By on January 24, 2007

20026281-e.jpgNow that Mercedes has released pictures of their new C-Class, I figured it was as good a time as any to sample the dead C. In Europe, the outgoing C-Class (W203 in Stuttgart speak) is beloved of German taxi drivers and penny-pinching poseurs with a little extra pomposity in their purse. Stateside, Merc’s three-pointed star shines more brightly; the C-Class’ price tag aspires to its second name– despite suffering from a reprehensible rep for reliability. As I drove off in a 2007 C280 4Matic, I wanted to know what ground the new C had to cover to make its bones.

At least, I thought I drove off in a C280 4Matic. In fact, I found myself behind the wheel of a 2006 Camry with a Mercedes logo. Tombstone engine? Check. Barcolounger ride? Uh-huh. Featherlight feel uber alles? Yep. Absolutely adequate acceleration? Check. Value for money? Uh, let’s step outside and have another look… 

20026299-e.jpgLike the chubby college girl that somehow found her way into your dorm room on a regular basis, the Benz has a familiar, soggy shape, with too many curves above the beltline. Luckily Dr. Z's accessorizers added trendy jewelry (clear headlights) and sharp footwear (square edged alloys) during the model’s last makeover. The glitz diverts your attention from the generic silhouette and drooping hood. A distracted observer would even be forgiven for thinking that the C280 is a sharp car– though only just.

The 360 view of the C’s interior on the Mercedes' website is the most accurate depiction of a car cabin in the history of the world, ever. Just like the image on your computer screen, the C280’s interior is completely two dimensional. The main problem: most of the buttons bunk together in the black plastic condominium complex in the middle of the dash. It's a shame that the slab of plastic is so huge, because many units remain un-rented. The result is a random disbursement of blank buttons. 

20026283-e.jpgThe plastics may lack an Audi’s rubbery finish, but I see enough rubber in my private life to know that the C’s shiny buttons are good enough for government work. Well exactly. No one who drops 40 large on a German four-door should be made to feel like they're slumming it. If Merc can engineer a Rolls-baiting leviathan, they should be able to concoct a C-Class interior that doesn't constantly whisper “Zu billig dummkopf.” (Here's hoping.)

Strangely, the C280 is powered by one of the few engines whose designation has been rounded-down for marketing purposes. Its 3.0-liter V6 is superbly soft, completely progressive and supernaturally quiet. In fact, it's guaranteed not to interfere with a sporting driver’s growing boredom. To wit: depress the C280’s predictably leaden go-pedal and the car moves a bit; nice and gentle, easy does it, away we go. If you could be bothered, you could hammer it and sprint from zero to sixty in a yawn over seven-and-a-half seconds. But you can’t so you won’t.

Once the C280’s ambled up to cruising speed, you’re free to space out about the cabin. In fact, driving this sedan in auto pilot is the most Mercedes-like part of this Mercedes; radio on, seat heated, cruise control set, brain disengaged. Eighty-five miles per hour never felt so easy.

20026282-e.jpgWell, except in a $15k VW Rabbit. But then you wouldn’t be in a Mercedes. And you’d have to make do with a puny six-speed auto, as opposed to the Three-Pointer’s class exclusive (for this week at least) seven-speed slushbox. Of course, that’s only in rear wheel-drive trim. Since I was test driving a 4MATIC model, I had to make do with five cogs. Not shockingly, they handled the whopping 221 lb-ft of torque without a murmur. Now, let's see what this baby Benz can do in the twisties…

If you want to stress test a car's dynamics you can do worse than your local highway onramp/offramp. Of course, when I say “you,” I mean “you” driving a different car. The “you” driving a Mercedes C280 4MATIC simply goes ‘round the ramp at a sensible speed, knowing that anything more invites the electronic handling Nannies in for a nice long chat. More importantly and less tolerably, the C280’s suspension is not so good (i.e. bad) at soaking-up lumps and bumps. It’s not crashy per se, but neither is it stately. And that's a problem.

Mercedes-Benz was once famous for building automotive brick shit houses. Driving a Merc– any Merc– meant that the outside world was worlds away– as was Roadside Assistance. Now, both the street and the tow truck fleet are too close for comfort. If the new C is to defend and re-extend the brand’s rep for bulletproof engineering, it must improve its lower-priced models’ interiors, reliability and suspension. A Mercedes can be inexpensive, but it should never be cheap.     

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72 Comments on “Mercedes C280 4MATIC Review...”


  • avatar

    Love the chubby college girl metaphor! The taxi as luxury car phenomena has always mystified me, much like the “take what you can get” approach to easy co-eds. Why aspire to something more? It would seem cheap, easy, and compromised is enough for some. For my $40k, that just doesn’t make sense.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    yes, the oldish C is an unreliable, not particularly refined, boring ride.

    the new one is promised to be reliable (promises, promises…)

    and what is DCX doing about the boringness? well, they have thought up a new marketing gimmick. the new C will be offered as a ‘sporting’ version, with large SL-type MB star-in-grill, or as a normal version, with pointed-star-on-radiator.

    naff reigns in stuttgart. they probabably call it ‘variety’ or ‘individuality’, but i call it a car that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

  • avatar

    The C-Class line is a bit odd. For less money than the C280, you can get the C230 with sport seats, sport suspension, and some nice-looking rims. The catch: not enough power to enjoy them.

    By what logic do luxury sedan buyers need or even want more power than sport sedan buyers?

    Sure, sport sedan buyers can step up to the C350. But financially it’s a pretty big step.

    To check out prices and compare them to other cars:

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/C-Class.php

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    Perhaps you nailed it. It is a Camry for people who want to drive German. Except for the reliability. I haven’t driven one, but really only the large Benzes interest me anyway.

    Great writing, your chubby coed comparison was brilliant and must ring true with some of us. Lots of wit with a minimum of recycled TTAC-isms. Thanks for not spizzarkling !

