2017 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Coupe: Better (and Less Costly) Than That Orange Lexus RC350

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

While it’s true that TTAC’s managing editor spent last week in an $11,595 2016 Chevrolet Spark, auto writers living on the east coast of Canada are rather more accustomed to receiving highly optioned cars from the press fleet.

There was the 2016 Mazda CX-9 Platinum priced, in Mazda USA speak, at $45,215. A couple of weeks before, the new Honda Civic Coupe arrived in Touring trim — not Si, not Type R — at a U.S. market price of $26,960. Toyota Highlander? Make it a Limited Hybrid at $51,445.

So what a pleasure it was to see a 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe pull into my driveway and see no AMG badges, the basic 2.0-liter turbo/all-wheel-drive combo, and only $7,540 in options. A mere scintilla of options. Scarcely a soupçon of selections from the lengthy list of Mercedes-Benz choices.

Thus, with shockwaves reverberating around GCBC Towers, a 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe arrived as a successor to our 2016 Lexus RC tester, a direct C-Class Coupe competitor, with $6,000 of savings in hand.

Yes, as-tested, the Benz was $6,000 less than its Lexus rival. And yes, the Benz is the better car.

CABIN


It starts inside. Style is a subjective matter, but I was hard-pressed to find a single passenger who didn’t find the C300’s cabin multiple notches above the prototypical Japanese Lexus RC’s button-infested interior.

The tacked-on screen with a surround that would seem cheap on an iPad knock-off is a major letdown given the material quality and sense of solidity elsewhere inside the Benz, but it doesn’t cancel out the hi-lux vibes the C300 sends out from optional open-pre dark ash wood trim, the saddle brown leather, or the HVAC vents’ smooth operation. Neither does the silly column shifter or the sunroof that sounded like it was crunching gravel.

The Lexus, by comparison, was a more feature-laden car: proximity access, push-button start, and cooled seats, as examples. But luxury isn’t always about stuff. The Mercedes feels and looks and smells like it should cost $15,000 more than it does.

MOTION


In the real world, the C300 4Matic is also the far more engaging on-road partner. Much as I tolerated — even accepted and sometimes appreciated — the RC’s lack of cornering acumen because of its sublime ride quality and day-to-day comfort, the C300 4Matic’s sharper responses, greater level of engagement, and tolerable ride quality creates an obviously superior driving experience.

One week earlier, I was forever telling new passengers that the RC350 F Sport isn’t half as sporty as they thought it was going to be. I was constantly making allowances for an orange car with outrageous styling that was bound not to shock and awe.

Be very sure, the C300 4Matic, even with upgraded 245/40R18 Continental ProContact GXSSRs on 18-inch five-spoke alloys, is more keen on sporty cruising than sports car enthusiasm. But when you demand more from the Benz on a twisty road, turn-in is sufficiently swift, the 7-speed automatic shirks its sometimes awkward low-rev behaviour to snap off shifts, and the car as a whole gets down to business.

The RC’s excessive girth causes Lexus to hold up a metaphorical caution sign. “I can do this if you really want me to,” the Lexus seemed to say, “or we can just let the Benz have its fun. We’ll catch up later.”

TORQUE


Caned on a long straightaway, there’s likely not much between the 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in the Lexus RC350 and the 241-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder. The Lexus produces only three more pounds-feet of torque, and it does so at 4,800 rpm, 3,500 revs up the tach than the torque peak in the C300.

As a result, in routine driving, regardless of what might happen on an airport runway, the Mercedes-Benz feels like the livelier car. I won’t lie: these modern turbos in small engines make me miss naturally aspirated throttle response. In action, however, when you’re following a dawdling tractor-trailer onto a highway and you need to squirt out quickly into traffic, I want my torque now.

Revs are fun. Smooth, V6 revs are even more fun. Instantaneous response is not as fun, but it is practical.

TWO FOR ONE


On at least one other count, the far less costly Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic declared itself the winner in my back-to-back quasi-comparo. Mercedes-Benz’s Agility Select dramatically transforms the car, crafting multiple personalities in one machine.

The Lexus RC350 F Sport had a button, too. Press for Normal, turn left for Eco, turn right for Sport or Sport+. The RC is undeniably a more athletic and responsive car in Sport+ than in Eco. Rather than dull the throttle, the RC becomes more hyper. The steering is weightier, the ride is firmer. The differences, however, are not astounding — it’s very much the same car.

In the Mercedes-Benz, however, shuffling the little toggle/wheel marked Dynamic from Eco through to Sport+ reveals an entirely different car. Gone is the detached cruiser and in comes the exuberant go-getter champing at the bit. There’s also an individual setting that allows you to mix and match the best of multiple worlds.

Thus, the Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic wasn’t just the less expensive of the two luxury coupes, it was more than one car.

This article previously referred to this C300 4Matic as a 2016 model year car. It is actually a 2017 model year car, and the article was updated for clarity.

[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain / The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

Timothy Cain
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  • Onyxtape Onyxtape on Jul 20, 2016

    The new C-class is really well put together. But one thing really bothered me at a dealer visit - the trunk lid felt really really lightweight. Corolla-like would be how I would describe it.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jul 20, 2016

    As an owner of an 08 ml350 with 85k , I've had only minimal issues. What it boils down to for long term ownership of any car is , would you want to keep driving this despite the hassle of driving a car past it's warranty? Alot of this is based on driving satisfactoin, styling, interior quality , and overall craftmanship. I think this Merc wins in this regard. I think Lexus has some serious styling issues.

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
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