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Available C-Class Models
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The C280 is the lucky recipient of Mercedes' new V-type engine technology, receiving a 2.8-liter unit for the engine bay. BabySmart car seats, BrakeAssist and side airbags also debut on the C-Class this year.
The Baby Benz grew up four years ago when the C-Class replaced the 190E. The new car was substantially improved over the 190, offering better performance and more interior room. This year Mercedes' best selling models should appeal to Americans even more because of the larger engines. The new V6 that powers the C280 may not sound significant, but it produces better low-end torque than the engine it replaces while getting better fuel economy. And the V8 sitting under the hood of the C43 empowers the driver to leave just about everybody in its dust.
The all-new C43 supersedan boasts a 4.3-liter engine that produces 302 horsepower @ 5,850 rpm and 302 foot-pounds of torque between 3,250 and 5,000 rpm. Replacing the C36 sedan that turned heads from 1995 to 1997, the C43 is the latest combined effort of Mercedes-Benz and AMG, the German tuner that has modified and raced Mercedes cars for the past two decades. With this kind of power, an adaptive transmission and distinctive styling, the C43 fits well into the Mercedes tradition--yet still stands out on its own.
Other technologies new to the C-Class include side-impact airbags, the BabySmart airbag system that disables the passenger side front airbag when a Mercedes child seat is located in the front passenger seat and something called Brake Assist which provides maximum braking if Mercedes has determined that you have stabbed the brake pedal in a panic situation.
We're sorry to say that the fantastic C36 sport sedan will no longer see production. Designed from the outset as a limited production vehicle, Mercedes actually limited its production and pulled the plug on the car last summer. Never fear, though, many of the C36's trick styling effects have been transferred to the rest of the C-Class lineup.
The only models available this year are the C230, C280 and C43. Manually rowing the automatic shifter, a C230 can get to 60 mph in less than nine seconds. The six-cylinder C280 is much quicker than the C230 getting to speed, and getting there quickly doesn't mean changing your own gears. Handling is sure-footed with either car, and braking ability is quite good, although the C230, at 100 fewer pounds than the C280, feels somewhat more agile.
Base prices start just over $30,000 for the C230. The stronger C280 can be had for another five grand and includes the 2.8-liter V6, dual power front seats and an eight-speaker Bose stereo system. And then there's the new C43, entering the market at $52,750 . You may want to consider BMW's 328i, the Lexus ES300 or the Mazda Millenia before buying the Benz, but we can't help but think the C-Class is a relative bargain in this class, especially when considering the small car's ample luxury, spunky performance and solid construction.
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