Skip to main content

2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport: What's It Like to Live With?

Read the latest updates in our long-term road test of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 as our editors live with this car for a year.

Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2008


We know the flashy side of Mercedes-Benz. We know the technological whiz-bangery with which it infuses the S-Class; the segment-creating swoopiness of the coupe-style CLS; the insane twin-turbo V12s that transform simple cars into interplanetary starships; transmissions with more gears than fingers on a high-school shop teacher. And then there's the Maybach subdivision — electro-transparent panorama roof, anyone?

But what's there for the rest of us? The folks who can't — or won't — spend $200K for the latest and greatest über sport sedan, yet still want a piece of the techno-glitz? Well, there's hope in the form of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

The new Mercedes C300 draws on years of Mercedes-Benz research and innovation to deliver the goods without the high cost and reliability issues of unproven technologies. Triple distilled, condensed and aged, the C300 Sport could be the finest Mercedes-Benz you've never daydreamed about.

What We Bought
Mercedes offers the 2008 C300 in two flavors: Luxury and Sport. Guess which one we chose? While the Luxury variant's well-appointed, leather-upholstered interior had a certain allure, we couldn't tear our eyes away from the AMG-inspired detailing of the Sport. Both cars pack a 228-horsepower 24-valve, 3.0-liter V6. Both models have an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat and dual-zone climate control. Both the C300 Sport and Luxury can even run on E85.

Only the C300 Sport, however, has cool aluminum trim on the doors, shift knob and dash. The Sport also offers an active suspension and an optional six-speed manual transmission. Yet as much as we would have loved to add another stick-shift sport sedan to our garage, the overwhelming number of automatics sold in this genre sent us following the masses, so we purchased a car with the seven-speed automatic for an additional $1,440.

When our staff heard, there was an uproar. The decision makes perfect sense, but to quell a rebellion by clutch-craving hot-heads, we tried to buy them off with accessories. The iPod Integration Kit ($375) and Panorama Sunroof ($1,000) were a good start, but they were still rowdy. New wheels always help and the 18-inch AMG five-spokers fit the bill. Though they look stunning, mentioning AMG around these folks just brought them back to thinking fast and wanting to shift their own gears. The Multimedia Package ($2,950) calmed them, as it offers a 7-inch retractable screen, 30GB hard drive, satellite-based navigation, a CD/DVD changer, PCMCIA slot for SD or CF memory cards and a 12-speaker, 450-watt Harman Kardon Logic7 stereo upgrade. All of this is controlled by a knob on the center console.

Steel-gray metallic is one of four different exterior silvers that Mercedes makes available for drivers who never want to be able to find their cars in a large parking lot. Meanwhile, the interior upholstery features a black, animal-free substance known as "MB Tex" that feels as nice as leather but without the smell, and we're looking forward to seeing how it holds up to near-constant abuse.Mercedes-Benz of South Bay in Torrance, California, handled the deal, and we handed them a check for $39,450.

Why We Bought It
During a recent test of five sport sedans, the 2008 Mercedes C350 finished 5th, as in Dead Last. It's not often that we give a last-place finisher in a comparison a slot in our long-term fleet. It's less often we then choose the smaller, less powerful engine. But too much power may have been (for the first time in our lives), the problem. With 268 hp from its 3.5-liter V6, the C350 has some devilish competition in the form of the BMW 335i, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS 350. It was simply overmatched by some of the best vehicles in the world today.

Nevertheless, the new C-Class represents some real progress by Mercedes in this market segment. As Senior Road Test Editor Josh Jacquot said for our comparison test: "The C350 Sport's unique appeal depends on what appears to be good build quality (a reaction to surprisingly poor quality ratings for this car in its previous iteration) and a stellar multimedia package (a $2,950 option) that combines a premium audio system with hard-drive music storage and a brilliant navigation system with an impressively easy-to-use interface."

Once we selected the 3.0-liter V6, the price dropped sufficiently to make this car a more practical choice than the competition. Yet the Sport configuration gave it the equipment and road manners that caught our attention in the first place. While it's not the first pick for canyon carving, it is a sublime choice for everyday commuting.

The larger question here will be the C-Class' long-term reliability, as Mercedes' reputation for quality has declined significantly in recent years, especially where the C-Class has been concerned. If Mercedes has picked up its game — and improved the function and reliability of its electronics in particular — the cost-conscious C-Class should be the car in the Mercedes line most likely to show the improvement first.

Stay tuned to the long-term logbook as we see if the new, larger Mercedes star shines with the same brightness it once had.

Current Odometer: 3,015
Best Fuel Economy: 23.4 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 16.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 20.3 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Flex fuel capable

December 06, 2007

Who says GM is the only one promoting E85? Our new Mercedes-Benz C300 long termer asks for either premium unleaded or E85 ethanol. It even has a yellow fuel filler cap like our old Tahoe.

This struck me as odd given that I haven’t heard a word about the C300’s flex fuel capability despite sitting through numerous press briefings on the latest C-Class.It's an interesting alternative given Mercedes' requirement for premium gasoline.

Then again, with the nearest ethanol station over hundred miles away, our C300's ability to burn it won't matter much. A closer station is expected to open up soon. Until then, we’ll be paying for the top shelf stuff to keep our new Benz running clean.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor,

2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport's Agility Control

December 07, 2007

That C/S button at the bottom of the PRND indicator has nothing to do with the car's suspension. No doubt long-time Mercedes-Benz fans will know it only changes the behavior of the transmission. Why the confusion?

With the release of the 2008 C Class, Mercedes has been actively promoting the car's all-new suspension system with a term which sounds very much like marketing-speak to us: Agility Control. The problem is that some people are assuming that means the car has active dampers or adaptive suspension. Not so. The truth is that in as much as every modern shock absorber uses multi-stage, hydraulic valves that are sensitive to the velocity of the piston within that shock absorber, producing more resistance with faster piston movement, the C300 Sport has such an "active damper."

That's like saying that this year's ExpeNaviBurbaLade has Impact Absorbing Pneumatic Tires.

The problem is that European markets are already enjoying genuine adaptive suspensions on their C Classes. The working name for that feature, which our market will get sometime next year, is Advanced Agility. Online Mercedes-Benz forums are already filled with pages attempting to clarify this nomenclature. It seems that even some U.S. Mercedes-Benz sales staff are telling customers that the button next to the shifter controls the adaptive suspension. When it does arrive in the 2009 C Class, the button controlling truly active dampers will be at the base of the center stack.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 3,500 miles

Unimpressive Buying Experience

December 10, 2007

When I was asked to buy a 2008 Mercedes Benz C300 Sport my first stop was True Market Value pricing where I found that the car was selling (back in October) at a whopping discount of $65 off MSRP.

When I'm shopping for an Edmunds car I like to use our Dealer Locator feature. I fill out the request for a free quote and fire them off to local dealers. I always list my cell phone number on the leads form and usually don't answer the opening salvo of calls. In this case, I got four calls from dealerships within four hours. Most of the messages assured me they had the car (or could get it — beware the "dealer trade").

The sales people would love to have you physically come down to the dealership so they can sweat you in a little sales office and squeeze extra money from you. But if you maintain your distance and work the deal on the phone and email you can usually get what you want in less time, for less hassle and for less money. But old habits die hard. One internet sales woman, with an authoritative British accent, lectured me on the necessity to test drive their car and she could then "find out what I was trying to accomplish." I found this mildly insulting since I already knew what I was "trying to accomplilsh" and felt I was, in fact, accomplishing it.

