOHC V-6
HP: 228 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 221 lb-ft @ 2700-5000 rpm

Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
Frontal Crash Driver: 4
Frontal Crash Passenger: 4
Side Crash Front Seat: 4
Side Crash Rear Seat: 4
Rollover: 4

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Weight: 3,299 lb

Wheel/Tire Info: – 17″ staggered-width aluminum wheels

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228 @ 6000