Luxury Over Sport
If one vehicle best defines BMW today, it’s probably the 3 Series. When it comes to Mercedes, the automaker’s knockout winner is probably the S-Class, not the C-Class; it creams the 7 Series in its domination of the full-size luxury car segment. So where does the compact Benz stand? And does it deserve more clout than it’s given?
After testing a C300 with all-wheel drive, we took the rear-wheel-drive version for a spin. For $39,875 USD, you can get your hands on this car with standard features such as a 7-inch color display, rain-sensing wipers, automatic braking, LED daytime running lights, and remote vehicle access including remote start. On our model, a $2,880 USD Interior package added genuine leather upholstery and heated and ventilated seats, and a $2,220 USD Premium package tacked on LED headlamps and a Burmester surround sound system. Other options—a $2,690 USD Multimedia package with an upgraded 8.4-inch display and a $2,175 USD Sport package with sport seats, sport brakes, aluminum pedals, and sport bodywork—brought the total cost to $53,715 USD.
The interior could be the C300’s major selling point. Our tester’s cabin was dripping in decadent cranberry-red leather and black open-pore ash (both extras). Despite the posh appointments that befit an S-Class, it’s not simply a mini S-Class. The standalone infotainment screen, bolder air vents, unique touchpad controller, and split center console bin lend it a decidedly more youthful flavor. Compared to the relatively stark look of the 3 Series and Audi A4, the C300 is fresh and inviting.
At the track, where style matters much less than in the showroom, the C300 performed the 0-60 run in 6.5 seconds. That’s on par with the all-wheel-drive 2015 C300 we tested at 6.4 seconds.
But it’s a far cry from the rear-drive 2015 BMW 328i. Like our C300 tester, the 328i we drove last year packed an automatic transmission, and it delivered 240 hp (just one pony shy of the Benz). We clocked the 328i hitting 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. The C300 also lagged behind in the quarter mile: 14.9 seconds at 93.4 mph (150 km/h) versus 14.1 seconds at 97.8 mph (157 km/h) on the 328i. Braking in the Benz took 131 feet (40 m) compared to 116 feet (35 m) for the BMW.
Despite underperforming its rival at the track, the C300 feels like it has plenty of power coming from its 2.0-liter, turbo inline-four engine. And that means something considering all that power is available on the base C300. When you first hit the gas, the sedan immediately jumps into action and retains that “boost-y” feeling throughout the drive. The C300’s power delivery feels so confident that after driving it, you’re likely to think the C450 AMG is overkill.
But the car isn’t so confident in other situations. Namely on less-than-perfect roads. “The road impact noises that resonate through the interior on choppy pavement belie the luxury cred and $53,000 USD+ price tag,” associate editor Benson Kong said. “It has fantastic manners on smooth surfaces, though.”
Senior production editor Zach Gale noted the car’s somewhat intrusive engine stop-start jitters.
“I wish the seven-speed automatic were a tad smoother, especially when coming to a stop,” he said. We enjoyed the car’s different drive modes, each of which gives the car a distinct personality, but unpredictable steering dilutes the experience. In Sport and Sport+ mode, steering feels particularly heavy from a stop—but a tad imprecise and unresponsive while turning at higher speeds.
On the fuel economy front, Real MPG numbers for the C300 rang in remarkably close to EPA ratings. We tested the rear-drive C300 at 24.7/33.4/28.0 mpg (9.5/7/8.4 L/100km) city/highway/combined, more or less matching the EPA’s estimate of 25/34/28 mpg (9.4/6.9/8.4 L/100km). That is just a hair higher than the EPA’s combined 27 mpg (8.7 L/100km) for the 328i.
In some ways, the C300 is a best-case scenario car. It’s exceptionally quiet as long as roads are nice, it’s powerful as long as it’s not competing on the track, and it drives smoothly as long as you don’t make too many sudden stops. Is it enough to beat the 3 Series? Likely not when it comes to road manners, but its creature comforts and elegant design will continue to lure customers.
|2016 Mercedes-Benz C300 (Sport)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$53,715|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.0L/241-hp/273-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,547 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.5 x 71.3 x 56.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.9 sec @ 93.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||131 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.5 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25/34/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||135/99 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.68 lb/mile|