  • avatar
    ash78

    This car made some sense as a refined alternative to the 3-series about 10 years ago. Then along came the updated and nicer versions of the TL, Passat, Accord, G35 and the rest of the midsize and extry-lux pack. The C-class became basically obsolete when you could suddenly buy a more competent and more reliable competitor for $30k, give or take a few.

    The jump from $30k to $40k has severely diminishing returns on features and quality, especially given Merc’s reliability since the late 90s.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    excellent review…it is a shame that MB does not import decontented cars here – i suppose to fend off the taxi cab alter-ego. I like MB cars, they are still the most solid cars I have ever been in. If this car lost its leather everything, auto shifter, and other glitz, sold for about 32-35,000, Id absolutley buy one, taxi personna and all.

  • avatar
    noley

    I basically like Mercs, but when I think of making payments on one I always think, ‘Gee, in most of the world these are just taxi cabs.’

    The ones I actually like are way out of my budget.

    Great review. And I remember that girl in my dorm…

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Benz in the states still holds some cache just like Jaguar does. I briefly toyed with getting a used Jag S-Type R and when I told my wife she said “What do you think we are rich!”. Even trying to explain to her it would cost less than many new cars from Honda or Acura wouldn’t sway her. Many people will gladly pony up 30k for an Accord or Passat but assume an Audi or MB is out of their price range when its not.

    For people who like to drive and want luxury there is BMW. For those that want to just have luxury but be isolated there is Lexus. Other than AMG’ing everything what does MB really offer except really high prices?

  • avatar
    gling98

    I own a 2005 C230 Kompressor Sport Sedan, and I can attest to its dismal reliability. However, I think ultimately you get what you pay for when you buy a Mercedes: fundamentally excellent engineering. These days, unfortunately, it is just poorly executed.

    I remember driving south on Highway 1 in Southern California last year after already being on the road for 5 hours. The car was a dream, and I felt like I could just drive forever. The tactility in the controls was amazing. It was the kind of feel for the road that I have never felt in a Japanese car or American car.

  • avatar
    audimination

    I’ve always felt that the C-Class, unlike the 3-series for BMW and the A4 for Audi, has always been a car for people who couldn’t afford a Benz but wanted to be able to say “I drive a Benz.”

    I think the main reason I’ve felt that is that, unlike the 3-series and the A4, the C-Class was a car that Mercedes made just so it could sell cheaper cars, whereas Audi and BMW’s whole car empire are (and have been for a long time) in large part built on the backs of the 3 and the A4.

    It kind of feels like the Boxster, or the Range Rover Sport, “let’s just use our name to make a cheaper version of our good cars so poseurs who can’t afford our cars will bring us increased sales”

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    jerseydevil:

    I think if they sold a ‘stripped’ version here in the States like you mentioned, they could do it for well under 30. That auto box, the leather and fake leather T-Tec, the wood trim, the alloys – it adds up to mad cash. Might be an interesting option at 27k, even if a TSX would trounce it in features per dollar. And no matter what, the reliability won’t hold a candle to a proper Acura or even a Subaru Legacy.

    Mercedes is barely playing what is perhaps its ace, proper diesel engines. Between fuel prices and the somehow surviving reputation of Benz oil burners as bulletproof, it could be the feature that makes an otherwise overpriced car seem reasonable. I drove a 6-speed C220 CDI in Europe, and you could say Er hat an ihr einen Affen gefressen (he was really fond of her)

  • avatar
    jurisb

    the c class itself represents selfish narcistic fetish upon mercedes itself. they arrogantly exploit their barely visible design ideas. their designing strategy is pathological fear of scaring away customers if they will not automatically associate this design with the great mercedes design school( sounds like taciturn italians or lazy japanese). mercedes and german cars mostly as such are acronyms for boredom , design stagnation and british- kind snobbishness. car design is development, every next gen car has not to be only better in mechanics, but better in design as well. not the merc case. mercedes doesn`t understand the sophistication in design ( nor does bmw) . they stamp huge primitive emblems in hoods, and don`t make nice lining around them, they don`t give reserve space for emblems. no harmonical fusion of griilles and emblems. and then those wrinkles of oldness on the sides of body. like forehead of some moviestar in 50ies. and those silly out of this world cargo nets on the front passenger side , next to the seat. they put expensive materials, like some rich daddy sponsoring his cousin, but the taste and japanese like sophistication is missing. japanese play in design like gods, sculpting their cars that embody muscular lines playing underneath the skin. just subtle vroom, and strained muscles of a v6 spread the visible tension throughout the body contours. no anorexia -exxagerated lines of famine nor flooded jam like lines of obesity( like previous korean generations),just pure god like proportions mildly decorated with michelangelo -like accents. merc doesn`t understand to cast the silver lining around the door in one piece. they always have to cut it in middle to make it a cheap drive and the black connection place bulges through. while lexus can`t afford it. the best way to start judging a car is by observing a-pillar, and how smoothly it is connected to the car`s fender, if you fail that, odds are you will fail in lot of places else. jurisb, Latvia lunatics@inbox.lv

  • avatar
    Seth

    I have always loved Mercs. There is no other carmaker on the planet that comes close to MB in heritage. They used to over engineer their cars and you can find them running for decades all over the world.. Africa, Middle east, Asia you name it…a late eighties/early nineties model was the epitome of what a car design should be. BayEmVey (BMW) cannot touch mercedes IMHO. BMW cars are just for sporty types who dont know what good design should be. They dont even have the heritage of merc and cannot touch that luxury ride. Disagree as you may but all cars aspire to be a Merc. Problem is that they diluted the brand by 1. Making MB exclusive for rich folks. 2. Classic designs replaced by un-merc like themes like ovoid lamps. 3. Not overengineering their cars like they used to. Fortunately, the new c-klasse is aiming to rectify 2 and 3. If only they fix the #1 as well… forget toyota, you'd be looking at MB as world's numero uno.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Mercedes’ attitude towards the C class has always struck me as a marketing afterthought rather than a real attempt to break into the compact segment. For BMW the 3 series is their bread and butter and it shows in the result – the C class is a rear-drive Camry and the 3 series is a class leading car.

