Review: Mercedes-Benz traces its roots back to 1886 - the dawn of
automotive history. The C Class itself goes back to the 190 series, or
ďbaby Benz,Ē which debuted in the fall of 1982. It remains the entry
point to ownership of a piece of history.
Redone for the 2008
model year, the 2009 adds some modest changes but remains a worthy
competitor for its German archrivals - the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4.
The 190 was the eighth
car I ever tested as a journalist, way back in the middle of 1992.
Whatís remarkable is how similar this new car feels to that one. Thereís
simplicity of shapes in the interior, with a shallow, hooded instrument
panel with three chrome-ringed gauges. The solid forms and slightly
rounded edges impart solidity and tradition. My tester featured subtle
black birdseye maple trim.
The new carís styling,
while much more animated than the sedate 1980ís car, still has familiar
proportions, and, of course, a version of the traditional Mercedes-Benz
In an era of long,
inclined windshields (think of the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic) the
relatively upright shape of the C Class brings back some nostalgia. But
thereís nothing old fashioned about this new car. My Palladium Silver
tester offered 21st century wonders such as Bluetooth cell phone
connection and rain-sensing intermittent wipers.
It also sported a
killer optional multimedia package with hard drive-based navigation
system with seven-inch retractable display and voice control. The car
had an iPod integration kit, almost a necessity these days, but unheard
of in 1982, or 1992 for that matter.
C Class standard
equipment includes a power sunroof, eight-way power front seats with
lumbar support, two-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch wheels, and
a central controller with a five-inch display screen. This controller,
like a mouse, lets you point and click to operate many vehicle features
through a series of menus. Itís not bad once you get used to it.
Thereís so much to do
in cars today. The optional panorama sunroof ($1,050) gives rear
passengers a view of the sky, too. The front part slides open or pops up
for extra ventilation.
An ambitious safety
program includes a multitude of airbags, crumple zones, active front
head restraints and more. Active safety features electronic brake
assist, an electronic stability program, and anti-slip regulation - all
of which act on their own without driver input - to get you safely on
The easiest C Class to
afford is the C300 sedan, which comes in a Luxury or Sport model. Unlike
in previous incarnations, you can actually tell which is which now. The
Sport models get a bold, three-bar grille with a large Mercedes-Benz
three-pointed star mounted front and center, while the luxury series
gets the traditional, more delicately defined grille with a stand-up
hood ornament. Sport models flaunt AMG lower body panels as well.
The C300 uses Mercedesí
3.0-liter V6, which puts out 228 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque. A
4Matic four-wheel-drive model is available. This full-time
all-wheel-drive system uses the standard front suspension and weighs
only 145 pounds more than the standard two-wheel-drive system.
The C350, like my test
car, bumps power to 268 horsepower with a 3.5-liter V6 that churns out
258 lb.-ft. of torque through its seven-speed automatic, which it shares
with the C300.
If you really want
something special, you can opt for the C63 AMG, the latest in the series
of specially tuned small Mercedes-Benz models. Its 6.2-liter V8 rates an
eye-watering 451 horsepower and 465 lb.-ft. of torque. Whew!
The EPA rated my C350
tester 17 City, 25 Highway for fuel economy. It averaged a very good
22.5 mpg over an accumulated 3,446 test miles (lots of journalists - not
just me), using premium fuel. The C300ís smaller engine gets a one mpg
better rating. Plus the EPA gives the C350 a 7 or a 9.5 for Air
Pollution and a 5 for Greenhouse Gas. If you live in California, where
the high-rated model is available, definitely get that one.
Prices for the C Class
start at $33,775 for the C300 Luxury. My C350 had a base price of
$39,875 including destination charges, but jumped substantially with a
range of desirable items, including the aforementioned iPod integration
kit, panorama sunroof, and also the TeleAid electronic help system and
18-inch AMG alloy wheels. Then, the Premium II and
supplied a wealth of upgrades, including the navigation system and a
power rear-window sunshade. Bottom line on the MSRP window sticker?
The C Class offers
traditional Mercedes-Benz luxury, safety and performance in a well-sized
package that is easy to live with day to day. And with over 22 miles per
gallon, it is surprisingly efficient too.
By Steve Schaefer ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
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Column Name: C Class
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