What made the C300 hard to shop for was that we wanted an odd combination of options: the multimedia package (very popular) and the 18 inch AMG wheels. Whenever I found a car with the multimedia package it didn't have the wheels and vice versa. Then, when I found both, it was a color we didn't want. Finally, Kim Tan, internet saleswoman from Mercedes-Benz of South Bay, in Torrance, CA, assured me she would trade with another dealer and have the car that night for me to pick it up. Guess what? The trade fell through and the car never arrived.

Eventually, Kim got a new shipment of C300s and one matched our needs. She matched our TMV price and I agreed to buy the car for $39,450 plus taxes and fees. I was dropped off at the dealership to sign the contract and pickup the car. The dealership had agreed to take a company check but when I arrived in person they hesitated. I had to wait with no explanation for an extended period before a sales manager appeared, apologized and the deal went through.

Kim did an excellent job explaining the car's features. But on balance, I was not impressed with the Mercedes salespeople I dealt with at South Bay and the other local dealerships. There was an irritating mixture of arrogance and obsequiousness in their attitudes.

Update: the price for the popular 2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class is dropping. Consumers seem to really like the redesigned Mercedes but even with the warm reception, dealers located in areas that have a lot of competition are already selling it for close to invoice.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @3,400 miles

Watch Your Chin!

December 11, 2007

After seeing the trunk lid of our new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport fly open, I thought back to what the PR guy from Hyundai said when I had critiqued the Azera's trunk lid for seeming to remain shut when I pressed the trunk release button. He said that the Azera lid doesn't fly open when released because that's how refined cars are. I guess the C300 isn't refined. I wonder if you can take yourself out if you lean a little too close to that opening lid?

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

Minor Problems

December 14, 2007

I dropped our C300 of at Mercedes Benz of Long Beach. The sunroof switch broke off and even when you use the nub that was left, the sunroof and sunshades didn't work properly. There's also an annoying rattle coming from the headliner/visor area - related? We'll see...

It's a little disappointing - the star on the grille does mean something, doesn't it?

The dealership couldn't have been better - nice facility, attentive advisors and prompt phone calls.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor

Not so Minor Anymore

December 14, 2007

If you're really sharp, you may be saying to yourself "That's not a 2008 Mercedes Benz C Class." And you'd be right. This is the car the dealership gives you when they call you back to deliver a car that was, in fact, not fixed.

"The tech thought I meant the rear window sunshade and since your car doesn't have one of those, he disregarded my comments" That's what our service advisor said. They replaced the sunroof switch (we're halfway done) but failed to test the entire sunroof and shades - not good dude.

Here's the best part, since I was assured the car was done I brought my 18 month old daughter with me to pick up the car. The time we spent waiting for the dealer to figure out why no one did a simple test of the whole sunroof and shade after instaling the switch was the time my daughter should have spent taking a nap - hear that screaming in the background? That's her and now neither one of us is very happy.

How much is a loaded Malibu again? Or Altima, or Maxima or Accord or....

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ not one mile more than when I brought the car in.

Back on the Road

December 15, 2007

A few hours after I left Long Beach Mercedes Benz in a Camry rental, my service advisor called to confirm what I suspected all along. The rear sunroof shade is broken and there's no quick fix. They gave us a temp fix by leaving it in the fully closed (or shaded) position. They'll call when the part arrives - estimate; 2-3 weeks, on back order from Germany.

The good news is I'd rather be driving a slightly busted C300 than a 4 cyl Camry LE. The problem is, that's a choice no Benz owner should ever have to make.

Totally Satisfied? Not exactly.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 3,500 miles.

Rear Seat Headroom

December 18, 2007

If tons of rear seat head room is important to you, you might not want a C-Class. Then again, I hauled two kids back there all weekend with no complaints. Those who are six feet or taller will want to brace themselves when speed bumps come up, you could whack your head on the roof.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor @ 3550 miles.

It's Double Jointed!

December 20, 2007

Since it's perpetually 72 degrees and sunny here in Los Angeles, we don't get many opportunities to test out things like windshield wipers. In fact, last year I think I used them maybe thrice. So Tuesday's rain gave me an opportunity to become reacquainted with these forgotten automotive staples — and in our Mercedes-BENZ C300 Sport, good ones at that. Long gone is Mercedes' huge one-blade wiper design, replaced instead by two that manage to cover an impressive amount of windshield.

The passenger side one is double jointed, allowing it a greater range of motion. This isn't a feature unique to Mercedes-BENZ, but it does clear more of the glass and prevents that little shark-fin-shaped wiper gap at the bottom of the windshield.

They aren't the quietest in the world and when there's not a lot of water, they squeek like a small field mouse is propelling them. Another complaint was that there are only four wiper speeds — no manual, rain-sensing (optional) or speed-sensing intermittent settings. Considering it won't rain again for seven months, I can probably live with that. You may not be so lucky.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 3,780 miles

Track Testing in Scotland

December 21, 2007

Every one of our long-term test cars undergoes track testing just like all the short-term cars that pass through our garage doors. For LT cars, we test them at the beginning and end of their stay with us. For the Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport, we decided to test the car in Scotland...or at least that's what the weather was like at our testing facility (I could almost hear the bagpipes). It's the type of conditions the Scots refer to as "atmospheric" (versus the two other types, "miraculous" and "crap"). With a thick fog, constant mist and a chill in the air, we realized why none of the British car publications publish substantial track numbers — they can't. With a wet track, the morning was literally a wash, and without one of those GMC Sierra track drier thingies, we had to wait for the sun.

When the track finally dried, the C300 managed very well. Continue reading for official numbers and video of the testing.


0-30 - 2.6 seconds
0-45 - 4.4 seconds
0-60 - 6.9 seconds
0-75 - 10.0 seconds
1/4 Mile (ET/MPH) - 15.3 seconds @ 91.5 mph

60-0 - 114 feet
30-0 - 29 feet

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton: For 0-60, "a little tire scratch was all it could muster at launch. However, it's quicker than I predicted and every upshift is nearly seamless at wide-open throttle." The brakes are "Trustworthy, firm, consistant, German."


0.89 G

Chris Walton: "Amazingly easy to maintain all the way around with zero steering input, only throttle. Gobs of grip and talkative steering."


67.6 mph

Chris Walton: "ESP is not off despite the button...ESP only intrudes when the driver is too hasty or sloppy. Great turn-in and grip-o-plenty. I only wish for less ESP and more power for an exit with a flourish."

In-car with Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 3,780 miles

That Tears It!

January 07, 2008

My first quality time with our long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 proved quite enjoyable overall. The 3.0-liter V6 has plenty of power and mid-range torque — enough, in fact, to make me question the extra cost of the C350 version. The seven-speed automatic is quite responsive in "Sport" mode, though its refusal to upshift at low speeds, and associated "dragging" effect might have you initially checking the emergency brake setting. That was easy to get used to, as was the car's standard-issue M-B "vault-ness" that makes this car feel more substantial than many entry-luxury competitors.

About my only concern is a small tear in the driver's door panel. It was there when I got in the car (I swear!) so I don't know what caused it, but this was disconcerting in a 4,800-mile, $40,000 Mercedes-Benz. Not sure if someone's wedding ring caught it or if the tear was there when we got the car. Regardless, it's a minor de-merit in an otherwise sound vehicle. The iPod integration cable was particularly appreciated, as it worked fluidly with my iPhone.

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief, @ 4,820 miles

Not Impressed With the iPod Connector

January 08, 2008

One of the more promising options in our new C-Class is the dedicated iPod connector. It resides in the glove box, and once you're connected it's like having your little music machine right at your finger tips. At least that's what I thought. Turns out it works a little differently. For one, after I plugged in my beat down iPod mini, it took me awhile to figure out how to set the stereo to 'aux'. You think it would be under the mode menu, but it's buried somewhere in 'setup' or something like that.

