In a rapidly growing compact luxury sedan segment, it’s become a cutthroat race between a few select automakers to see who can produce the best car. The longstanding pioneer, the BMW 3-series (reviewed here) has foregone some of its hardcore sportiness in favour of softer luxury. The Volvo S60 hasn’t seen a significant update in the better part of a decade, while players like the Audi A4 are just as fresh as this other German. The one we see most on Canadian city streets is this exact configuration, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC, so we evaluated it to see what attracts buyers to this particular entry.
From a design perspective, the latest C-Class (codenamed W205) is stylish from some angles, and more conservative from others. It looks like a modern Mercedes-Benz, and very similar to the new E-Class (reviewed here). This is a good thing for C-Class buyers, and perhaps a not-so-good thing for E or S-Class owners. Our test vehicle was equipped with a Sport Package which, among other things, added 18” AMG aluminum wheels, which complemented the Selenite Grey paint perfectly. LED daytime running lights are standard, though in order to get LEDs, a $1,700 LED Lighting System option must be checked off.
Stepping into the car, the C-Class has one of the most well designed cabins in its segment. The materials used are top-notch, the ergonomics are on point, and the Artico synthetic upholstery feels high quality and is superbly easy to maintain (source: we have a C-Class in the family with this exact setup). Depending on how the vehicle is spec’d, various woods and aluminum finishes can be had, though this vehicle had a combination between piano black and a brushed metallic trim. The brushed metal looks great, but the piano black holds dust easily and is presumably prone to scratches.
In terms of space and overall comfort, the powered front seats are heated and quite nice to spend lengthy trips in. As typical for Mercedes-Benz, the seat controls are on the doors, eliminating the need to reach down and find the switches. The adjustable thigh support is also a nice touch, something that isn’t necessarily available in all contenders within this class. Rear headroom is far better than the Lexus IS (reviewed here) and about on par with the Audi A4, and legroom is pretty good as well. The cabin is nicely lit and not dreary at all, thanks to the segment-exclusive panoramic sunroof, making for a nice “glass house” effect thanks to the relatively large windows.
All interior technology is taken care of through the COMAND infotainment interface. There is a large screen mounted to the dashboard. Media, climate, navigation and connectivity are all controlled by a rotary dial that’s very, very responsive. Mounted above this dial is a new touchpad that functions as a mouse. The touchpad isn’t as refined, and can often get in the way or make false adjustments as you’re reaching for the main dial. The COMAND system is one of the best in the business, and the Apple CarPlay technology is slowly trickling down through the Mercedes-Benz lineup.
Power for the C 300 4MATIC comes from a 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine. This motor is turbocharged, intercooled, and features direct injection. Every single rival also offers a 2.0L turbo-four, and the Mercedes-Benz unit is one of the best, offering more refinement than the BMW. This motor is good for 241 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 273 lb-ft of torque between 1,300 and 4,000RPM. This motor is calibrated for minimal turbocharger lag and the car happily zips around the urban core.
Mercedes-Benz claims 6.0 seconds to 100 km/h, which is not slow by any means. The car offers selectable drive modes, ranging from Eco all the way to Sport+ and also a configurable “Individual” setting. As expected, this alters variables including throttle response, engine tuning, and transmission shift points. The Eco mode alters the throttle quite a bit to ensure maximum efficiency, while the Sport+ setup focuses on fun and holds gears longer. Those wanting more power can head towards the AMG C 43 and C 63 models (reviewed here).
Like the Audi A4, the C 300 4MATIC only comes in all-wheel-drive guise in Canada, and the engine is paired to the seven-speed 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission. This is a gearbox capable of buttery shifts nearly imperceptible, and responsive when called upon for spirited driving. There is no traditional shift lever; the desired driving gear is selected via a stalk on the steering column. Manual shift mode is operated through the paddle shifters located on the three-spoke wheel. The Audi also uses a delightful seven-speed setup, while the Lexus IS 350 AWD (reviewed here) still makes do with an aged six-speed.
Ride quality is where this German is a bit of a chameleon. Each time the car is started, it reverts itself to the “Comfort” drive mode, which is precisely where most will want to be – the car is in its element here. It rides decently well, though on the firmer side thanks to the larger 18” wheel setup on this test vehicle. The “Agility Control” suspension, which is Mercedes-Benz talk for a sport setup, transforms the car into a much more dynamic machine. The steering feel (electrically assisted) stiffens up and turn in becomes much more immediate; rendering the car far more eager to change direction.
Mercedes-Benz rates the C 300 4MATIC at 10.1L/100km highway and 7.8L/100km city, for an overall rating of 9.0L/100km. Over a test consisting of 500km and a 75/25 mix between highway and city, the vehicle stayed right where expected, at 8.6L/100km. Exclusively highway trips in the “Eco” setting saw numbers as low as 7.7L/100km, besting the official rating – this is something not often seen. The C 300 requires 91-octane premium fuel and capacity in the tank is 65L, all right on par with the other vehicles it competes with.
The Intelligent Drive system that debuted on the new E 300 (reviewed here) is not only class leading, but one of the closest systems currently available to autonomous driving. On the C-Class, it includes DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist, capable of advanced cruise control while keeping the vehicle in the lane. It also employs Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and autonomous emergency braking. This technology all sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but the essence of it all is, it all comes together nicely to make for one of the best driver assistance systems in the industry.
The C 300 4MATIC sedan starts at $44,000 at the time of this writing. Most Canadian buyers will opt for the Premium Package (rear view camera, panoramic sunroof, and COMAND navigation) for $3,900 and Premium Plus Package (Keyless Go, Active Parking Assist, ambient lighting, and satellite radio) for $2,500. This test vehicle was also equipped with the Sport Package (Sport Brake System, AMG Styling Package, AMG wheels, Sport Suspension) for $1,700 and the Intelligent Drive Package for $2,700. The as-tested sticker hit $55,690.
This price may seem expensive, but it’s important to consider that this is the fully loaded car with the entry-level engine. Stepping up to a V6 would require getting into the Mercedes-AMG C 43, which is a spectacular car, but far more than the average Canadian buyer needs or wants. Those wanting to keep the car around the $50,000 mark might want to consider opting out of the Sport Package and perhaps Intelligent Drive in favour of the LED Lighting Package, because the standard halogen headlights take away from the C 300’s luxurious appeal.
Buyers will be hard-pressed to make a decision, considering just how good all of the players in the compact luxury game have become. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC brings with it an abundance of history and heritage dating back over a century, and the latest in technology and modern luxury. Changes in upcoming updates that would be appreciated include small things like making the heated steering wheel standard for Canadians (currently a $250 option) or some minor tweaks to the infotainment. A well-configured C 300 4MATIC will please buyers for years to come, not to mention the bulletproof reliability that the brand is known for.