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Although this wouldn't be our first choice in this market segment, the dated but well-rounded C-Class still offers virtues of safety, performance and luxury.
Solid construction, free scheduled maintenance, lots of luxury.
No manual transmission, aged design, grumbling exhaust note of C230.
Available C-Class Sedan Models
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TeleAid, which can assist in summoning help if you're ill or involved in a crash, is a brilliant new standard feature. A Touch Shift automanual transmission is added to all C-Class models, and stability control is standard this year. C-Class now comes with free scheduled service for the duration of the warranty period.
Many aspire to own a car with the three-pointed star on the hood, but few have the means. For those on the fence, the entry-level C-Class is the way to get a foot in the door. But don't let the term "entry level" fool you. Even the most basic C230 is well equipped with luxury amenities and infused with the solid engineering that is a Mercedes-Benz hallmark. Despite its age, this 7-year-old sedan still entices with ample room for four, rich wood and leather, sprightly performance and that world-renowned ornament above the grille.
Three C-Class models are available for the final year of this design cycle. The C230 Kompressor is powered by the same supercharged 2.3-liter four cylinder found in the SLK roadster. Making 185 horsepower and 200 ft-lbs. of torque, the C230 runs from zero to 60 mph in about 8 seconds. A five-speed adaptive logic automatic transmission transfers power to the rear wheels, and features Touch Shift gear selection for 2000 to appeal to fans of manual gearboxes.
Standard equipment on the C230 includes front and side airbags, traction control, stability control, ABS with Brake Assist, and a BabySmart child-seat recognition system. Leather and burled walnut wood trim are included in the base price, as are an automatic climate-control system, integrated garage door opener, power driver's seat with 10-way adjustment and heated exterior mirrors. The optional $900 sport package is worth considering, and includes sport seats, larger wheels and tires, a firmer suspension, telescoping steering wheel, and special trim.
Stepping up to the C280 nets additional goodies like a Bose audio system and power passenger's seat, but the premium paid for this pricey C primarily covers the silky-smooth 2.8-liter aluminum V6 under the hood. It doesn't make a C280 get up and go any quicker than the blown four on the C230. The benefit of C280 ownership is refinement. For those needing maximum performance and guaranteed exclusivity, Mercedes offers the AMG-massaged C43, which is discussed separately from the C230 and C280.
Handling is sure-footed with either the C230 or the C280, and braking ability is astounding in panic situations, although the C230, at 100 fewer pounds than the C280, feels somewhat more agile. Frankly, we fail to see how Mercedes justifies the premium commanded by the C280. In fact, the only complaint we can voice about the C230 is that the grumbling exhaust note doesn't impart much of a sense of luxury or prestige. But if you can get beyond that and the fact that the nomenclature on the decklid indicates to others that you bought the cheap car, a C230 Sport is the way to go.
But you've really gotta want a Benz to buy the aging C-Class. It's not a bargain, and there are less expensive ways to obtain a small luxury-brand sedan. A BMW 323i is a better deal, for example, or an Acura 3.2TL. For some, however, the lure of that three-pointed star outweighs a kidney-shaped grille topped with a blue and white roundel. You could do worse than to select the nicely appointed and eminently capable C-Class.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.