Once connected, I got a three-pointed star on my iPod screen, but nothing on the main audio screen. I was expecting a full menu of all my music, but instead it just says auxiliary. Switching songs isn't done with the dashboard controls either, you have to use the steering wheel buttons.

And even then you don't have full control, merely the ability to go up and down from one song to the next, not exactly the kind of functionality I was expecting with a dedicated connector. On the positive side, it does list the song titles on the speedometer screen and the volume is louder than using a simple mini jack port. I'll keep at it to see if I can unlock some additional features. And yes, I read the manual and it wasn't much help.

Ed Hellwig,, Senior Editor @ 4,688 miles

A National Treasure

January 10, 2008

Mercedes-Benz may be a national treasure of Germany, but that didn't stop them from dropping a few models into the 100-percent American National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Specifically, a Mercedes-Benz C280 Sport driven by Nicholas Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates on a chaotic car chase through the meandering streets of Central London. Pursued by Ed Harris in a Range Rover (along with henchmen in a London cab and a beer-keg-hauling lorry), the whiteish C-Class performs rather well. About a quarter of the chase is done with Gates driving backwards, with (thankfully) no Rockford attempted at any time by the novice driver.

Despite the name difference, the United Kingdom's C280 features the same engine as our C300, so basically, our car is a movie star.

My guess as to the name difference is that in the U.K, there are 3.0-liter gasoline (C280) and diesel (C320 CDI) engines available. Diane Kruger's Abigail Chase also drives what looks to be a GL550.

If you're wondering, the movie is OK. It's more of a stretch than the original film (that's saying something), but if you liked National Treasure, there's a good chance you'll at least be entertained by Book of Secrets. Just don't use it for historical purposes — there's not really a lake behind Mt. Rushmore, I checked Google Maps.

James Riswick, Associate Editor

Flips its Lid

January 23, 2008

Most cars look like this when they open their hoods.

The C300 Sport can look like this...

The C300 has hood struts that allow you to open the hood up to a near-vertical placement, as well as a few areas in between. Doesn't it look like the hinges broke, and the hood has flown up like it did to David Spade's car in Tommy Boy?

I'm honestly not sure how many cars feature hoods like this, but it's certainly nifty and actually prevents injuries. Before I discovered this feature, one of our editors knocked his head against the rather sizeable latch at the base of the C300's hood when it was in the lowest, rather normal position. The wide-open setting could've prevented that head bonk and any related brain damage it may have incurred (he later began to speak in a cockney British accent and described the Rondo as "sexy"). Quite the useful innovation.

James Riswick, Associate Editor @ 4,781 miles

Still Waiting for Parts

January 28, 2008

Just over a month ago, Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach special ordered a part for the C300's rear sunroof shade. It arrived from Germany as forecasted, three weeks later. So we made an appointment to install it last week.

Our service advisor called a few hours after we dropped off the vehicle. He explained, "We lowered the headliner to install the part and realized that we need more parts to complete the repair." He followed with a humble apology and admission that they should have caught it the first time.

We were surprised by the straightforward apology, but not by what it meant: Another 7-10 business days for parts to arrive. We're waiting again.

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Coordinator @ 5,286 miles

Let Go Already!

February 04, 2008

First off, let me say that I enjoyed the C300 and though I like ripping acceleration as much as any other car buff, I don't know why anyone would spend the extra $5,300 for the C350. This 3-liter, 228-hp V6 has plenty of gusto for driving in the real world, provided you put the transmission in Sport mode where it holds lower gears longer and provides quicker downshifts.

The performance is usable too. At one point I was on a road that went from two lanes to one, and had the right of way when some idiot in an older Camry decided to come up along side me (rather than blending in behind) and stay there as the road started its lane reduction. I wasn't sure what this guy was thinking (well, evidently, he wasn't) so a quick jab to the gas quickly jetted the C300 ahead of the dolt without breaking a sweat or making a lot of racket.

My only complaint thus far concerns the ignition operation. Like every other Benz I've driven with this funky key, it's like the car doesn't want to let go of the key after you turn it off and attempt to pull it out. It's not a defect as they've all done this and it takes the same little tug to pull the key out. I'm flattered that the Benz likes me and wants to stay out and run around some more, but sheesh, just let go, will ya?

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 5,588 miles.

How Much For The 3-Pointed Star?

February 11, 2008

Here's a thought about our long-term Mercedes-Benz C300: Where's all the stuff?

Our car doesn't have autodimming mirrors, HID headlights, keyless ignition, heated seats, driver memory positioning, fold-down rear seats, a backup camera, HomeLink or satellite radio. It doesn't have leather seating, either, though the "MB Tex" cow-free version is a very pleasingly simulation.

You can get most of the above features via the C-Class' Premium II Package. But doing so would add $2,750.

Chose leather and it'd be another $1,550. At this point, our C300 would cost $43,750. Our Infiniti G35, for comparison, has almost all of the features I listed above and rings in at $37,400.

Personally, I don't mind so much that our C300 isn't the luxury bonanza one might think it is. So far, I'm enjoying it quite a bit. But the average luxury sedan shopper might not be as kind. One could do a lot of things with an extra $6,000.

Then again, the average shopper might think that the big three-pointed star in the grille more than makes up for it.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,083 miles

President's Day Drive

February 18, 2008

Three-day weekends are a good excuse to get out of town. And as a sort of early Prez Day exercise, I spent the better part of last Friday driving our 2008 Mercedes C300 Sport on some of my favorite central California driving roads.

From a true sporting aspect, the C300 is somewhat of a disappointment. Steering turn-in is immediate – a little too quick in my opinion – and there's substantial grip provided by our car's optional 18-inch AMG wheels with "ContiSportContact 3" 225/40ZR18 tires.

But the lack of paddle-style shifters for the transmission, so-so lateral support from the driver seat, the non-disabling stability control system and still somewhat-soft suspension tuning all combine to keep our C300 from being truly engaging.

Away from twisty ribbons of asphalt, I enjoy the C300 more. It's comfortable and respectably quick. And I have to admit, it looks great parked in my driveway. But given a choice of our long-term C300 or our Infiniti G35 for a driver-themed weekend getaway, the G would be my pick.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,440 miles


February 25, 2008

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes standard with a new control interface that utilizes a wheel-based controller and a pop-up display monitor. It's very similar to the interface that debuted on the current S-Class, and it's vastly better than Mercedes' previous-generation COMAND navigation interface.

In driving our C300 for about two weeks, I never had to crack the owner's manual on how to figure something out. It's not as effortless to use as I might have hoped – I often found myself hunting in menus for certain functions and spending too much time moving the wheel controller around since the display isn't touchscreen.

But overall it's pretty good interface, and it's certainly better than iDrive.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,850 miles

Do Trey and Matt Know About This?

May 04, 2008

I couldn't make my iPod work properly in our 2008 Mercedes-Benz this weekend, so I dug into the 731-page novel that is the C-class operator's manual. Volume one, consisting of 510 pages, is the primary C-class manual. Volume two, a 221-page affair, refers only to the Mercedes-Benz COMAND system. (Yes, I know. But MB caps everything and uses only one "M".)

There isn't a single page in either volume about the integrated iPod connection our Merc clearly has. Instead, each one devotes but one page each to the "aux" jack our car lacks.

But the search wasn't a total loss. On page 77 of the COMAND manual, I found the above images in the video section. Someone at Mercedes-Benz has a sense of humor, after all. Can you identify the South Park episode in question?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 7,624 miles

DIY iPod Operator's Manual

May 05, 2008

Eureka! In our last episode, our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300's lack of an operator's manual entry on the subject of iPod use or clearly labelled buttonage had left many confounded. There just had to be more functionality from this dedicated iPod connection than we were seeing.

And indeed there is. The key to the whole thing is the small button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel with the telephone icon on it. Once you discover this little nugget, the dedicated iPod connection in the Merc goes from "This sucks!" to "Wow! This is great!" in 5.1 seconds.

Here then is our own Operator's Manual entry:

Step 1: Connect your iPod.

Step 2: Use COMAND to choose AUX as the source.

Step 3: Scroll left-right until "Audio" appears on the central speedometer display, then press "OK."

Step 4: See track info here.

Step 5: Press the telephone hang-up key under here (under my thumb) for iPod menus. The choices will temporarily override the track information in the central display.

Step 6: Press up-down to scroll through the high-level menu choices, then press OK to select. Once in play mode, this will also switch between adjacent tracks.

Once you know what the telephone hang-up button on the right-hand side of the steering wheel does, the C300 iPod connection makes a whole lot more sense.

PS: Enough iPod already. Next we'll talk about driving the beast.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle testing @ 7,665 miles

A Fair Price for Comfort?

May 06, 2008

Slipping into 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport gives me an immediate sense of well-being. The seats are broad, firm and easily tailored to my preferred position. Ride quality is similarly firm, but never harsh — just a typical European compromise of comfort and control. And while the 3.0-liter V6 is rarely exciting, its accessible torque band (221 pound-feet at just 2,700 rpm) allows for authoritative passing.

Among the many choices available for solo commuters, I really don't think you can do much better than our $39,450 Benz for day-to-day pleasantness. The trouble is, I find myself thinking of it as a rear-drive Honda Accord, and other than an extra smidge of fun on back roads, I'm hard-pressed to grant the Mercedes C300 any big advantages over our $30,895 Accord EX-L Navi.

In addition, when I exited in Fontana, California (shown to gorgeous effect above), I stopped for fuel. After being driven 251 mostly-highway miles by Technical Director Dan Edmunds and me, the C300 took 14.048 gallons of fuel. That's just 17.8 mpg and that's tough to take from the base V6.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,771 miles

Cruise in lieu of turn signal

May 19, 2008

I'm rolling down the freeway coming back from a downtown restaurant when I make a new discovery about our Benz C300. I'm making the transition from the 105 to the 405, which is a big, sweeping on-ramp. As I am a model citizen, I signal my lane change in the middle of the curve. As I near the apex, I lift off the throttle, but instead feel — what the crap! — acceleration. I had unintentionally actuated the cruise control stalk and set my cruise speed.

As you can see in the photo, the cruise stalk is located just above the turn signal. The position of the turn signal in most other vehicles is usually about mid-point between the turn signal and cruise stalks on the Benz. So I have occasionally activated the cruise when I meant to signal a turn. Is this common with Benz owners, or am I just a dumbass?

UPDATE: I had the BMW 328 the other night (see photo below). The orientation of the cruise and turn signal stalks is inverted from the Benz. D'oh!

Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 8,664 miles

Mercedes-Benz C300 Fuel Economy

May 29, 2008

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Our C300 feels so utterly over-engineered and under-stressed that it will easily drive half a million miles before anything will need replacing." At least that's what it feels like. Few cars have this quality and it's really hard to put into words.

Part of it may have to do with the fact that the sturdy body in white is built to endure everything from decades of diesel-powered taxi service in the old country to thundering around racetracks in the form of a nuclear-powered 450-hp C63 AMG. That's a wide range of duty for a platform to accommodate, and not many manufacturers build their cars to this standard.

I had the C300 over the Memorial Day weekend and made a 430-mile lap from L.A. to the central coast and back. Though mildly congested and highly patrolled, I managed to make excellent time in both directions on Highway 101 and still earn decent fuel economy.

After I pulled into my driveway on Monday, the car's on-board computer reported "Since Start: 214 mi, 03hr:26min, 26.8 mpg, 63 mph." That's a bit of a surprise because the car is only rated at 18-mpg in the city and 25-mpg on the highway. So even at my sometimes-rapid pace, I managed to beat the EPA's highway number by almost 2 mpg.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 9312 miles

Eye Popping

June 24, 2008

One of my complaints about modern German cars is that I think many features are way over engineered. I know this isn't a new topic or a mind-blowing concept so save the comments folks.

However, one over engineered aspect of our C300 that I think the folks in Stuttgart got right is the pop out screen. Complicated?

Yes. Necessary? No. Cool? Oh yeah.

In my opinion, cars in today's hyper-competitive luxury segment aren't all that different from each other in terms of packaging, so it's the details and styling that will help differentiate yourself from the competition. In a recent trip up to the San Francisco bay area this past weekend, the pop out screen did the "oooooh" factor plenty from friends and family.

Is it going to be the key factor in a sale? I seriously doubt it. People have different tastes and preferences, but the cool factor of a high-resolution screen that pops out of a dash will resonate with a lot of buyers. It's that slight edge that might make the difference in a sale.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Sweet Austerity

June 24, 2008

I like dark interiors in cars, and I like the austerity of our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300's cabin.

Sometimes dark interiors are an opportunity to camouflage materials cost-cutting from the brutal reality of natural light (see previous-generation C-Class or current-generation Infiniti G35). But in our '08 C300 Sport, the materials quality meets a high standard, so evidently, the cabin looks the way it does because the designers intended it. It's a cold interior.

Next to a light-colored Audi or Lexus with bird's-eye galore, you might call it emotionless.

But I like its down-to-business character. It's not trying to coddle me or make me feel something about the C300 that I shouldn't really be feeling. All it does is put me in the right position to drive and manage the controls (most of which aren't too bad to use since the advent of New COMAND). And while this isn't a car that inspires me to take it on any really interesting roads, I know that wherever we go, it will be an orderly affair.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,456 miles

Maintenance Unfriendly

June 30, 2008

After driving the long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 for a few days I looked down and saw the check engine light next to the gas gauge. My first thought (as always when I see this light) was, "Hmm, I hope it's nothing serious." So I drove with a notably lighter foot until I got home, then — as instructed by the light — I endeavored to check the engine.

But that's easier said than done, as the hood release on the C300 is literally hidden inside the dash. No, not under the dash — inside. Perhaps it's a safety issue, as nobody wants their knee jamming into a release lever during a serious impact. Still, a little indication that it's down their, in the form of a "HOOD" label and/or arrow, would have been nice. As is, I spent several minutes searching and pawing the lower dash before finally getting out of the car, leaning way down and scanning the driver's footwell.

After (finally) opening the hood I looked for the oil dipstick to make sure the most vital of fluids was in the safe zone. Then I looked some more, and then — just for fun — I looked some more. Can you see the desired service point in this photo?

I'd almost given up when I happend to glance back at the middle of the firewall — essentially the hardest part of the engine to reach (yes, even with the double-jointed hood). EUREKA! I spotted a sliver of yellow plastic and went in for a closer look. This location reminds me of the dipstick location in the Pontiac Solstice. Because that engine comes from the Cobalt, and was thrust into the Solstice during the car's development, you have to wedge your arm between the block and firewall to check the oil. Not sure what Mercedes' excuse is.

Upon inspection the oil level seemed fine (I think — like our long-term BMW M3, the stick isn't very easy to read). I also checked the coolant and brake fluid levels — all fine. Hmmm.

Then I went to put gas in it and, ironically, couldn't because the gas station's credit card reader was on the fritz. But I didn't discover this until pulling up to the pump and removing the gas cap. So I put the cap back on and drove away.

The light is no longer on.

Yes, I know this is the most common reason a "Check Engine" light comes on, but I think automakers should literally put a "Check Gas Cap" light in their cars so people can know when there's really a problem or not. BTW, the car had been driven over 100 miles without the light on after the previous fill up. And the cap seemed fully secure before I removed it.

I'm officially changing the term "idiot light" to "idiotic light."

Karl Brauer, Editor in Chief @ 11,625 miles

Armrests/Console Storage Bin

July 16, 2008

Let's talk about front-seat storage. That red arrow points to the button on the driver side which opens the center console storage area in our long-term Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport. There's an identical button for the front passenger. The placement of the button so far back makes pushing it rather awkward, which is my main nit-picky complaint, but it works just fine (unlike our long-term BMW X5's).

When closed, the armrests (which serve as doors to the storage bin) are comfortable enough, though I personally never really use armrests when I'm driving, so they could be covered in stinging nettles and angry jellyfish and I wouldn't notice. But that's just me.

Pushing the button makes the armrests open from the center, causing the driver or passenger to have to peer over the door if he or she wants to see what's in there. I recommend exploring by feel, as long as you don't regularly keep double-edged razor blades in there.

The main bin has a flocked surface and is roomy without being cavernous. It hits a good balance between annoyingly small and useless storage bins and black holes of roominess that require a professional organizer to save you from your Starbucks receipts. There's also a smaller, deck-of-cards-sized space (below the cupholders in this picture) with a rubbery, removable insert for easy cleaning. Perfect for parking lot tickets and change.

Bryn MacKinnon, Senior Editor, @ 12,497 miles

Door Lock Blues

July 21, 2008

This weekend our long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 lost one of its door lock plunger trim pieces. Don't know how, and neither of my kids is owning up to it, but it's not where it's supposed to be.

Worst part? I vacuumed the little piece of plastic up off the carpet at the car wash yesterday. Thought it was a pen cap, and it didn't occur to me what it was until it was too late.

So instead of just snapping it back in place, we'll get a new one installed at the car's next scheduled service, which according to the Benz's computer is a short 500 miles away.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 12,603 miles

Playing Find The Dipstick

July 22, 2008

Yesterday in a weak moment of DIYism I decided to check the oil on our long-term Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport. Up went the hood with little trouble. So far so good. But then I had a little trouble finding the dipstick. Hmmmmm, not on the left. Nope, not on the right.

Just as I'm about to give up, figuring the C300 is without a dipstick, a oddity that is becoming more common on new high-end cars, I spotted the little yellow handle back by the firewall.

Not good. Its placement forces you lean over the engine compartment to complete the task, which means you're probably getting some dirtiness on your shirt.

A few months ago I noticed an equally stupid placement of the dipstick under the hood of our long-term Cadillac CTS. On that car the dipstick is buried low between the right side of the engine and the shock tower, directly beneath the strut tower brace that spans the engine compartment like a suspension bridge.

Now, the C300's dipstick is just as inconvenient to use, but the Caddy's remains the worst of the two because it's not only hard to reach, but it's surrounded by hot stuff. So you get dirty and burnt.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 12,632 miles

XGames taxi

August 04, 2008

Rolled out to the XGames this past weekend to check out BMX, skateboarding, and the SuperMotoX and Moto Freestyle events. We took the C300 and, boy, was this pup out of place. You see, there's not a lot of luxury cars at the XGames; most of the guests showed up in Tall-Boy pickup trucks like the one in the pic.

The C300 was a fine taxi, and an interesting comparison to the Caddy CTS that I took to Laguna Seca for the MotoGP race. The C-class feels just a bit lighter in its handling than the CTS, with a slightly firmer, but not unpleasant ride quality. The Benz 7-speed auto transmission is almost always in the right gear for me, with just a slight delay on kick-down during a few freeway merges. But the CTS has the best interior in class. So which one should you choose? Well, the Tall-Boy pickup, of course: XGames chicks diggit!

Albert Austria, Sr Vehicle Evaluation Engineer @ 13,260 mi

Tell Me Why I'm Wrong

August 13, 2008

There's a really cool web site that attempts to determine your gender by looking at web browsing habits.

I think you can do the same thing just using cars - for example, Mercedes Benz C300, BMW 1 series, Mini Cooper, Hyundai Veracruz and Toyota Yaris all seem to have a feminine slant. I've yet to see a guy driving any of these cars.

On the other hand, BMW M3, Audi A4, Nissan Altima and Chevy Tahoe have a certain boyish quality. The C Class is still fun and attractive - even though our long term car is not a C350 Sport, it never feels down on power. I'd get the C300 and save the money, then again I'm not a girl so I'd probably get another car altogether.

Brian Moody, Road Test Editor

Fuel Economy Update

August 28, 2008

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my research shows we have yet to publish a lifetime average on our long-term C300's fuel economy. Sure, we've given you data from a couple of road trips, but not a snapshot of how we've done since purchasing the car late last year.

I'd say it's about time, so here you go: 19 mpg. The EPA estimates for our 7-speed automatic-equipped sport sedan are 18 city/25 hwy/21 combined.

Looking over the 50-some fill-ups we've had, best tanks are in the mid 20s, and someone managed to go 372 miles before having to stop and give the C300 a drink. That tank garnered 23.3 mpg.

Bryn MacKinnon @ 14,000 miles even

Wild Wild West

September 03, 2008

For the holiday weekend, I decided to get out and do a little camping and stay at my family's cabin in Tahoe. In the far reaches of Nevada I set up my tent only to be assaulted by nature.

A gentle breeze soon escalated into a dust storm that raged for seven hours. My tent wasn't built for such forces. It was so bad at times I couldn't see the sun or the hood of our Mercedes I had taken cover in.

The holiday fun had ceased to be. Nature won by ripping up my high-summer seasonal tent and filling it with ten pounds of fine silt. A few items inside the now violently flopping tent took off into the sky like rockets. I ran out into the gusting dust clouds to recover as much of my equipment as possible. When I jumped back into the car I sneezed mud and dust came pouring out of my ears like upturned bags of flour.

I drove the four hours back to Tahoe in the middle of the night to recover at my family's cabin. In the morning I got a good look at the disaster that was our C300. It was white, not the original dark gray and the interior was tan, not the original black. I vacuumed out the engine bay and interior as best I could. I found a coin-op car wash on my way back to LA and hosed off the outside. I was further depressed when flows of mud ran out of the cracks and crevices from the massive quantities of hidden silt I drove off. The long drive back to LA was a snifflely one as dust still saturated the interior.

The first thing I did when I arrived was to dropped it off at the local car wash for a well deserved detail. Hopefully that $150 will do some good.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer @ 15,130 miles


September 15, 2008

This past weekend was my first time back into our C300. I was worried the dust storm that ravaged our Benz would come back to haunt me. It has.

I turned the wheel of the car as I backed out of the parking space down in our garage and a low "squeeeeeak" followed by an "eeeeeeeeek" as I turned the wheel back to center came out of the steering column. It didn't do that before.

This sucks.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

Jumpin' Jack Flash, it's a Compact Flash

September 17, 2008

I must have looked past this a dozen or more times, but it didn't register. But this week I'm having trouble with the PCMCIA card slot in my laptop, so the little light bulb above my head finally went on. Our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport has exactly the same sort of PC Card slot in plain sight, fiddly eject button and all.

Because I have a laptop, it just so happens that I have Compact Flash cards and a PCMCIA card. We use them to transfer data from our VBOX data logger on track days. And I have CDs. So I ripped a few tunes onto a CF card and gave it a try.

After plugging it all in, I needed to do nothing as the audio system recognized the memory card and began playing my tunes striaght away. A couple of flicks with the COMAND dial later, and I'm seeing a logical folder sturcture with album titles and track names.

Song titles show up on the multifunction display on the instrument panel and can be stepped through using the left-hand steering button, too. But, curiously, the cell phone hang-up button does not allow one to "zoom out" to change artists or albums like it does when an iPod is connected. Here, you do that with the COMAND wheel. Consistency would be nice.

And just like the slot on my laptop, there is a fiddly little eject button to get the card back out.

It works great, and 4 GB or 8GB memory cards are cheaper than MP3 players and iPods. But only laptop owners are liable to have the PCMCIA card adapter necessary to use it. You can buy one at Best Buy, of course, but it seems silly that this is a two-part process. Mercedes-Benz must think so, too, because a newer Benz I drove last week had a smaller SD card slot insead, no adapter required.


Dan Edmunds, Director of Automotive Testing @ 15,462 miles

Bath Time

September 23, 2008

I took a few days off last week and my car of choice was the Mercedes C300. It's attractive, comfortable, drives smoothly and likes my iPod. It's my go-to car whenever I have some free time. It's perfect for my height (5'4") and also accommodates my taller passengers.

Only problem: Ever since our C300's camping trip in the dust bowl, it's been oozing dust from every seam.

So, once again, it made a trip to the car wash. Lucky for us, our local car wash has a great little gift shop attached to it. We never mind waiting around for a car to get a bath.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 15,600 miles

Most Three-Pointed Stars In Segment

November 18, 2008

According to our TMV pricing tool, our long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport would cost $41,370 as an '09 model. That's pretty much dead-even with the comparably-equipped '09 Infiniti G37S we tested recently.

You'd never guess as much if you drove these cars back to back.

Why? The Benz's steering is relatively light and uncommunicative, and the steering wheel itself is too big and generically contoured; the Sport-Packaged G37, conversely, has wonderfully weighty and talkative steering, along with one of the best steering wheels in the business. Mercedes' seven-speed automatic is slow-witted in this application, requiring far too much time to execute full-throttle downshifts; the G's new seven-speed unit, on the other hand, downshifts briskly and matches revs to boot, even in Drive. Somewhat surprisingly, the Benz's interior isn't any nicer than the G's — materials quality is comparable, and I actually prefer Infiniti's "Washi" aluminum trim to the C300's somber blacked-out upper dash. As for handling, forget it. The G is a tail-out hooligan with manners, while the C feels like a numb and less-capable 3 Series.

Oh, and one more thing. The Infiniti has a hundred more horsepower than the poor Mercedes, and it feels like it, too. Is the Benz's V6 more refined? Absolutely. But it's not nearly as smooth as the 328i's inline-6, which is the only rival engine that can make a 100-hp deficit seem tolerable.    

Yep, this Benz sure doesn't feel like forty-one thousand bones — not after driving a G37S, at any rate.

It does, however, boast a class-leading nine three-pointed-star logos (grille, hood, trunk lid, wheels, steering wheel, shift knob). That must count for something.

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor, @ 17,737 miles

Service and Wine

December 10, 2008

We dropped the C300 off at Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach the other day for a handful of minor issues: (1) broken fog lamp, (2) creaking from the sunroof, (3) front-end alignment and (4) re-attach the rubber pad on the emergency brake that mysteriously fell off.

This dealership is very convenient. And the work performed is always done to our satisfaction. But it has never been our favorite due to its anti-customer service. Not to mention the general air of disorganization.

So it wasn't a big surprise when the cashier sent us to the valet for our keys (wait 10 mins), the valet sent us back to the cashier for the keys (wait another 5 mins), the cashier handed us the keys that were in her drawer all along and sends us back to the valet. Rather than pull our car around the valet points behind him and says, "Your car is right back there, sir."

Buried in the sea of cars was our C300. Inside it we found plastic still on the seat and paper mats on the floor. Courteous at the time, but now just trash. Also on the seat was the above invitation to experience a little cheese, a little wine and the little GL.

Cost: $386.12

Days out of service: 1

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 19,030 miles

Big Wheels, No Thanks

December 18, 2008

There's no good reason for this car to have 18-inch wheels. You can paint it up like a DTM racing car if you want, but it's still never going to be sports sedan.

Until you drive cross-country, you'll never understand just how good a Mercedes-Benz really is. It goes down the road with a purpose, but all the rough edges have been smoothed down from long experience with the whole vehicle engineering thing, so everything works with the sure, carefully damped action of the turn-signal stalk on a Mercedes S-class sedan.

And then Americans take our Mercs and put the biggest wheels we can find on them and spoil the whole thing.

Americans are dope fiends for big wheels. It all started with the impulse to get more cornering grip and crisper steering response from wider, short-sidewall tires, but over time things have devolved into enthusiasm for wheels, not tires. Wheels are all sparkly, and they seem to send us into the same trance you see in people standing in front of the accessories rack at Pep Boys.

Our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 suffers the curse of big wheels. We've got $1,010 of 18-inch AMG wheels carrying 225/40ZR18 tires in front and 255/35ZR18 tirs in the back. What we're supposed to get is quicker steering response and improved lateral stability, the kind of thing that's great on a curving freeway ramp. At the same time, we find ourselves skipping from crest to crest on the worn-out concrete slabs of the San Diego Freeway as if we were riding in a cheap fiberglass skiff. That's because the short tire sidewalls effectively increase the spring rates of the suspension, as there's less bump-absorbing compliance available from the tire.

The trade-off just doesn't work for me in this car. Mercedes might still be trying to persuade us that the C-class sedan is secretly a hot rod from the DTM racing series in Germany, but instead this car just seems like a taxi (although a real nice one) that's acting out. At least with the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, you get lots of horsepower in compensation.

There's always a trade-off in ordering big wheels and tires for any car, and the trade-off just doesn't work here. The big wheels and sporty tires enhance the C300's sporting personality too little and degrade its comfort quotient too much. There are times when big wheels are just a look, not a performance option, and this is one of them.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, @ 19,520 miles

Ups and Downs of Audio

December 18, 2008

When I listen to my iPod in the Mercedes C300, I choose a play list, hook it up in the glove box, then I can control it on the steering wheel. To advance to the next track I push the down arrow on the left of the steering wheel. It's the opposite in the Cadillac CTS. In the Caddy, you push the up arrow to skip tracks. Either way is fine.

But today I forgot my iPod. To quell my separation anxiety I loaded a CD into the Benz's audio system. But now to advance tracks I need to press the up arrow. What the heck?

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

Gauge Match

December 22, 2008

Over the weekend, our long-term Mercedes C300 threw up a low tire pressure warning. It's one of those systems that tells you that you have a low tire, but not which one, so you have to check all four tires to see which one's low.

I finally got around to checking the pressures right before this morning's commute. Factory pressures listed on the doorjamb are 33 psi front and 38 psi rear.

The fronts, according to my handheld digi-gauge, were 31.5 and 32 psi, and the rears were 40.5 and 35 psi. None of those measured pressures come even close the accepted TPMS threshold of 25%. Curious, I re-checked a front tire several times with the same gauge: 26 psi. 17. 34. 36. 32.

So, yeah, time to get a good tire pressure gauge.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 19,697 miles.

Creaking Wheel

December 23, 2008

Turn the steering wheel in our C300 at speed and it's silent. Turn the wheel at low speeds and it lets out an obnoxious groan. This isn't the first quality issue we've encountered with the Benz, and we haven't even reached the 20k mark.

So the other day I was passenger in a '98 Chevy Tahoe. We backed out of a driveway, and sure enough, the steering wheel released the same groan. But this truck has over 100,000 miles on the odometer. Is this a compliment to GM build quality?

Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 19,700

Burrito Run

December 26, 2008

No early morining video shoots or Office 2007 training sessions this week can only mean one thing, Well, two actually - sleeping in and breakfast burritos from Pepe's in Pico Rivera. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Pepe's has the best BB's this side of the Rockies. Zipping up the 605 fwy is effortless thanks to the C300 Sport. Power delivery is smooth and seamless. However, if it were my money, I'd skip the AMG wheels hoping for a slightly more compliant ride - emphasis on slight. If money were no object, would you rather have sporty handling or a softer ride?

Finally, the C300 isn't a huge car but the trunk is spacious enough - gift shopping as well as a full cart of Christmas dinner groceries showed the C Class to be both a fun and functional sport sedan.

Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor @ 20,000 miles

Deal Breaker for Parents?

December 29, 2008

When driving alone, I love the C300. It has sport sedan handling combined with an excellent engine - each time I drive it I'm reminded how, for the money, I wouldn't need a C350 or a me too 3-series (double "me too!" in black).

Sadly, there is one problem with the C300. The rear seats are sculpted too narrow making it VERY difficult to use my kid's booster seat. It's almost impossible to get the seat belt clipped in - usually my 6 year old can do it himself, not on the C-Class. Maybe this Graco booster is too wide? Not sure but it is a huge hassle. A new $40 booster seat isn't the end of the world but I'd want to know this before I bought the car.

Bottom line, take all your stuff to the dealership before buying any car - iPod, phone, baby seat, booster, stroller - whatever you use regularly, make sure it works and/or fits with the car you want.

Brian Moody, Senior Automotive Editor @ 20,056 miles.

Fashion or Function?

January 05, 2009

Our C300 Sport came with these beautiful 18" AMG wheels, the merits and liabilities about them has already been discussed by many of you, but there's one facet to them that may have been overlooked. That big / ///AMG block cast into the wheel is directly opposite the valve stem. Wonder why?

A few months back, our very own Green Car Advisor, John O'Dell, brought to our attention the proliferation of detached, lead, wheel weights in our land fills, storm drains, and the environment in general. According to the EPA, approximately 50-million pounds of lead is used annually to produce tire weights worldwide in autos and light trucks. Wheel weights are the greatest unregulated source of new lead in our in our environment, according to Jeff Gearhart, director of the Clean Car Campaign at the Michigan-based Ecology Center.

Mercedes-Benz added some fashion to its wheels by using a common technique to reduce the amount of weight that's needed to properly balance a wheel, especially with the tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) the government now mandates. Those TPMS transponders weigh something, and casting an appropriately heavy chunk of metal opposite the sensor is a logical solution.

Here are three parts of a Mercedes-Benz TPMS: valve-stem/sensor, receiver (white box), and wheel-well initiator:

Seems like a good idea to us.

Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 20,416 miles

Benz or A4 2.0T?

January 09, 2009

I know I haven't always had nice things to say about our long-term 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300, but I came to an interesting conclusion after spending a few days recently with Audi's new 2009 2.0T Quattro sedan:

I think I'd rather have the Benz.

My chief complaint is the rather ragged sound and feel of the amped-up 2.0T, which Mr. Kavanagh has already discussed in an excellent post on our long-term A4 Avant. The 2.0T's econobox-style four-cylinder drone, replete with steering-wheel vibrations at higher rpm, just seems out of place in an entry-level luxury sedan. I share Jay's bewilderment: "Audi doesn't think its customers care...about such trivialities?" I certainly care — I'll take the C300's smooth and authoritative V6 growl every day of the week.

Am I alone here? Would anyone else take the Benz over the Audi?

Josh Sadlier, Associate Editor,

Ugly Cute

January 12, 2009

I got behind the wheel of our C300 again for the first time in a long time and was reminded how much I like this car.

What I like most (and many will disagree with me) is it's looks. At first I thought the snub nosed German was a little much, but over time it has definitely grown on me. It has presence.

Granted the design is due to upcoming EU pedestrian safety regulations, but it's tough guy good looks are like putting a boxer with a mangled schnoz into a sharp looking tuxedo. He might not win a beauty contest, but his intimidating gaze won't let you doubt his style.

Scott Jacobs, Senior Photographer

That German Car Feel

January 16, 2009

I had three pleasant days in our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport and it brought me back to my car buying roots. The first car I bought was a 1960 Mercedes 190. The thing looked like a bowler hat. It had an overhead cam, 4-cylinder engine, but it still couldn't get out of its own way.

Cut to several decades later and I'm driving around Riverside County helping to introduce Edmunds' New Car Inventory feature to local dealers (here's an example of listings available for Nissan in the Los Angeles area).

I logged 180 miles and got 27.7 mpg (on premium gas). During my entire time in the car, I couldn't think of a single significant aspect of the car that I didn't like. The look, feel, responsiveness was all what wanted from a car.

How to sum all this up? I've always loved the feel of German cars. And that German car feel is alive and well in the C300.

Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 20892 miles

Not a Bad Parts Hauler

January 20, 2009

I'm pretty sure the junkyard where I bought these wheels for my truck had never seen a Mercedes-Benz in the parking lot. And judging by the looks of the guys who helped me load the wheels into the C300's trunk, it was definitely the first time any parts from said junkyard were ever actually deposited into a Mercedes-Benz.

But as you can see, all four wheels fit just fine. And thanks to a lovingly thrown down towel, it suffered no permanent scrapes or bruises.

In fact, it seems as though our C300 has suffered very little wear over its 21,000 miles. The doors still close with a light touch and a solid thunk. There are no squeaks, no rattles, nothing. There are virtually no signs of wear anywhere in the car as far as I can tell and that's nothing to sneeze at given how this car has been passed around.

Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor @ 21,007 miles


Why We Bought It
Performance and Fuel Economy
Retained Value
Summing Up

From the flagship S-Class to the entry level C-Class, the Mercedes-Benz nameplate is synonymous with quality. But as the three-pointed star of Mercedes began to be stretched over more and more models during the last decade, the brand's reputation for quality began to slip. Recent generations of Mercedes, notably the lower-end models, have been plagued by quality issues in increasing frequency. For 2008 Mercedes turned its focus back to quality and it started by revamping the C-Class line.

Once we purchased an example of the all-new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300, we had the opportunity to evaluate the improvements. Would this new generation return the C-Class to its glory days and quell the ailing quality reputation of Mercedes before things grew out of hand? We would find out. We would also encounter an unexpected factor in this test: the importance of good service at a trustworthy dealership.

There is more to driving a Mercedes-Benz C300 than the glamour of its badge. A reliable dealer experience can make or break the ownership experience. Unfortunately, we were nearly broken by our service center of choice.

Why We Bought It
Mercedes introduced an all-new C-Class for 2008, a real sign of progress for the brand in this segment. This new C300 is an attempt by Mercedes to polish the tarnished image of previous-generation C-Class models and the questions surrounding their reliability.

Our comparisons of the C350 with its competitors revealed that even this C-Class with a 3.5-liter V6 is generally underpowered among its peers. But the less expensive C300 offers the same finely finished interior, multimedia system and refinement as the C350. We were curious to see whether the faux leather would stand up to our kids. How easily could we sync our tunes with the dedicated iPod connector? Would the pop-up radio display break over time? The questions were already beginning.

A long-term Cadillac CTS was also days from entering the fleet. We looked forward to comparisons between the two entry-level luxury sedans. A check was cut, the C300 Sport purchased and our long-term test began.

Inside Line Executive Editor Michael Jordan wrote on the long-term blog pages, "Until you drive cross-country, you'll never understand just how good a Mercedes-Benz really is. It goes down the road with a purpose, but all the rough edges have been smoothed down from long experience with the whole vehicle engineering thing, so everything works with the sure, carefully damped action of the turn-signal stalk on a Mercedes S-Class sedan." This characteristic persona of the brand extends to all classes of Mercedes sedan, including our entry-level C300.

