Somehow, someway, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class had become the brand’s biggest global seller in the past decade, with over 2.5 million sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons sold. This came as a bit of a surprise to us seeing the sheering volume of Mercedes-Benz GLC crossovers on the road, but it explained why the brand held nothing back when designing the all-new sixth generation of their compact luxury sedan, and we quickly snatched the keys for a weeklong evaluation – this is the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC.
Though there are the A-Class and CLA-Class, many still think of the Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC as the entry-level sedan in the German luxury automaker’s lineup. This does not mean that the C 300 is in any way basic, but simply the fact that many view it as the entry point to the full Mercedes-Benz luxury experience.
Looking at it from the outside, the all-new C 300 is unmistakable as a current Mercedes-Benz vehicle, but there is confusion amongst onlookers as to just which model it is. The new C-Class shares a lot of similarities with other members of the portfolio, from the subcompact A-Class to the flagship S-Class, but we love its high-tech lighting design and the curvy body sculpture that gives it a trendy and sophisticated appearance many buyers seek in this segment.
Moving onto the cabin, there is zero mistaking where the interior design draws inspiration from. The oversized digital instrument cluster, freestanding portrait screen on the centre console, and multi-control steering wheel design are straight from the S-Class and are very well integrated in the high-quality cabin.
The lack of physical dials and buttons is not ideal, especially with the omission of a physical volume knob, but the minimalistic design does look great especially in at night, thanks to the ambient lighting all around including inside the air vents. Users eventually get used to making all sorts of adjustments using voice control by simply saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ followed by a conversational-type command, which works quite well in real life. This system also has the ability to recognize different occupants by their voices and in turn adjust according to the seating position they are in.
The C 300’s seats are quite comfortable and there is noticeably more interior space than in the previous generation, thanks to the longer wheelbase and bigger overall dimension. For the first time, rear passengers would not be complaining about legroom, but it is worth noting that the C 300 is better suited for four occupants than it is for five, especially for long road trips.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder engine now gets a mild hybrid support thanks to an integrated starter-generator to help with low speed acceleration as well as to maximize fuel savings. Power output is rated at 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. of torque, with an additional 20-horsepower and 147 lb-ft. of torque waiting on tap generated by the 48-volt electric system to help the C 300 achieve a 100 km/h sprint in just six seconds.
What’s more important is that the mild-hybrid system helps to smooth out power delivery normally made peaky by turbochargers, and the C 300 4MATIC manages turbo lag better than any powertrain in its class. Handling is a pleasant surprise for an entry-level luxury sedan. Though feel is lacking, the electric steering is quite responsive to inputs and the new suspension is well tuned for quick reflexes without feeling stiff or harsh. Don’t expect sports car handling here – that’s not what this car is made for, but buyers will not be upset by the way it drives while enjoying above-average comfort along the way.
Fuel economy is rated at 9.9L/100km in the city and 7.1L/100km on the highway, for a combined 8.5L/100km. Our observed fuel consumption for the week of mixed commuting came in at 9.1L/100km with 91-octane premium fuel being the requirement for its 66-litre tank.
Our tester came equipped with the optional Intelligent Drive Package of driver assistance technology which includes radar guided cruise control, blind spot assist, brake assist with turning and cross-traffic function, emergency stop assist, land change and lane keeping assist, and steering assistance systems. These systems worked flawlessly throughout our road tests in enhancing our confidence on the road and we would like to see them adopted as standard features over time.
Base price for the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC starts at $56,700, and our tester was loaded with options such as the Sport, Premium, Premium Plus, and the aforementioned Intelligent Drive Package to bring the as-tested total to $68,300. It faces pressure not only from the typical heavyweights in the entry-level luxury sedan segment such as the BMW 330i xDrive and Audi A4 but also from the Japanese and Korean automakers who are always improving to get a piece of this delicious pie.
Given the increasing competition, as well as the importance the C-Class is to the brand, it is easy to see why Mercedes-Benz had made it a priority to make sure the all new C 300 4MATIC can come out swinging and it has achieved just that. With the sophisticated package, great driving comfort, and a silky-smooth powertrain, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC has more to offer than its competition and takes back the lead as the go-to baby luxury sedan.