Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

The first step into the world of Mercedes-Benz is the C-Class sedan. Yes, there is the CLA-Class, but I’m talking about the real world of M-B. The CLA 250 compact sedan does indeed have a huge three-pointed star within its grill, but its flinty ride and questionable cabin quality exclude it from delivering the bona fide goods. It feels a tad too much like a Benz wannabe.

Is the C 300 4Matic a sports sedan? Nah. It’s a finely hewn, comfortable conveyance that waves the Benz flag loud and proud.

Not so the C-Class.

Introduced in 2014, this current fourth-generation C-Class gets a first-rate cabin resplendent in artful design and fine detailing. Its exterior echoes the curvaceous and elegant lines of big-brother S-Class. Trickle-down radar- and camera-based tech is on the menu as well.

Heck, even the base drivetrain plays along. The 2.0L direct-injection turbo with 241 hp and a healthy 273 lb-ft pulls from just north of idle and moves the Benz forward with little effort and no fuss. A seven-speed 7G-tronic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive complete the picture.

Is the C 300 4Matic a sports sedan? Nah. It’s a finely hewn, comfortable conveyance that waves the Benz flag loud and proud. It is the marque’s top worldwide seller, after all. Staunchly conservative, it perfectly caters to a crowd that aspires ascension through the hierarchy of Mercedes hardware, and less so to the “sporty” BMW 3 Series buyer or those who seek the ice-cold Bauhaus aesthetic and capability of the techy Audi A4.

Today we’re looking at a 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic that carries a base price of $43,800 but comes to us bearing a few packages and options that swell the bottom line to $53,690. I highly doubt you could even find a base model C 300 at a dealer, such is the “necessity” of the $3,700 Premium Package that adds rearview camera, panoramic sunroof, navigation with MB Apps, and storage package. To this, our tester added the Premium Plus Package ($2,400) with garage door opener, satellite radio, ambient lighting, proximity key with push button start, illuminated door sills and Parktronic with Active Park Assist.

Speaking of the S-Class: 2016 Mercedes-Benz S 550e Test Drive

In case you’re wondering, the base model C 300 4Matic does come with a number of standard features: auto-start/stop, 17-inch alloys, split-folding rear seats, push-button start, 16-way driver’s seat with memory and 14-way passenger seat in Artico faux-leather, rain-sensing wipers and 7-inch screen. Standard safety kit includes Attention Assist (warns if you’re getting drowsy), blind spot detection, collision mitigation braking, and Pre-Safe that instantly preps the car for a collision (closes windows, sunroof, adjust seats, belts and more).

Although this tester wasn’t so equipped, if you want the full-boat radar-camera experience, the Intelligent Drive Package at $2,700 bestows Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Pre-Safe Brake, front cross-traffic detection and braking, and Distronic Plus (adaptive cruise control) with steering assist. The latter two enable autonomous driving in stop and go traffic. A fun party trick for sure, but since you need to nudge the steering wheel every 30 seconds or so for legality reasons, the novelty wears off mighty quick. Head-up display adds another $1,500.

New for 2016 is a stand-alone heated steering wheel option for $250. Money well spent in my opinion. Another reasonably priced upgrade on this tester was the fabulous Dark Ash Open Pore wood trim ($250). A 360-degree surround-view camera system runs $590.

Giving this tester a little more starch in its dungarees is the $1,500 Sport Package that includes a firmer sport suspension, 18-inch five-spoke AMG alloys, black fabric roof liner and AMG styling.

Despite the addition of this Sport Package, the C 300 4Matic is still resolutely “un-frisky”. The transmission shifts lazily and responds to paddle inputs with shrug. Yes, the steering is accurate, quick and nicely weighted, but the 2.0L turbo has little character and gets a bit grainy in the upper reaches. Handling is more than competent and body motion are well controlled, but again, the overall dynamic signature does not inspire hooliganism. Dynamic Select with its four driving modes tailor transmission mapping, throttle response, steering feel, but there’s not a huge spread here.

In other words, Mercedes-Benz has tuned their little luxury car perfectly for its mission of comfortable, un-fussed and quiet progress. If you try to beat on this car, you just don’t get it.

For me, I would just avoid the Sport Package and pocket $1,500. Yes, it gives the sedan some visual zing but the stiffer suspension and 18-inch wheels compromise ride quality. Aren’t we all about comfort here?

With a light right foot, the C 300 4Matic surely is efficient. My week of mostly highway and secondary road driving netted an impressive 7.9 L/100 km. Official numbers are 10.1 L/100 km city, 7.8 highway and 9.0 combined.

Trimmed in convincing faux hide (Artico leather) the multi-adjustable seats prove comfortable and supportive, and rear-seat passengers will find sufficient headroom and legroom. The 362 L trunk is more than generous, and there is an under-floor cubby for smaller items too.

On the highway the C 300 4Matic cruises like a pro, tracking straight and true in the mold of all Germanic luxury sedans. Be forewarned, the C effortlessly disguises its speed.

The backlit central gauge cluster is visible in all lighting conditions, and once familiar with the COMAND interface, it’s easy to navigate. Prompt response to voice commands make things like switching radio stations a no-stress operation. The screen is perched atop the centre console, and while this might not be the most visually elegant solution, it is in keeping with our tablet-obsessed world. There is a useful array of hard buttons for HVAC and audio that are well-marked and easy to use.

At night, the cabin is rich with soft ambient lighting, made more special by little touches like the illuminated pin-stripe surround on the door-mounted seat controls. So delicate, so seemingly insignificant and yet so telling. Mercedes didn’t have to sweat this, but it’s the collection of small details that make up the whole.

Mercedes-Benz plays to its strengths with the C 300 4 Matic, and the market has responded. For 2015, C Class sales were up 42 percent, nosing it ahead of perennial leader BMW 3 Series to become Canada’s top-selling premium brand car.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Acura TLX
Audi A4
BMW 3 Series
Infiniti Q50
Lexus IS
Volvo S60

Model Tested 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic
Base Price $43,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,695
Price as Tested $56,485
Optional Equipment
Premium Package $3,700, Premium Plus Package $2,400, Sport Package $1500, Palladium Silver Metallic $890, Dark Ash Open Pore wood trim $250, Static LED lighting system $900, heated steering wheel $250