1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review

Pros & Cons

  • Attractive and solid, the smallest Mercedes is a good value in the near-luxury market.
  • Initial hesitation when taking off from a standstill.
List Price Estimate
$473 - $1,142

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

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.

1998 Highlights

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.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

The Car-1998 Mercedes Benz C230
C230 4dr Sedan
I bought it in Nov 1997 brand new with 4 miles on it.Its now 16 years old in Nov 2013 and accumulated about 85,ooo miles.My verdict:this car is extremely reliable and economical to maintain,during the past 16 years it never turn me down,never brakes down on the road,in parking lot or at home,it starts on time,i follow the car maintenace program every 10,000 miles,the major expenses on this car is my battery last year and replace my 4 tires 3 time during the last 15-16 years and the rest are minor repair or maintenance,annual inspection for sticker thats why i never traded it to any type of car,my 98 Mercedes Benz C230 is my buddy for the last 15 years she is always with me all the time.
$0.10/mile car
C230 4dr Sedan
I bought this car with 50k miles on it and have driven it for the last 10 years and currently have 270k miles on it. I agree with most of the comments below and aside from replacing a transmission (that in all fairness, I beat on) and replacing wear items (breaks, belts, front end, tires, charcoal canister) the car has been outstanding. My goal is to put 1 million miles on it and the key is finding a good, independent mechanic that knows Mercedes and have him look it over once a year. It's good in the snow with 120 lbs of sand tubes in the trunk and good treads on the tires. I'm in New England and don't even use snow tires with the extra weight.
Still a nice car at 14 years old
C230 4dr Sedan
This is my first Benz, I bought it not long ago from old lady that passed away so truly it was the "Little old lady that drove it on Sunday" car. It had less than 68 K on it which was extremely low mileage for a 14 year old car, but unfortunately she took very poor care of the car bordering on car abuse. I have been going through it repairing what I can and getting all the service caught up, mostly by doing the work myself. The trick to owning one of these old Benz's is that you don't want to constantly pay somebody else to do the work, (no dealer) you need to be able to fix it yourself. Fortunately, the car is actually quite service friendly, though parts can be expensive.
Ole Reliable
C230 4dr Sedan
Never let me down plan on 1 million miles >


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver3 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
More About This Model

Not everybody likes Mercedes-Benz. Specifically, those who can’t afford to own them. This I learned during the two weeks I spent cruising all over the state of Colorado in a 1998 Mercedes-Benz C280 sedan. It’s nothing personal, I guess, until you’re behind the wheel of the car staring through the gleaming silver lines of the three-pointed star.

Coloradoans are a friendly lot by nature, but blast by them in a snazzy new Mercedes and the mean green giant begins to awaken. Yep, jealousy rears its ugly head. Drivers who would normally let you merge into a lane of faster moving traffic refuse to, simply because you’re in a Benz. People who usually cringe and mouth ‘I’m sorry’ when they accidentally cut you off, take one look at your Mercedes hood ornament, toss their head and drive off haughtily, as if to say: you don’t deserve my apology since you have obviously arrived. Even a friend of mine admitted it, confessing that she never lets anyone driving a Mercedes pull into her lane in front of her. Behind her, okay, since she can’t help it, but she still glares.

Maybe it’s not just Mercedes’ owners. Perhaps drivers of BMWs, Saabs and Volvos get treated the same way all over the highways and backroads of America. It really doesn’t matter all that much, I eventually came to realize, secure in the knowledge that most people on the road couldn’t keep up with me in my fuel-injected 2.8-liter V6. This and every Mercedes-Benz vehicle is a finely tuned specimen of German engineering. I knew it and they knew it, and that’s what made them mad.

It’s not like I sat at red lights revving my engine, daring anyone to try and beat me off the line. I didn’t have to. And besides, in a Benz, you have to be more aloof than that. You’ve got an image to uphold, after all—one of security, confidence and refinement. Oh, and of course, toughness. Yes, these Benzes are tough. How else do you explain the chase scene in the movie, The Peacemaker? You know the one, where George Clooney and Nicole Kidman outmaneuver the thugs in a convoy of black BMWs, careening through the cobblestone streets of Vienna, Austria, as they elude, ram and ultimately destroy the BMWs and the thugs who were chasing them. Somehow, through it all, their shiny new silver Mercedes survives … at least until a fire causes the Benz to blow up, destroying the important documentation that precipitated the harrowing chase in the first place … but I digress.

