Used 1997 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

The C220 is replaced by a more powerful C230. All C-Class models have redesigned headlamps.

Vehicle overview

The Baby Benz grew up three 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 four-cylinder model and C36 receive more power.

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 1997.

Mainstream models are the C230 and C280. Manually rowing the automatic shifter, a C230 can get to 60 mph in less than nine seconds. The six-cylinder C280 feels 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 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 C230. 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 328i, 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.