Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

An infrared remote security system, dual cupholders in the console, a delayed headlamp dousing system and reconfigured option packages mark the changes to the baby Benz.

Vehicle overview

The Baby Benz grew up two 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 the C-Class lineup gets a new infrared remote security system, dual cupholders in the center console, a delayed headlight switch-off and reconfigured option packages. Also new are goodies from the revamped E-Class, like the revised instrument cluster, new climate control panel, and various switchgear. Zebrano wood is gone in favor of the burled walnut type.

Performance-oriented buyers will want the C36, an AMG-prepared road warrior sporting fat tires, aero gimcrackery and a potent 3.6-liter engine. The C36 is priced about $10,000 higher than the BMW M3 and delivers 60 mph in just over six seconds. Mercedes will bring 400 examples of this hot sedan to the United States during 1996.

Mainstream models are the C220 and C280. Manually rowing the automatic shifter, a C220 can get to 60 mph in less than nine seconds. The six-cylinder C280 feels much quicker than the C220 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 C220, at 200 fewer pounds than the C280, feels somewhat more agile.

These sedans ooze class, substance and style, unless they're adorned with faux-gold packages or other tacky add-ons. The look is quite contemporary, and the car seems larger than it really is. Traditional styling cues inside and out continue the Mercedes trend of evolutionary rather than revolutionary design themes.

Base prices start just over $30,000 for the C220. The stronger C280 can be had for another five grand and includes the 2.8-liter six, dual power front seats and an eight-speaker Bose stereo system. The C36 renders such cars as the Lexus GS300 and Cadillac Seville STS also-rans in the luxury-sport arena. You may want to consider BMW's 325i, the Lexus ES300, or the Mazda Millenia S before buying the Benz, but we can't help but think the C-Class is a relative bargain in this class, now that Mercedes has come down off its pedestal and is pricing its wares with some semblance of sanity.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.