- Beautiful driving dynamics
- Timeless styling
- Supportive front seats
- Coarse engine idle
- Options add up quickly
- A touchscreen would be nice
After getting a bit of a refresh for 2019, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is all but unchanged for 2020.
An all-new version is expected for 2022, so some of the features might seem a little dated compared with some recently updated ’Benz models, but the driving experience is all there.
It’s available as a coupe or convertible, and as my four-door sedan tester. Four levels are available, starting with my C 300. The rest are all performance-oriented AMG models, up to the C 63 S that makes 503 hp and starts at $84,400. Mine was a far more budget-friendly $46,400, although it was generously topped up with options that took it to $59,165 before freight and taxes.
A number of automakers are going very edgy with their styling, and most of them look pretty good, but I’m also a fan of classic and timeless styling. The C-Class delivers on that with its curvy profile, long-front/shorter-rear stance, just enough chrome to dress it up, and with an equally handsome cabin to match.
The stock wheels are 17-inch, but I had 18-inch AMG-style hoops, courtesy of a $1,700 package that also added sport suspension, sport brakes, and a handsome chrome-accented grille. Front and rear LED lighting is standard equipment, as is a sunroof, with mine upgraded to a panoramic version.
The C-Class doesn’t have full crash-test results from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it does from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which gives this ’Benz its highest Top Safety Pick+ rating, along with its top “Good” for ease-of-use with its child seat latches.
The standard high-tech safety list includes blind-spot monitoring, tire pressure monitoring system, and attention assist, which issues a reminder to take a break if it detects you’re getting drowsy. But if you want more than that, you’ll have to pay $2,700 for an Intelligent Drive package – not included on my tester – which adds adaptive cruise control with enhanced stop-and-go functionality, emergency front braking, lane-keeping assist, active steering, and cross-traffic assist, among other items.
Many sport sedans are roomy for the two people up front, and then cramped for the folks in the rear, but the C-Class provides some pretty-okay space back there, as long as the front-seat occupants don’t slide their chairs too far back. At 356 L, the trunk is on the smaller end of the segment, but it’ll handle luggage for a weekend away.
User Friendliness: 7.5/10
Premium automakers are increasingly putting oft-used functions within the centre screen, and I like that the C-Class hasn’t yet copied that. Most controls are straightforward, to a point. The climate functions are toggles, but they’re a row of identical switches, and you have to look for small icons in the centre screen to see what temperature or vent mode you’ve reached. Hard buttons quickly take you to the screen functions, including the navigation map, radio, or phone.
The upcoming redesigned C-Class will no doubt use the company’s latest infotainment system, but for now it’s got the old scroll wheel and touchpad on the centre console. It’s not as quick as a touchscreen – even BMW has added touch capacity to some of its vehicles – but its learning curve isn’t as steep as some, and it’s relatively intuitive once you’ve figured out the basics.
The C 300 comes as one trim level with available options. The stock list includes LED lighting front and rear, heated front seats, driver’s side memory, rain-sensing wipers with heated washers, Bluetooth, a seven-inch centre display screen, and an app-based remote starter.
I’d expect some items to be extra-charge, such as my car’s surround-sound stereo system, its AMG styling package, or its self-parking feature. But there are others included in many mainstream brands that have to be added here, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (as part of a $4,000 Premium pack), proximity key, adaptive cruise control, and satellite radio, at $475 with a three-month trial. All satellite-equipped vehicles require a subscription once the trial is up, but you generally don’t pay that much to get the equipment.
The C300 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, spinning out 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. It’s a good fit for this car, with decent acceleration and passing power, and its nine-speed automatic transmission is buttery-smooth and always keeps the engine in its sweet spot. All-wheel drive is standard equipment, with all four wheels always powered, and with a slight bias toward the rear.
If there’s any issue with the drivetrain, it’s that the engine sounds coarse and unrefined – as rough and clattery at idle as my 70-year-old farm tractor. Okay, maybe not quite that crude, but while I have no complaints about the engine’s propulsion performance, that coarse sound dilutes the car’s otherwise premium feel.
German automakers tend to set the gold standard for seat comfort. Their chairs aren’t cushy, which leads some to reject them at first sit, but that’s the secret. Instead of soft, they’re supportive, and that’s what you want on your commute.
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The driver’s seat includes a power-adjustable thigh support, and three memory settings. Heated seats are standard. Ventilated seats are available, but being one of the few people who can’t stand them – I hate the feeling of cold air blowing up my back – I didn’t miss them at all.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
I’ve driven all of the company’s sedans, from A-Class to S-Class. While each has its merits, as far as I’m concerned, the driving feel in the C-Class is why you buy a ’Benz. This car is just so agile, so beautifully balanced, and so responsive and smooth, and with just the right power-to-weight ratio, powerful enough without feeling over-juiced.
The suspension includes selective damping, keeping things calm over bumps and imperfections. The ride is smooth, the cabin is quiet, and it simply feels like a premium sports sedan is supposed to be.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
The C 300’s turbocharged four-cylinder is officially rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 11.0 L/100 km in the city, 7.3 on the highway, and a combined 9.4 L/100 km. In my week with it, I spent most of my time cruising on the highway, and chalked up closer to that middle number at 8.1 L/100 km, with premium fuel requested.
Still, while I was impressed during my time with it, the C-Class doesn’t do quite as well against its competitors. Both the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are four-cylinder-powered and with similar horsepower, but for combined driving, the Audi is rated at 8.8 L/100 km, and the BMW at 8.3 L/100 km.
At a starting price of $46,400, the C300 is pricier than the base Audi A4 Quattro at $46,200, but less than the $49,350 asked for the BMW 330i xDrive sedan.
Most premium automakers stash a lot in the options list, including items you’d expect to be standard. But there are a few that really stand out as nickel-and-dime. When Apple and Android phone connectivity are standard on a $10,000 Chevy Spark, making them available only in a $4,000 package seems chintzy.
The C-Class isn’t perfect. I wish it had a smoother idle, a bit more space for rear-seat passengers, and that its sticker didn’t rise so meteorically when it’s kitted out with a few nice basics. But goodness, get behind the wheel and you’ll see why it’s been on Mercedes-Benz’s roster for so long. If you love to drive, you need to test-drive this.
|Engine Displacement||2.0L||Model Tested||2020 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Sedan|
|Engine Cylinders||I4||Base Price||$46,400|
|Peak Horsepower||255 hp @ 5,800 rpm||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||273 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm||Destination Fee||N/A|
|Fuel Economy||11.0/7.3/9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$59,265|
|Cargo Space||356 L|
$12,765 – Obsidian Black metallic paint, $890; Premium Package (panoramic sunroof, touchpad controller, COMAND online navigation, three-year live traffic service, voice control, 10.25-inch centre screen, proximity key, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), $4000; Premium Plus Package (garage door opener, active park assist, 360-degree camera, hands-free power trunk, 64-colour LED ambient lighting and illuminated front door sills), $2,300; Sport Package (AMG body styling, 18-inch AMG wheels, sport suspension, sport brake system, and chrome diamond-block grille), $1,700; Technology Package (active LED headlamps, high-beam assist, and 12.3-inch instrument cluster display), $1,900; Heated steering wheel, $250; Sirius satellite radio, $475; Burmester surround sound system, $1,000; Black ash open-pore wood trim, $250