    The C has also never had a consistent marketing message – neither sporty, fast or too luxurious it has just been marketed as being a Mercedes.

    But if you think the C is junk just wait until you drive an A class! It makes the Hyundai Elantra feel like a 911 both in performance and quality.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Seth:

    Who cares about heritage when the cars are unreliable, boring, and lack any sort of ‘sportiness’? BMW’s designs may be quite uglier than they once were (IMHO), but they drive a LOT better than Mercedes do. Give me the 3-series over the C-Class any day. Anyways, both BMW and Audi have heritage that dates back to the 30’s, that includes motorsports heritage (Die Silberpfeile).

    You talk about heritage, but oval lamps (ok, round) are part of Mercedes tradition stretching back to a few models after Der Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Oval lamps are simply the 21st century version of round headlamps.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    ash78

    Seth
    If Mercedes could go back to the way they used to be, I would probably be willing to spend $40k on a C-class if I were nearly certain it would last more than 15 years with regular maintenance (withouth being scuttled by electrical problems). The “disposable car” mentality with many automakers is reprehensible, but the long-term fault of that falls on the shoulders of the ever-increasing consumerism…including the resulting shorter ownership cycles of cars now.

    I’m not personally nostalgic for this, but I have an uncle with an early 80s E-class (W123) with over 300k on it. My father-in-law has a ’65 230SL roadster with about 100k that still runs pretty darn well on the weekends. I can see where the reputation comes from–but from my experience working on later Mercs, that whole idea is sunk by leaky gaskets and faulty, expensive electronic gadgetry.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Justin Berkowitz: “I drove a 6-speed C220 CDI in Europe, and you could say Er hat an ihr einen Affen gefressen”

    Uh, i think your German is a little off…so you drove a diesel C-class, and then you went and ate some monkeys?

    You gotta clear this up for me :)

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    About.com gives me the shaft for the last time!

  • avatar
    pfingst

    I own a 2007 C280 4MATIC, and I think this review is a bit on the harsh side.

    The interior is a bit, well, dull. Nice enough, very comfortable, but not really exciting. Good enough at this price point? Debatable, but I like it fine. The “blank buttons” on the dash are puzzling – they couldn’t have designed the dash without those?

    Where I really differ in opinion is the engine and handling. I drove the C230 Sport, and I thought the handling was terrible. There’s a fine line between “sporty” and “stiff”; the Sport was “stiff” and unforgiving, a molar-rattling driving experience. The C280 got it right – not pillow-soft, not overly harsh, but firm enough to take a tight corner at speed (much to my wife’s chagrin) and soft enough to absorb bumps without that mushy, “floating-on-a-cloud” feeling you get from American “luxury” cars.

    And the engine? Even at 75 MPH, put your foot down and it jumps, and you don’t have to floor it to get there, either. There’s plenty of power on tap whenever you want it. The Camry comparison, I feel, is misplaced here. The Camry is boring beyond comprehension, a car for people who hate cars and don’t care how they drive. The C280 is not perfect by any means, but it is worlds ahead in the performance department.

    Is it as “good” as a BMW? No, but they cater to different people. I don’t really need a “driver’s car”, not that I don’t appreciate one. And as for reliability, well, I’m leasing mine, so as long as it makes it to Christmas 2008 I’m good. In two more years, I’ll turn it in and decide what to do next. (I’m leaning toward finding a low-mileage Phaeton that has depreciated down to $30K or so).

    Anyway, I thought it was a good review overall. I just thought I’d share my experiences of the last 4 months of owning one of these myself. I could have spent $30,000 on an Accord or Camry, but that’s getting into Benz/BMW/Audi territory. With a lease, the payments aren’t that much more on a C280 than an Accord/Camry/C230/3-Series/whatever. I like the looks (a subjective thing, of course, but they work for me), and I like the handling. Works for me.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    pfingst

    To each his own, indeed. Glad you like yours, which is all that matters.

    On the contrary, by the way, I love the new Camry, particularly the 6-cylinder models because they’re so damn good at offering an all around comfortable car, albeit sans soul. At $24,000, I think it’s a fabulous value. Lease rates vary wildly and bear no relationship to sticker price, natch.

  • avatar
    webebob

    An opportunity to buy a 1997 E320 with 24K for 12K was advertised last year. It was sold before I contacted the dealer. I was more unhappy over that loss than if I had missed the Powerball by one number. The Mercedes reliability prowess was based on their straight six motor, and with the conversion of the last straight six sold in America, the 320CDI to a vee in 2007, there went the legend.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    Justin Berkowitz:

    Lease rates vary wildly and bear no relationship to sticker price, natch.

    Correct. I found that the lease rate in my area on the C280 was well in line with the others I mentioned. As you said, to each his own.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    webebob:

    An opportunity to buy a 1997 E320 with 24K for 12K was advertised last year. It was sold before I contacted the dealer.

    I shed a tear for you!

  • avatar
    sammin

    I also own a 2007 C280 4MATIC and find this review to be more of a pre-determined opinion than an actual review of an automobile. It sounds like the review was written before any driving happened.

    The Camry reference is certainly without thought, as the C280 drives nothing like that slush box.

    This C280 is a Mercedes from the ground up and it also drives and feels that way, albeit on a smaller scale than the E and S Class sedans. You can’t compare a $35,000 car with a $50,000 and $90,000 car and expect an apples for apples comparison just because they wear the same badge.

    While reliability issues have plagued earlier models, I see no evidence that 2007 models are following that pattern…is it too early to tell? Maybe.

    Since this is the US where speed-limits top 65mph for the most part, and at least where I live in NY is strongly enforced, I could not imagine needing more engine than a 3L V6 for this size vehicle. I would love to try 85 MPH+, but there isn’t a place to do so without a big penalty.

