I didn't get a chance to really test this C300's 4Matic all-wheel drive system but the C-class in any iteration always feels comfortable, luxurious, and, above-all, rock solid. The doors, trunk, and even the glove box close with a satisfying "thunk" that reinforces this impression. On the road, though the C-class is anything but heavy or oppressive to drive. Instead, it manages to be effortless without feeling soft or detached.
I used the C300 to bring home a large purchase and it was far easier to load that I expected. The trunk's opening is wide even at its lowest point making lift-over a non-issue. And the release handles to fold the rear seats are mounted in the trunk so I was able to unlatch and fold the seats flat even after I had already started loading my cargo. More importantly, the handles are mounted high and within easy reach so I didn't need to search to find them or stretch to use them.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
It's pretty tough to recommend a C300 4Matic over an Audi A4 with Quattro. At 18/25 mpg, the Benz isn't nearly as fuel efficient as the Audi A4, which gets 21/29 mpg with its eight-speed automatic. Sure, the Benz offers an extra 17 hp, but the Audi's extra 37 lb-ft of torque is much more noticeable on the street. It's amazing the C300 4Matic only weighs 63 pounds more than the A4 because it feels much heavier from behind the wheel. And some people certainly will prefer the bank-vault solidity feeling a Benz is known for more so than the A4's agility.
Mercedes really has an uphill battle in the small premium sedan segment. BMW has the 3-series and its legendary driver involvement. Audi suddenly has the best interior and exterior designs as well as powerful and efficient engines. What does Mercedes offer a buyer other than stuffy brand image? I'm struggling to see the appeal of the C-class in comparison to those two.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
There has long been a stereotype that German vehicles are engineered to an incredibly high standard, and that German cars are built with extreme precision and attention to detail. When driving the Mercedes C300, I indeed got the sense that every part of it was designed with perfection in mind. The doors close with a solid and satisfying thunk, all the buttons and secondary controls are damped so as not to click when used, and the elegant analog instruments are highly legible. It's worth noting that the V-6-powered C300 is a bit of a lame duck, as the new turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the C250 matches the C300's performance while returning better economy. Mercedes says both the C250 and C300 sedans hit 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and manage 130 mph, yet the C250 manages 21/31 mpg (city/highway) compared to 18/25 mpg for the C300. Based on those figures alone, it's clear that rational buyers would pick the turbocharged model.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
When you leave the office at 11:00 p.m. after a fifteen-hour workday, it's great to know that a Mercedes-Benz C-class will be your ride home. There's no greater antidote to feeling stressed-out than getting behind the wheel of this steadfast sedan. Comfortable seats? Perfect for relaxing into after a long day. Logical layout? No surprises here. Smooth ride and capable powertrain? This is a car that provides a stress-free driving experience. My only regret is that I only had the C300 in my hands for about nine hours, and approximately eight hours and fifteen minutes of that time it was parked in my garage as I was recharging my batteries for the next day.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Clearly, the Mercedes-Benz C300 is not a car for people who obsess about horsepower and torque figures. Instead, it's for people who appreciate the decades of advanced German engineering that stand behind every Mercedes-Benz but who don't want to spend a fortune; or the people who want a Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star for prestige reasons, and don't want to spend a fortune; or the people who, perhaps, used to buy E-class sedans but can no longer afford them. And for these people, the C300 will probably be a very rewarding car.
That said, I can not disagree with my colleagues who have questioned the C-class's very existence. A good friend of mine who is a seriously knowledgeable and experienced enthusiast, someone who has driven virtually every Mercedes made in the past 20 years, recently pointed out that, with Mercedes, the cars get better the higher you go in the pecking order: C is okay, E is pretty good, S-class is superb. With BMW, it's the opposite: the 3-series, which competes with the C-class, is without question the best car BMW builds, and the car that absolutely defines the BMW brand. Here in America, when you think of a Mercedes-Benz, you think of the S-class.
All this is by way of saying, the C-class has a tough time of it in the perception of American buyers.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor