We aren’t far from the day when the concept of the station wagon is absolute forbidden fruit. The North American car-buying public has established that the crossover and sport-utility-vehicle are the way of the future. Those of us that favour the long-roof style of the traditional wagon are in the vast minority, and that’s an unfortunate thing. Our European counterparts still adore this body style, and automakers are cranking them out by the bushels. On this side of the pond, Mercedes-Benz offers two examples, this particular one unique to the Canadian market.
The compact C-Class is a huge seller for Mercedes-Benz, and is offered in four body styles, including a sedan, coupé, cabriolet, and now this five-door wagon. We first saw a version of this at the Canadian International Auto Show a couple of years ago, originally intended to only be sold with a diesel powertrain. Now that Mercedes-Benz has announced the exit of their diesel in North America in favour of plug-in hybrid electric propulsion, this 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon can only be had one way.
Not that this is a bad thing – in the compact luxury sedan segment, every single player offers a 2.0L turbocharged inline-four as the entry-level engine. BMW’s 330i (reviewed here) and the Audi A4 (reviewed here) are up there with this C 300 as the most refined and dynamic choices around. With 241 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 273 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,300RPM, the C 300 Wagon is torquey and confident in its power delivery. Some turbocharger lag makes itself evident, but the car is punchy and feels more than adequately quick (rated at 6.1 seconds for a sprint from 0-100km/h).
What helps things even more is the latest application of Mercedes-Benz’s 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission. The Acura TLX (reviewed here) offers nine gears as well, but that ZF box isn’t quite as smooth or effortless as this one. Wheel-mounted paddle shifters are in play, but the majority of drivers will never see a need to use them. Selecting “Sport” or “Sport+” in the Agility Select holds gears longer, and brings out the more spirited side of the wagon. A sleeper it is not, but this long-roof Benz is deceptively fast, especially considering it’s the entry-level engine.
Canadians cannot get the C 300 Wagon with AIRMATIC air suspension, though buyers get a choice of either comfort or sport-oriented suspension. The sport setup on board is comprised of a selective-damping multi-link system, which rides very firmly. For reference, the BMW 330i Touring with the M-Sport suspension is very comparable, but the Audi A4 allroad (reviewed here) offers a softer ride. The C-Class isn’t thrashy, but those who don’t want a more aggressive car may want to opt for the standard comfort suspension.
The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system helps significantly in the colder months, but even in day-to-day driving, the C-Class handles very well. The steering is light and effortless, and devoid of any analog feel at the driver’s fingertips, but the wagon responds with eagerness and composure. Some understeer makes itself evident at the limit, but the average C 300 Wagon client will never notice. This is right up there with the other two wagons in the “fun-to-drive” factor.
Would a diesel be a little bit more interesting? Probably, but that’s only from an editorial content standpoint. It would be more frugal at the pumps, but this C 300 Wagon, even with 4MATIC, is rated for 10.7L/100km city and 8.0L/100km highway. Over our test, we were able to observe as little as 7.8L/100km highway in cold conditions, and returned a test average of 9.1L/100km. This isn’t bad by any means, and even though it requires 91-octane premium fuel, the C 300 Wagon still sips the stuff at a minimal level.
The cabin of the current (W205) C-Class is one of, if not the best in its class. Materials are top-notch, fit and finish is perfect, and the aesthetics are off the charts. Our test vehicle was equipped with Dark Ash open pore wood, which is just as nice to the touch as it is to look at. A nice touch is the analog clock in the center of the dashboard. The ergonomics are very good as well, and the seats are comfortable. Even as a taller driver, I found no issues staying comfortable for longer jaunts behind the wheel. Visibility is excellent for a modern vehicle, and rear legroom is adequate for the segment – notably better than the 3-series (reviewed here).
Other than the subjectively superior style of the station wagon, the main reason to opt for one is for the added versatility. With the foldable rear seats in place, the C 300 Wagon offers 490L of cargo space. Fold them flat, and this area expands to a generous 1,510L. These numbers are superior to both the BMW and the Audi, so if straight luggage room is what you’re after, the Mercedes has a cave of an interior.
Infotainment and connectivity is accomplished through Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system, employing a somewhat confusing combination of a rotary dial controller and a touchpad mounted directly on top of it. There is a definite learning curve to this system, and some room for improvement, but it isn’t anywhere near as difficult to use as Cadillac’s CUE. The latest implementation of COMAND in the E-Class (reviewed here) is a glimpse of what to expect in eventual updates to this C 300.
The C 300 Wagon starts at $46,000, just $1,300 more than the equivalent sedan. Our test vehicle included the $5,000 Premium Package (power tailgate, COMAND navigation, panoramic sunroof, intelligent key, LED exterior lighting) and the $2,300 Premium Plus Package (integrated garage door opener, 360-degree camera, rear window blinds, ambient lighting, active park assist, foot activated tailgate release). The $1,700 Sport Package adds a sport suspension, AMG styling bits, 18” AMG wheels, and sport brakes. An additional $475 for satellite radio, $890 for Selenite Grey paint, and $250 for a heated steering wheel brings the price to $56,865.
This may very well be the final iteration of many wagons we have come to know and love. Mercedes-Benz also offers a wagon variant of their popular E-Class (reviewed here) with a turbocharged V6, should you desire more power from your long-roof. As it sits, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon is a sleek choice, with undeniable charm and real, usable versatility. With the niche approaching extinction, the only way to truly save a segment is to put our money where our mouths are – one wagon at a time.