    As far as inside the car, the cabin has an upscale, first class feel, with all the appointments you need, and is actually easy to use and understand. i.e. clearly labeled knobs that you physically turn, instead of cycling through an electronic gadget.

    The car is very quite inside. And when the heated seat is massaging your back with the stereo playing nicely in the cabin, I’m often taking the very long way home. It’s easy to feel as though you are the only one on the road, and each car that passes by is less significant than the one before it.

    If I had to sum up this car in one word it would be “solid” I feel like I’m driving a mini-tank, and yes, it doesn’t just float over every bump in the road like a 70’s Lincoln. This is a car that you actually drive, you actually get to stomp on the gas pedal more than a feather’s touch, and ditto the brakes. Also, the ability to shift gears ala manual transmission mode is there too if you want to have some fun.

    For the money I would take the c280 over any loaded Accord or Camry any day of the week. And yes, there is a bottom line on this, the mindset. When you pull up in a Mercedes (mine is black on black) you make a statement, it triggers something in people’s minds, a little voice that says, wow this guy must be somebody, and yes, that still happens even with the C-class.

  • avatar
    pete

    It’s summed up quite nicely in some comments above. Stuttgart is for condescension – Bavaria (both of ‘em) is for driving!

  • avatar
    Seth

    Stuttgart rules… Bavaria sucks.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I drove a C230 Sport a couple times, its the loaner car at the local MB dealer. (the last time was when our 3k mile E-class started puking tranny fluid)

    I liked it, the sport package really changes things. Except for the dated interior styling, lack of power, and high price tag. Faint praise, but I did like it.

  • avatar
    audimination

    You guys can have all the Stuttgart Bayern squabbles you want, when everyone known Ingolstadt is far and away the best of the pack..

  • avatar
    audimination

    Additionally, I’d like to point something out to BMW lovers who claim that BMW is for performance. That’s not really true. That’s equivalent to people who say that Toyota is for reliability (which has been debunked dramatically in the last year with all the recalls and the sludge lawsuit).

    If you compare BMW, model for model, to MB and Audi, it loses in performance in EVERY CATEGORY to one or both of its teutonic counterparts:

    -Small Sports Sedan/Coupe: The 3.2 A4 Quattro has been shown in review after review to outperform and outclass any 3-series package BMW has to offer
    -Performance Sedan/Coupe: RS4 vs. M3. Can’t even argue that the RS4 is light-years ahead of the M3 (we can wait till the new M3 comes out to compare then, but even then i’m pretty sure the RS4 would win out)
    -Midsize Sedan: Performance-Wise, I’d say Audi, Mercedes, and BMW are level as far as S6, M5, and E-63 comparisons. However, When the RS6 soon arrives, I think Audi will be once again ahead of BMW in performance
    -Large Sedan: Both Mercedes AND Audi dramatically kick some BMW tail in this segment. S8 (Or even W12 A8) and the S63 both leak all over and offering that BMW has on its 7-series
    -Perfomance Coupe: M6 vs. SL65 or CL65…I’d think that one would be a close competition, though the Mercs are much more expensive. I’ll say, performance wise, that would probably be a dead heat.
    -SUV: ML63 ruins thet X5 offerings (on performance), even the 4.8 X5 can’t keep up with the ML63

    So you see, BMW has a historic name for performance, but in its current offerings, Audi and MB beat it out in just about every category…so let’s put the “BMW=Performance” theory to rest for now.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    If this car lost its leather everything, auto shifter, and other glitz, sold for about 32-35,000, Id absolutley buy one, taxi personna and all.

    I kind of agree, except, that I think you are $12K too high. What DCX really should do is sell that car as the Chrysler mid-size sedan.

  • avatar
    ash78

    They could call it…um…Sebring?

    Someone else already posted that, but I loved the idea.

  • avatar
    pete

    I assume audimination knows where Ingolstadt is…..

  • avatar
    NickR

    As a former C Class owner, it’s my duty to warn the unwary that they should never, ever consider buying one. The interior and exterior trim, the entire electrical system, the air conditioning, and the emissions equipment are all dreadful. I wished I still had the spreadsheet I used to keep track of all my repairs. Some examples….transmission failed at 140k, $4,500 repair and it took a month, a/c system replaced in it’s entirety twice, two water pumps, plugging an auxuliary device into the lighter blew the fuse…if you pushed the lighter in after that, it wouldn’t pop out again and had to be pried out. The exterior bulbs burned out so frequently I kept a supply in the binnacle so I could pull over and replace them on a moments notice. On and on it went. For what I paid for this lemon plus the repairs I could have bought two Camrys and been able to walk to my car every morning knowing nothing was going to go wrong. Mercedes can’t build cars costing in excess of $100,000 or even $200,000 that last. Do you think they can make a good $40,000 car? NO! Absolute junk.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    For the money I would take the c280 over any loaded Accord or Camry any day of the week. And yes, there is a bottom line on this, the mindset. When you pull up in a Mercedes (mine is black on black) you make a statement, it triggers something in people’s minds, a little voice that says, wow this guy must be somebody, and yes, that still happens even with the C-class.

    Yes, the statement is “I am a badge whore who care about how other people look at me”.

    My previous landlady had a C230. When I asked why, she said she just wanted a small car to drive around (she is divorced), and MB has free car wash every time she pull it into the stealer. Well, she would have been somebody if she didn’t rent out every single room in her house, and use clear packaging tape to stick the broken turn signal light back into the bumper.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Uh, i think your German is a little off…so you drove a diesel C-class, and then you went and ate some monkeys?

    At least he didnt claim to be a Jelly Donut.

    A friend of mine has a C320 Sport Coupe with a 6-speed manual and it is a wonderful car. She has it in the shop quite a bit for electrical gremlins though. Not a bad car at $30K.

