Mercedes C300 Review

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz
mercedes c300 review

Mercedes currently offers American consumers a choice of thirteen different model lines. What a difference from the Mercedes Benz of 1987, when only four U.S.-legal models wore the three pointed star. Back then, the Mercedes brand was renowned for fastidious, brick-shit-house over-engineering. Today, Benzes are known for many things, but mechanical robustness and reliability ain’t two of them. If anything, Mercedes has earned itself a reputation for persistent electrical gremlins and multitudinous mechanical misfires. Fresh from its divorce from Chrysler, Mercedes would like us to believe that the new C-Class represents a return to form. When you wish upon a star…

Looking at the new C, especially when positioned next to the outgoing blob, you can almost hear the new sheriff’s spurs clank as he strolls into town. Whereas the last C was flabby and farcical, Mercedes’ refreshed entry level model possesses unmistakably muscularity. And purpose. From the swage line slicing across the C’s side panels towards its snout, to the minuscule front overhangs, to the slight bulge in the front wheel arches, this is a car that’s not shy about going forward.

The new C300 (not to be confused with the 300C) comes in Luxury and Sport derivations. In Sport trim, the C-Class sho’ ‘nuff comes complete with hood strakes, an aggressive front air dam and an elephantine three pointed star, sitting dead center. If it makes stealth-oriented pistonheads feel any better, the over-sized, retro-blingy logo is historically justifiable: sportier versions of Ye Olde 560 SEC wore a similar statement of in yer face heritage (not to mention Ye Olde Aftermarket 190Es). Luxury- trimmed versions get the proper chrome grill with the Old School erect hood ornament.

The C-Class’ cabin continues the exterior’s overall theme of restrained modernism. Instead of the former model’s litany of obsequious features and capricious buttonology, Mercedes engineers have finally [re]placed function over form. The switchgear is now exactly where it belongs, doing exactly what it should be doing. The decapitated Pokemon steering wheel is a particular delight; the thick-rimmed tiller provides unfettered visual access to clear, elegant gages.

Giant slabs of brushed aluminum– not Lexus-style silver plastic– grace the baby Merc’s doors and dash. The headlamp knob is made of wonderfully tactile material, a package that has no business in a car this cheap. Throw in build quality we haven’t seen in the C-Class, er, ever, and you have an interior whose beauty looks set to age as gracefully as a medium-priced bottle of Chateau Margaux.

The previous generation C-Class had all the on-road prowess of a toaster. I had such a rotten time driving it I had to stop and to see if the wheels had been replaced with those chocolate cupcakes with the squiggle icing on the top. The engineers responsible for the old model’s so-not-luxurious-it-literally-hurt suspension and endlessly endless turning circle have been permanently reassigned to the Chrysler section of Mercedes’ historical archives.

The C300’s drive train is shocking. I remember this engine from the C280. Paired with a five-speed auto, it was wretchedly pedestrian. Sampling this new application is like finding a Franklin in a jacket pocket. Hooked-up to Benz’s seven-speed cog-swapper, the mill churns out a modest (by today’s standards) 230 horses. But the V6’ in-gear acceleration is such that it made me doubt the necessity of the 270 horsepower C350. With a zero-to-60mph sprint time in the low seven second range, the C300 reeks of expectation exceeding.

There is a caveat. Acceding to the temper of the times, Mercedes has tuned C300’s seven-speed cog-swapper for maximum mpg. It wants to hand you a higher gear as eagerly as a Jehovah’s Witness wants to give you a copy of the Watchtower. The go-pedal sinks some distance towards the carpet before summoning more power. In the process, it occasionally kicks down a cog too far.

Both C-Class models suppress road nuisances like a dictator dealing with democracy. And yet, miracle of miracles, the C’s ride isn’t Cadillac mushy. In fact, the sedan’s ride is classic old-school Mercedes-Benz: firm yet compliant.

Although the C300 is an ante-penultimate driving machine, it acquits itself in the corners with honest, admirable aplomb. Although there’s a not inconsiderable amount of initial body roll, the C300’s responses are so predictable– and discernible– you can push it far further than you would if you had any common sense.

The new C-Class gives U.S. consumers a reason not to buy a 3-Series or G35. Not because it’s the sportier choice (get real). The C300's appeal lies in the fact that it’s an old school cruiser, gliding through life in a once-upon-a- time-in-a-Mercedes kinda way. The new Mercedes C300 is the best non-AMG Mercedes since the 1991 to 1998 monster S-Class. With this new model, Mercedes is finally bringing the sexy back.

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  • Kvelaj19 Kvelaj19 on Aug 25, 2009

    i bought this car in 2008 and ive had nothing but problems with it. in the beginning my wheel started to drift to the right so i got that fixed Then a little after while driving the power steering completely stopped working and the fluid just leaked everywhere. I need to replace the power steering rack and hoses and etc and mercedes wont even cover anything. A new car like this shouldnt have these problems already. I wouldnt suggested to anyone to buy it. IM so over mercedes. My c320 had a few problems as well.

  • Mrnemo Mrnemo on Nov 15, 2011

    Wanted to say that this review helped me make the decision to buy a C300. I owned a Z4 and then a Phaeton, but the Phaeton was getting a bit expensive due to its age and shocking repair costs. At the time, I test drove a 335i, which is probably the ultimate sports sedan. And I realized something - I just didn't need that kind of power. In fact, I could see myself attending a wedding and then turning off stability control and planting my face into a tree. I've always been obsessed with the numbers and the wow factor, but I guess I've finally admitted to myself that I just need a good car that won't kill me. That is what this car is. It is a good car that drives well, feels comfortable, can be parked with ease, can pass others with ease, and is safe. I would not call the car "fun," but I would call it "competent." It is nowhere near the Phaeton in terms of luxury, and it is nowhere near a Z4 in pizazz and fun factor. I guess it is a car for people having the opposite of a mid-life crisis. "I need a good car, but something with a bit more soul than a Toyota or Honda..." That is the kind of car it is. I always enjoy entering and exiting the car. It looks great. It doesn't scream Mercedes (which is a good or bad thing depending on your perspective). It is definitely more refined than a Japanese car in both interior and external looks and quality. It isn't the best car on earth, by far. When comparing it to a Phaeton, it really does feel like a Civic (especially the interior). But I don't think most people will be coming from a Phaeton to a C300, so for the majority of first-time owners, they will be ecstatic with their upgrade. I would say I'm "pleased."

  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)
  • AMcA Phoenix. Awful. The roads are huge and wide, with dedicated lanes for turning, always. Requires no attention to what you're doing. The roads are idiot proofed, so all the idiots drive - they have no choice, because everything is so spread out.
  • Leonard Ostrander Pet peeve: Drivers who swerve to the left to make a right turn and vice versa. They take up as much space as possible for as long as possible as though they're driving trailer trucks or school busses. It's a Kia people, not a Kenworth! Oh, and use your turn signals if you ever figure out where you're going.