The Mercedes-Benz C300 packs an amazing amount of luxury and technology into a remarkably clean package, inside and out. And that cleanness and simplicity is the most remarkable thing about the C300. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by an interior free of clutter and jet-fighter control panels. Instead, you focus on the very sastifying driving experience. The V-6 is adequate, the controls precisely M-B. There’s a big, thick steering wheel and brakes that bite. Leaving the office, I found the ride was fairly harsh on the Ann Arbor’s broken roads, then noticed the comfort/sport mode button was parked in the sporty shock-your-ass mode. Huh. Someone must talk to these motor gophers.
The extra-large three-pointed star embedded in the grille and the crisply folded lines of the C300 give it an edgy look that previous generations of C-class cars didn’t have. The base price is super, although I’d be hard-pressed to drop enough options from our test car to get it back down below $40,000. It’s the perfect introduction into the world of Mercedes-Benz engineering excellence and would be a nice little present to yourself, especially if you can forgo some of the add-ons.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
I wasn’t an outright fan of the last C300 to grace our offices, but what a difference 4Motion–or the lack of it–makes. Benz’s all-wheel-drive system comes in handy when facing droves of powdery snow, but it also tends to noticeably dog the car.
Without the extra half-shafts and differential weighing the car down, the C300 feels rather quick, even when comfort mode is selected for the seven-speed automatic. The transmission is smooth and fairly quick to downshift upon throttle input (especially in sport mode), but I’d still like to try a C300 with a stick on for size.
Although I love the Benz’s styling, interior, and packaging, the BMW 3-series seems to have it beat in terms of chassis tuning. A base 328i seems sharp and quite responsive, while the C300’s floaty ride seems more appropriate for a long interstate run.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I agree with Evan that the BMW 3-series is sportier than the C300, but the Benz’s superior ride and better styling (to my eyes) definitely keep it competitive with its Bavarian rival. Evan’s also right that the lack of all-wheel drive changes the character of the car–in a good way.
The 228-hp V-6 is the least powerful engine currently offered in the C-class, but it still has a nice, grunty sound and adequate power for most drivers. The seven-speed automatic helps make the most of the powerplant, too, although downshift response was sluggish at times. (Granted, I left the transmission in comfort mode most of the time, so as not to wake the baby, but you shouldn’t have to push a button before you’re allowed to briskly pass slower traffic.)
The panoramic sunroof, which consists of two large glass panels that essentially take up the entire roof, lets in enough light to make the stylish interior feel even more comfortable and refreshing. The trunk has an airy feel, too. I was a bit befuddled, however, that the driver’s seat is adjusted through power controls on the driver’s door (like many Mercedes vehicles) whereas the passenger’s seat has power controls on the side of the cushion (like most power-seated cars on the planet). Strange …
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
With 228 hp on tap, the V-6 in the C300 isn’t overly powerful, but it’s sufficient for most buyers and is delivered very smoothly thanks to the optional seven-speed automatic transmission. I especially like the exterior styling of this car, with the Mercedes emblem on the grille rather than on the hood and the attractive seventeen-inch wheels. The interior has comfortable seats, nice materials, and controls that are fairly easy to decipher – but the placement of the cruise control stalk on all Mercedes continues to drive me crazy. When I reach for the blinker, I seem to hit the cruise instead at least once every three tries. The trunk is good-sized, with plenty of room for two sets of golf clubs, although we had to load the push cart in the back seat.
When I saw the base price of $32,975, I thought that the C300 Sport was a bargain – until I saw that the car I was driving was loaded with more than $12,000 in options. Yikes.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Like Amy Skogstrom, I emerged from the C300 thinking it was a fine entry-level luxury car, only to realize it cost more than our well-equipped, V-8-powered Four Seasons car. (On an unrelated note, I hear that company is doing quite well).
Then again, most of the options on this particular model are ones that I could very well do without. A hesitant seven-speed automatic for $1460? Thanks, I’ll go with the no-cost, short-throw six-speed manual. Multimedia package for $2980? How about I just stick a copy of Automobile Magazine in the map pocket and listen to the radio? The panorama sunroof brightens up the somewhat somber cabin, so it’s worth a grand, as is leather seating, which absurdly remains a costly option on both this car and the BMW 3-series.
What the C300 has in its favor is a genuinely luxurious, expensive feel that often eludes small luxury sedans. It’s squared-off styling and business-like cabin ooze Mercedes character. And though it is a bit softer than a 3-series, it’s no Buick LeSabre, either. I found it easy to drive the C300 quickly and smoothly, even if the slow-to-respond auto sometimes diminished the fun.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2009 Mercedes-Benz C300
- Base price (with destination): $32,975
- Price as tested: $45,590
- Steel Grey $720
- Black Leather $1,570
- iPod integration kit $375
- TeleAid $650
- Panorama Sunroof $1,050
- Burl Walnut Wood Trim $310
- Premium II Package $3,500
- Multimedia Package $2,980
- 7-speed automatic $1,460
- Fuel economy: 18 / 25 / 21 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
- Engine:  :
- Size: 3.0L V-6
- Horsepower: 228 hp @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 221 lb-ft @ 2,700 rpm
- Transmission: 7-speed automatic
- Weight: 3527 lb
- Wheels/Tires: 17-inch staggered-width aluminum wheels
- Front: 225/45R17
- Rear: 245/40R17