  • avatar
    nino

    I’ve driven the C280 and in my opinion, in no way does it compare to a V6 Honda Accord, especially when you factor in the price. The Accord is a better driver and has a better interior. Of course, it could be I feel this way because I factor the price of both cars constantly.

    I found the C280 driving experience OK, but not exceptional. I also felt that the performance of the engine left something to be desired. The interior was bland as well as having a sort of cheap feeling to it, much like the leather interiors of cars like the Chevy Cobalt and Ford Focus; kinda forced.

    If this car cost $27,000, I’d say that it would probably be OK, BUT IT DOESN’T.

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    Yes, the statement is “I am a badge whore who care about how other people look at me”.

    So true. Newsflash: 95% of humanity doesn’t care what you drive.

  • avatar
    audimination

    pete:
    January 24th, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    I assume audimination knows where Ingolstadt is…

    being that i’m european (french), and go to germany frequently, yes i do know where ingolstadt is. additionally, people in germany, when discussing bayern, pretty much exclusively are referring to munich, not any other cities in bayern. so when you have a comparison between stuttgart and bayern (one of which is a city, and the other a bund), you automatically know the comparison is between stuttgart and munich.

  • avatar
    audimination


    Yes, the statement is “I am a badge whore who care about how other people look at me”.

    So true. Newsflash: 95% of humanity doesn’t care what you drive.

    By the way, you can say 95% of humanity doesn’t care what you drive. But don’t try to tell me 95% of humanity doesn’t care what other people think about what they drive.

    You think people who buy acuras or lexuses are image conscious? Moreso in the case of Acura than Lexus, they are just buying a rebadged honda with an ‘A’ on it instead of an ‘H’.

    So don’t tell me they’re buying “reliability” and just want a car for the sake of having a car. When you buy the MDX, you’re paying 40% more for a Pilot with an A in front. or when you buy an LX it’s Land Cruiser for people who want to say “i have a lexus”.

    The whole economy is based on people buying stuff so others can see what they have. So I see nothing wrong with buying a C-class. It’s just an expression of someone saying “i can’t afford mercedes but i want to be able to say i own a mercedes”. it’s just like people who buy used cars. They’ll buy a 2 year old used Range at a 35% discount so they can say “I drive a Range Rover”…

  • avatar
    NickR

    Oh, I forgot something important. If you skip out on the C Class, you will also forego the heartstopping fear of having the ABS malfunction, slamming the brakes on and locking all four wheels as you proceed down a busy highway at 75 mph. I think that was the highlight of my ownership experience.

    Lest you think I am totally without a sense of humor, I do still laugh about the loaner provider by Mercedes. A Hyundai Accent. And for which I later received a bill for Enterprise rent-a-cars insurance for two days. Still, the Accent did actually start, run, and stop when it was supposed to….

  • avatar
    ash78

    audimination
    There is a dollar value associated with the longer warranties and better dealer experience of Acura and Lexus (vs. Honda/Toyota), but it obviously isn’t the entire difference between the prices.

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Being a C-class owner myself (albeit a W202 C43) I thought I’d chime in. I hated the original W203 dash with all it’s neon colors and un-Mercedes-like instrument design/layout. I think the more recent W203 interiors are quite nice, though. It’s too bad Mercedes has moved away from the single, centered, cam-driven windshield wiper; that was a thing of beauty and it didn’t stop right in front of my eyes like conventional 2-wiper systems do. In my family jargon, we call it the “uniwiper.”

    I think the reviewer tried the wrong car. The 4Matic makes the heavy nose that much more so. It also short-changes you out of the stick shift and the 7-speed automatic, both of which are vastly superior. If you want sporty and entertaining to drive, get the C230 sport (manual or automatic, as the power isn’t really there anyway) or the C350 sport with stick shift. The C350 sport has MSRP less than $38k.

    Jerseydevel wrote:
    If this car lost its leather everything, auto shifter, and other glitz, sold for about 32-35,000, Id absolutley buy one, taxi personna and all.

    You only have to lose the 4Matic option to be in your price range. The C230 sport is under $30k and is hardly “stripped.”

  • avatar
    NickR

    “too bad Mercedes has moved away from the single, centered, cam-driven windshield wiper”

    That’s a good thing. It was prone to premature wear at the pivoting base, meaning it would swat the pillar on every cycle. Like many Mercedes innovations…nice idea, terrible execution.

    BTW, there is a ‘road test’ of the Maybach Exelaro on CNN now. God, it’s ugly.

  • avatar
    jd arms

    We owned a 1998 E430. It was a great car to drive, and it was luxurious, and it was very safe, and of course, we got a great kick out of the snob factor too – especially my wife (she works among people who include your vehicle into their assessment you – can you guess her “industry?” A hint: it rhymes with hobbyist, and she works near the state capital). However, once the warranty expired, it seemed as if the electrical problems seemed to kick in as smoothly as the transmission on the car- especially the power window motors. The car was a love/hate affair, but finally, I had to let her go…the car…not my wife.

    From March 2001 until February 2006 we paid $5900 in various repairs – mostly electrical. Some may say, well, if you could afford a Mercedes in the first place, you could afford those repairs. But it wasn’t the money; it was the principle; if I pay that much money for something, I expect quality. Moreover, you cannot place a price on inconvenience. How many times do I need to get a phone call from my irate and exasperated wife, calling me because the window won’t go up, and she cannot park her car? In the end, I sold that car and she got a glorified Maxima – the Infiniti I35. Did we take a hit on snob appeal? Sure. Do I care? Not really.

    It is funny – out of the 7 cars we have owned since leaving college, VW Fox, Nissan Small Truck, Nissan Maxima, Toyota Tundra, MB E430, Acura RSX-S, Infiniti I35, can you guess which two were were the most problematical? In the words of those hilarious VW GTI commercials…..”representing Deutchland!”