Inside the cabin we found the dark interior of the C300 nearly impervious to time. Its MB Tex cow-free leather was remarkably durable, and with the exception of a tear on the driver's door grab handle, there were no signs of excessive wear in the cabin after 22,000 miles of service. So far, we found the quality concerns of prior generations absent.

Senior Editor Erin Riches appreciated the Mercedes' down-to-business character. She noted, "It's not trying to coddle me or make me feel something about the C300 that I shouldn't really be feeling. All it does is put me in the right position to drive and manage the controls. And while this isn't a car that inspires me to take in any really interesting roads, I know wherever we go, it will be an orderly affair."

We did encounter some usability problems with the C300. One such complaint surfaced when Lead Senior Editor Ed Hellwig popped the glovebox to use the dedicated iPod connector. He explained, "Once connected, I got a three-pointed star on my iPod, but nothing on the car's main audio screen. I was expecting a full menu of my music rather than the 'auxiliary' message it gave me. Switching songs isn't done with dashboard controls either. You have to use the steering wheel buttons. And even then you don't have full control, merely the ability to scroll from one song to the next. I expected more functionality from a dedicated connector."

We were confounded by the iPod connector until Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds learned its secret. Edmunds posted, "Press the telephone icon button on the steering wheel and the Merc goes from 'this sucks' to 'wow, this is great' in 5.1 seconds." The lack of an operator's manual caused our initial frustration. But once we made sense of the iPod connection the Benz grew in popularity.

Road Test Editor Brian Moody spent a considerable amount of time with the Mercedes. He commented, "Sadly, there is a problem with the C300. The rear seats are sculpted too narrow, making it very difficult to install my kid's booster seat. It's near impossible to clip the seatbelt in. My 6-year-old usually does it himself, but not in the C-Class. Maybe my Graco booster is too wide? Regardless, it is a hassle. Buying a new $40 booster seat that fits isn't the end of the world, but I'd sure like to know this before I bought the car."

Long-term durability was our leading reason for purchasing a C300. Recalls and problem history were followed closely, and are really the story here. There were no recalls during our ownership, but we still had a fair number of problems with our Benz. Collectively they taught us a very important lesson. We learned how important locating a trustworthy and competent dealership is to the ownership experience.

With 3,500 miles on the Benz, we discovered that the rear sunshade portion of our panorama roof would not open. It also began to rattle. And just about this time the switch to operate the sunroof broke off. We headed to Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach. We chose this dealership for one reason. It is conveniently located. Past repairs had been performed to our satisfaction, but there was always a general air of disorganization. Some days we saw the A-game and others no game at all. We were curious to ride it out and see what came next.

Brian Moody received the call saying our C300 was ready for pick up. Moody recalls, "Our advisor looked at me and said, 'We did nothing to the rear sunroof shade. The tech thought I meant rear window shade. Since your car doesn't have one of those, he disregarded my comments completely.' Here's the best part. I brought my 18-month-old daughter with me. Hear her screaming in the background? A few hours after I left in a dealer-supplied Toyota Camry, our advisor called with the news they needed to order parts. On back order from Germany, it would take 2-3 weeks. Now I get to choose whether to drive a slightly busted C300 or this four-cylinder Camry LE rental. This isn't a choice any Benz owner should ever have to make."

Three weeks later we received the call. Parts had arrived from Germany. We delivered the C300 and our phone rang a few hours later. Our advisor skipped over cordial greetings and dove right in. "Sir, we lowered the headliner to install the part and realized that we need more parts to complete the repair. Sorry, we should have caught this the last time it was here." We appreciated the no-excuses apology, but it still meant another 7-10 business days for the additional parts to arrive. By the time parts were installed and the problem fixed, we were fed up with this dealership. Then the engine light came on.

We hadn't located a replacement dealership when the engine light first illuminated at 11,000 miles. By 11,005 miles it turned off. Then it was on again. We swallowed our pride and returned to Long Beach. There was an open service bulletin for our problem. A camshaft position sensor set off the light. Within hours the problem was solved by replacing the right-side cam solenoid. A missing door lock plunger was also replaced during this trip at no charge. Suddenly it seemed the dealership had its act together.

We gave the dealer another shot when it came due for the 13,000-mile Service A. The going rate was $230. Since the 5,000-mile service was free, we didn't bat an eye at this charge. In hindsight it looked even better. This was our only scheduled service charge through 22,000 miles of ownership.

At the 19,000-mile mark we brought the C300 back for a small list of items we wanted to remedy prior to selling the car. There was another roof rattle, an errant rock had busted the foglamp, the front-end alignment was off and a rubber molding popped off the parking brake pedal. Charges for the new foglamp and alignment ran the bill to $385, while rattle stuffing and the brake molding replacement fell under warranty. We waited one day for the foglamp to arrive. The following day we left with a hole in our wallets and a new respect for Mercedes-Benz of Long Beach.

Tires made up our only other major expenses with the C300. When the rear took a nail too near the sidewall it was replaced. A sidewall bubble in the front tire spurned its demise. We spent just over $575 to replace both tires.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over 18 months): $231.91
Additional Maintenance Costs: $386.12 alignment and foglamp, $576.27 tires
Warranty Repairs: Broken sunroof switch, roof rattles, cam solenoid
Non-Warranty Repairs: Foglamp replacement
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Days Out of Service: 2
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None

Performance and Fuel Economy
The C300 didn't miss a beat after 22,000 miles. Performance tests at the beginning and end of our tests were nearly identical.

From a stop the Benz reached 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. Its 3.0-liter V6 pulled the C300 through the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds at 91.5 mph. From 60 mph the Mercedes needed a mere 114 feet to reach a stop. That is very good in this class.

Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton commented following the C300's 0.89g run around the skid pad, "It is amazingly easy to maintain an arc all the way around with zero steering input, only throttle. It has gobs of grip and talkative steering."

Over time we recorded all ranges of fuel economy with the C300. A day at the test track delivered 8 mpg, while a mostly highway drive downhill on an empty stomach scored a best tank of 30 mpg. We averaged only 20 mpg overall, however.

Best Fuel Economy: 30.0 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 7.8 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 20.1 mpg

Retained Value
Our plan was to sell our 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport within one week. We searched for the best offer utilizing Carmax, an auto broker, Craigslist and Auto Trader. In the end we turned to Carmax, selling the Mercedes for $26,000. This reflected 34-percent depreciation from the $39,450 we paid for the C300 new, according to Edmunds' TMV® calculator.

True Market Value at service end: $28,199
What it sold for: $26,000
Depreciation: $13,450 or 34 percent of original paid price
Final Odometer Reading: 21,962

Summing Up
Quality control issues began taking a toll on Mercedes-Benz over recent years. These concerns were especially focused on lower-level models such as the C-Class. Mercedes hoped the introduction of an all-new C would quiet the cynics. But after 18 months with the 2008 C300 we found quality improvements are an ongoing process. Our C300 had its fair share of problems during this test. None that would strand us beside the road, to be sure. But little things add up.

In dealing with the problems we encountered, a lesson was learned. A trustworthy and competent dealer for service items makes a difference. We based our dealership decision on proximity to our homes and office, as most consumers do. But our reliance on this convenient location nearly backfired. On multiple occasions parts were ordered incorrectly or not at all. Customer service levels ranged from nonexistent at times to acceptable, with no rhyme or reason. Were our expectations too high just because we were driving a Mercedes?

Choose a dealer and service advisor carefully. Realize that sometimes the individuals who care aren't at the shop around the corner.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.