From the outside, the C280 looks exactly like what it is: a small near-luxury sedan oozing style and class. The trademark Mercedes grille and the notorious hood ornament make the C280 appear fit for a queen. When I first slipped into the pumpkin-colored leather driver’s seat, I felt underdressed in my T-shirt and jeans, like I should be wearing a suit and yapping on my cell phone about stock prices or something. Then I realized this little sedan was not just a stodgy old Mercedes image car. It was much more. The car was good-looking, well built and sporty to boot.

As I howled out of the parking lot of my coworkers’ apartment complex, I noticed that there was a bit of a lag time from when I pushed the gas pedal and when the Benz lurched forward with a tremendous surge of power. Having driven a 1998 Saab 9-5 that very same day (which basically peels the asphalt off the road as soon as you hit the gas), this lag time in the Mercedes concerned me. After two weeks with the small German sedan, however, I’d gotten used to it.

Driving the C280 was pure bliss, whether screaming down the highway or snaking along a winding road. Visibility was excellent, steering was responsive and the suspension made it feel like the car was floating over the road. The seats are easy to adjust and very comfortable. More than once, I was surprised to glance down at the speedometer and realize that I was cruising along at well over 100 mph, when it felt more like 50 mph. The only negatives relating to the driving experience were the somewhat jerky transmission and that annoying lack of low-end torque.

Safety features on our test vehicle included the BabySmart airbag system that disengages the front passenger airbag when a Mercedes child seat is installed, and Brake Assist, which provides faster braking than humanly possible if the car decides that the driver hit the brake pedal in a panic. Though some are skeptical of cars that think they know more about our impending doom than we do, the Brake Assist worked extremely well when inadvertently tested on I-25, the main highway that runs through Denver. Side impact airbags are also standard, though we can’t understand why they are mounted in the door rather than the seat, which is a safer placement for passengers of varying sizes.

Inside, the smallest of the Mercedes sedans feels quite roomy to all except the tallest people who have a hard time with the low roof height of the car. Our editor-in-chief commented: "The C280 needs a tilt and telescoping steering column. With the seat comfortably positioned, I had to fold myself in and out from under the steering wheel." For a vehicle at this price point, our wish list also included a one-touch sunroof opener, an in-dash CD player, more cubby space in the front center console and the ability to position the power seats before the ignition is turned on. It would also be nice to have a power delay that allowed you to raise the windows during the first few seconds after the car was turned off, especially since many vehicles costing thousands less than the C280 offer this feature standard.

Each editor who got behind the wheel of this little sedan raved about the high quality of the interior materials, the outstanding brake action and the Volvo-level seat comfort. The backseat provides plenty of room for kids and adults on short trips, and trunk space is impressive. The CD changer located in the trunk is set down into the floor of the trunk, which leaves more room for cargo storage, and it has a protective top so that it won’t be damaged by heavy luggage. The CD player did skip quite often during the two weeks the car lived with me, though when it was working properly, the Bose stereo and speaker system helped the music sound sweet and clear.

Mercedes also gets points for an innovative and space-saving cupholder design that pops up and swivels out of the center console when needed, then tucks neatly out of the way. On a trip through the mountains to Steamboat Springs, the vehicle never seemed to notice the high altitude or the wet, snowy pavement. Overall, the car wins accolades for its solid build, sporty powertrain and soothing, luxurious interior. I did not want to give this car back. After two weeks, you sort of grow attached. In the end, though, I decided jail wasn’t a viable alternative and begrudgingly relinquished the keys to my supervisor.

Giving an automotive journalist a Mercedes for two weeks and then taking it away is akin to dangling a juicy steak in front of a Rottweiler and then eating it yourself. So I can understand the envy part of the other drivers on the road. Still, no one who has ever driven the C280 can honestly say they wouldn’t take one if it was offered to them—or if it was more affordable. And while there may be competing models out there with lower price tags and more amenities, there’s still nothing quite like driving a Benz …

It’s enough to make people jealous.

Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Overview

The Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is offered in the following submodels: C-Class Sedan. Available styles include C280 4dr Sedan, and C230 4dr Sedan. The Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic.

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz C-Class lease specials