    To take the “college chick” analogy a little further, if the C-Class is the slighly overweight dorm chick, the E430 is the exotically attractive, artistic, English literature graduate student with the kinky bedroom appetite: you love “driving her” but every so often you get a glimpse of her psycho side – her “faulty wiring” so to speak, and then it is only a matter of time until the “great to fu….I mean drive and be seen with” factor is finally outweighed by the “I’ve got to put as much distance as possible between me and this psycho bitch” factor. Again, I mean the car….

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    0 to 60 in 7.5 is “ambling”? And you can accelerate if you press the pedal down but for no particular reason you don’t want to?

    Sounds like car-writer malaise to me.

    (“See that vertical pedal on the right? You press it down and the car goes faster. Try doing that.”)

    (jd: Times sure have changed; the power windows in my 1976 300D still work fine [where fine means slow and one of them wobbles a little, but they do WORK]. If only MB could manage that kind of longevity now, eh, like ash said.)

  • avatar
    Maxwelton

    But don’t try to tell me 95% of humanity doesn’t care what other people think about what they drive.

    Maybe that number is not 95%, but it’s not all that high, either. If you count up the sales of “luxury” brands vs. bread-and-butter machines, you’d probably have some sort of start.

    I’m definitely not the target audience, though, for cars like this, brand new. I like guys I hire who show up in four to ten year old “quality” makes, and guys who buy low-mileage used cars after letting some other sucker take the new-car hit, and anyone who runs a clean but old car. What I don’t like is hiring guys who show up in a brand new expensive car or truck…why should I support their lifestyle when I can get someone smarter who isn’t asking me to do so? But that’s just the little world I inhabit.

    I like buying quality cars, but new cars are such a waste of money I’d rather someone else took the hit first.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I like the way Maxwelton thinks.
    A well maintained clean, older car,any make,speaks volumes about the person.

  • avatar
    Homme

    Wait, let me get this straight…the guy who says 95% of humanity doesn’t care what kind of car you drive – cares about what kind of car you drive to the extent that he’d base a hiring decision on it?

    Punishing people for having new things seems tremendously petty.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    What I don’t like is hiring guys who show up in a brand new expensive car or truck…why should I support their lifestyle when I can get someone smarter who isn’t asking me to do so?

    As much as I agree with you on the value part, it is entirely the employee’s business on what he/she spend the salary on, and the ones that have expensive lifestyle are not always more expensive, lazy, or incompentent.

  • avatar
    Captain Neek

    I have owned a C320 petrol for the last few years. Let’s chronicle the experience:

    1. Engine was “tappety” from 40k km’s (25k miles). Dealer’s Response: “they all sound like that…”

    2. No lumber support, resulting in severe back spasms over long distances.

    3. Very poor fuel consumption.

    4. Car is undertyred @ 205/50s – constant wheelspin in wet/slippery conditions.

    5. Air filter went at 80k km’s (50k miles). This resulted in the pant-wetting experience of the engine going into limp-mode under full acceleration. Yep, at exactly the moment you required kickdown acceleration, the computer decided to max you out at 20 km p/h.

    6. Indifferent (to say the very least) dealer service. Why should they care? In their eyes, you may as well be on Welfare – that’s how low down the c-class is in the MB hierarchy.

    7. High-pitched, whistling sound from aircon.
    Dealer’s Response: “they all sound like that…”

    8. Dull as dishwater interior.

    9. Airbags did not deploy in accident…

    On the upside:

    1. People comment that it appears sturdily constructed (“heavy”, “safe”).

    2. It is a good highway cruiser, apart from the seats and poor gas mileage.

  • avatar
    ash78

    The latest iteration of seats in the E-class (based on Neek’s comment, I’m not sure they’re shared with the C) are hands-down the best all-around seats in any car I’ve sat in.

  • avatar
    imageWIS

    Luther:

    Or a hamburger, or a frankfurter.

    Jon.

  • avatar
    audimination

    “Wait, let me get this straight…the guy who says 95% of humanity doesn’t care what kind of car you drive – cares about what kind of car you drive to the extent that he’d base a hiring decision on it?”

    That person, my friend, is what you call a hypocrite. He says one thing (the car one drives shouldn’t matter) but acts in a different way (he punished employees who drive nice cars)

  • avatar
    NickR

    High-pitched, whistling sound from aircon.

    Captain Neek, speaking experience, the bearings in your a/c fan are failing. Anticipate getting a new fan within a year.

  • avatar
    Seth

    A well maintained clean, older car,any make,speaks volumes about the person.

    Buy a used Honda Accord than a new Honda Accord? I dont get it…

  • avatar
    jd arms

    I’d like to make a few more comments regarding my Mercedes experience, and a few other recent comments.

    1. I have to agree that the seats on my E-Class were very comfortable….except for a brief time when the seat would not slide back or forth because the servicing team left a screwdriver on the rails, and it was literally blocking the seat from sliding on the rails. They (the MB service dpt.) were slightly embarassed when they discovered that little gem.

    2. Once our car was past warranty, the service department was indifferent toward us at best. I don’t expect a mint on the pillow/car seat when I pick up my car, but c’mon. Treating a customer, even a threadbare customer, like you value their business can often negate that customer’s bitterness about a less than reliable product.

    3. I agree that a buying a well maintained, low-mileage, 2 year old vehicle is a great strategy, but I would be lying if I said I have never been strongly tempted to just “go get a new car.”

    4. I also agree that a well-maintained, 8-12 year old vehicle is a beautiful thing. I saw a well-maintained J30 the other day, and I had to stop and respect that – I hope the owner didn’t see me and think I was looking to jack his car.

  • avatar
    nino

    Like my dad says;

    Old is OLD and new is NEW.

    The strategy of buying a well maintained 2 year old vehicle is based solely on the financial sense it makes.

    As we have seen here, sense seldom plays into any decision when it comes to cars.

    But setting aside the financial wisdom of driving a 2 year old car, who wouldn’t want to drive the latest and greatest?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    I saw a new C on my way to work today… wearing black stickers over a lighter color to conceal the model’s appearance. From the 5-10 secs I got to look at it I didn’t see much that I liked… front end is still ugh… just like I saw last week on Jalopnik.com

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    thanks SunnyvaleCA:
    I just priced a 230 sport, with a few options – rear folding seats, rear side curtain airbags, sunroof “package” (i HATE packages… i dont want or need automatic windshield wipers, i can SEE when it starts raining!!!), it was about $33,000 USD. Thats a pretty good piece of change, but not out of line with competiters, like BMW and Audi.

    I really like buying two year old cars that have been properly maintained (no records, no deal), I can save a few thousand bucks (or more) pretty painlessly. I would not hesitate to buy this Merc, BMW 3 or Audi 4 used.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Honestly, does MB have anything to offer anymore? They used to be the marque of luxury to BMW sport, but at the moment BMW and AUDI just do an all around better job while this car has been neglected. Hell, the TL and G35 do it for less money.Then again, I never understood why a slightly more adjustable power seats, a better stereo and a lexus badge got a premium over the camry XLE. As far as buying recently used cars, I definitely agree that it is the way to go. The only exception might be performance cars that are highly anticipated, you won’t save much used and someone likely already beat up the engine and tranny. However, as long as there are snobs, there will be car makers trying to cater to them, for a price of course.

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    Additionally, I’d like to point something out to BMW lovers who claim that BMW is for performance. That’s not really true. That’s equivalent to people who say that Toyota is for reliability (which has been debunked dramatically in the last year with all the recalls and the sludge lawsuit).

    If you compare BMW, model for model, to MB and Audi, it loses in performance in EVERY CATEGORY to one or both of its teutonic counterparts:

    -Small Sports Sedan/Coupe: The 3.2 A4 Quattro has been shown in review after review to outperform and outclass any 3-series package BMW has to offer
    -Performance Sedan/Coupe: RS4 vs. M3. Can’t even argue that the RS4 is light-years ahead of the M3 (we can wait till the new M3 comes out to compare then, but even then i’m pretty sure the RS4 would win out)
    -Midsize Sedan: Performance-Wise, I’d say Audi, Mercedes, and BMW are level as far as S6, M5, and E-63 comparisons. However, When the RS6 soon arrives, I think Audi will be once again ahead of BMW in performance
    -Large Sedan: Both Mercedes AND Audi dramatically kick some BMW tail in this segment. S8 (Or even W12 A8) and the S63 both leak all over and offering that BMW has on its 7-series
    -Perfomance Coupe: M6 vs. SL65 or CL65…I’d think that one would be a close competition, though the Mercs are much more expensive. I’ll say, performance wise, that would probably be a dead heat.
    -SUV: ML63 ruins thet X5 offerings (on performance), even the 4.8 X5 can’t keep up with the ML63

    So you see, BMW has a historic name for performance, but in its current offerings, Audi and MB beat it out in just about every category…so let’s put the “BMW=Performance” theory to rest for now.

    I don’t know where you read your reviews or if you have even driven these cars but a 3-series is easily a much better driving vehicle than the A4. I’ve driven them back to back on the track and on the street and there is no comparison.

    The M3 came out in 2001 and was made through 2006. It was a ~3400lbs. GT/Sports cars coupe…the RS4 came out for `07 weighing ~500lbs. more and is a 4-door sedan…they aren’t even comparable in terms of age, price and design.

    How is the S6 even close to the M5…it has 65 less hp, only availabe in auto for the US and is known to be worse handling (obviously with front end weight bias and AWD, unless your driving aggressively in slippery conditions).

    The X5 4.8 is now the standard V8 engine and unlike MBZ, BMW doesn’t “M” everything…until then they do, they don’t currently offer anything to compete with the ML63. If you were comparing the last gen X5 4.8, well that was aimed at the ML55 obviously.

    Lastly, BMW has never been about 0-60′s or the number game like AMG cars have become…they are about blending the engine, suspension, car and driver all together to create the performance machine…something Audi and MBZ don’t do as well nor do they aspire to in the way BMW does.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    The difference is, the Camry has easier ingress/egress out of the back seat.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    windnsea00:

    The 8E RS4 B7 RS4 is comparable to the E46 M3 as the 8E platform went into production in 2001. Audi produces RS spec models at the conclusion of a production run. The B7 is a warmed over B6 with a few minor suspension tweaks and new sheet metal plus newer engines which is just to tide us over till the B8 breaks cover in a year. The B8 is expected to be a large progression in weight balance which Audi would do well to address. It is expected that Audi will be shifting their engines rearward which could be tied to the introduction of the longitudinal S-tronic gearbox aka DSG. The torsen based quattro system using concentric shaft manual and automatic gearboxes dictates the engine placement, it has for a long time. Audi fenders tell the story with a large area in front of the wheel but a proportionately smaller area behind the wheel but before the door’s leading edge.

    The S6 IMO should have come with the S-tronic gearbox.. that alone would have made it a world better than the M5 which still struggles with that SMG situation. IIRC C&D did a recent test of the 3 teutons and the S6 placed 2nd… and posted higher skidpad numbers than the BMW M5. I’ve only had experience with the A6 and S6 so I cant comment on the current M5 but the S6 is a VERY nice sedan… any car that large is IMO too large to be tracked so spouse safety might supercede maximum chest pounding performance. The S6 is a more useful vehicle in inclimate conditions while the M5 is likely a more focused performer.

  • avatar
    konaforever

    AUDImination:

    Biased much? Show me a comparison where the 3.2 A4 beats a 335i?

    The RS4 shouldn’t really be compared to the M3. The RS4 is between a M3 and a M5 in terms of price and performance. The M3 should be compared to the S4, which it has beat in all comparisons I’ve seen.

    As an obvious Audi fan, your lack of objectivity shows through blatantly.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    The E46 platform came in 2 door coupe form and sedan/touring variants… the dimensionally comparable Audi B chassis has been deprived of a coupe in the US since 1992 when the last coupe quattro was sold… the model lingered on in europe till 1996. The E30 M3 was a peer of the the 190E 2.5 16 AMG (C class predecessor) and the S2 coupe (coupe quattro + 20v turbo 2.2 I5). The RS4 and S4 are both based on the B chassis… as Audi does not currently produce a B chassis coupe’ and BMW stopped making M3 sedans I think the comparison is fair as the two platforms share common ground. You like convertibles? RS4 cabriolet not sold in US (just like the avant) vs BMW M3 ragtop. Are we closer to apples & apples now?

  • avatar
    kpax

    This car is better than the author of this article thinks. If you look at Road&Track’s numbers (C350) for speed through a 700ft slalom you’ll see that it is significantly faster than an IS350 (or IS250AWD). In comparison to the A4 or 3-series. It doesn’t match their times but it comes close, and in comparison, the ride in the MB is much better than the A4 and 3-series.

  • avatar
    NamDuong

    I honestly think this C-class is better-looking than the next-generation one. Especially the 2006+ luxury ones, with the front fascia ripped off from the E500. I WANT ONE! A few used 2006 C350 luxury’s go for around 31-34k here, which would be a very attractive deal imo.

  • avatar
    KruppSteel

    This is a bad review. Has anyone of you even driven a C Class. I have the 1999 C280 (the pre-oval era) and is an amazing car. Never had any problems with the car.

    Please don’t mention A4 and C280 in same sentence. It’s insulting to MB and to car lovers in general.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I’ve only sat in C280 while driving. From my perspective, I agree with the much of the review. Bumps intrude in the cabin, the engine is adequate, the handling and interior are fine. Wont work for me though.

  • avatar
    ultimatestriker

    I do appreciate the an honest review and respect the opinions stated.
    Having driven Audi, BMW and the Japanese competitors, I realized that the C280 gives me all of what those cars provide in one package and yes… there is definate cache when driving a Benz.
    The C280 just a great all around vehicle and a fabulous overall driving machine. Agreed, not as sporty as the BMW 3 series but sporty enough to be tossed around (had the pleasure of doing so on a test track). Not as sterile as IS250 or Acura TSX and TL. The car feels all “Mercedes” and isn’t that what these companies aspire to in the first place? Granted, I am also a big Honda fan… they do make great cars. I think the C280 kind of gets the same respect and NSX does. Not as quick as a Corvette, not as elite as a Ferrari or Lambo. Not a daily driver like Porsche. But as anyone who really understands what makes it a great car and they will tell you… Balance. That is what the C280 brings to the table… and… it’s still a “Benz”.
    Remember, the chubby college girl never disappoints and you can always count on her to cook you a great great dinner. The girl of today (BMW) gets boring just as quick.So,keep your gutt happy and stick with the one who does it all. Don’t get caught looking at your boring old super model thinking… Gee, I wish I had stuck with that Benz!

  • avatar

    Maxwelton :
    mikey :

    Your logic is flawed. Why do you think the person’s 1991 Dodge Stealth ES, 1995 GMC Yukon SLT 4×4, or 1998 Lincoln Continental came to be in such good shape in the first place? Maybe because the person that bought it NEW took good care of it? You may be saving money buying used but it is a gamble. And I do not gamble with 10′s of thousands of dollars of my hard earned money. All the repair records in the world do not tell you how a car was driven. So, I would urge you to reconsider your assessment of who potentially works for you. Or, change the EOE laws to include improper questions about a person’s driving habits. By the way, I own all of the above and a brand new 2008 E550 Mercedes. And I hope to have it just as long as all my other vehicles listed above.

    As far as the C Class is concerned, I agree with the others. It was not enjoyable to drive and seems to be built just to allow posers to say they drive a MB. The roads are flooded with them here in the Houston area. This pretty much destroys the exclusivity once associated with the name and tarnishes the reputation MB once had for reliability.

    P.S. My daily driver is a 2007 Chevrolet Impala LT. It is a company car. Not my first choice but I do not pay for gas, repairs, or insurance. I grow more impressed with this vehicle every day. Gets good gas mileage, adequate power, has lots of room, and saves me lots of money. Even has remote start for those cold mornings.

  • avatar
    bigmanrestless

    This is just too funny. The reviewer obviously has a bone to pick with Mercedes, and pick he does. It’s rare to see a review that just trashes the car so consistently. There is almost nothing right about this car, except that the engine is smooth and super quiet, and everyone hates quiet engines of course. The comments about the interior are particularly puzzling. The materials are excellent and the tolerance is amazing (compare to any Acura or Infiniti and these things look like they were sculpted from a single block of plastic).

    I’ve owned two C-class cars, and I’ve loved both of them for what they are, not what they aren’t–they’re not an M3, they’re not AMG, they’re decent midsize cars with plenty of power and very good fuel economy in an entry level luxury car. They are very comfortable for long trips, very quiet, responsive at all speeds, and with the 4Matic, great in bad road conditions.

    I’ve also driven Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota, and I have no idea how anyone could compare the C-class with the comparable Japanese models in terms of drive and feel. My first C-class was completely trouble free (O2 sensor at 80K, other than that, oil and brakes). The only reason I sold it was because I really wanted/needed 4Matic for increasingly harsh winters.

    The comments are hilarious too. If it’s used as a taxi, AND it’s totally unreliable, then there are some REALLY stupid cab drivers in Europe. That argument contradicts itself.

    What’s wrong with a car being used as a taxi in the first place? In New York City, there are loads of Lincoln Town cars as taxis–what does that have to do with anything?

    Also, I find the “class envy” comments to be very telling about the writers, who are obviously obsessed with the badge and branding. Is there no possibility that people who buy these cars like them for what they are? I could easily purchase E class as well, but I don’t need the room and I like the ease of parking and the gas mileage that I get with the C-class. And I think it’s a sharp looking car with lots of amenities that I really like. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t buy it.


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