2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 Comparison Test | Edmunds.com
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2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (1)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD 7-speed Automatic)

  • Article
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 Specs and Performance
  • 2014 Audi A4 Specs and Performance

Focus on their similarities and the 2014 Audi A4 and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic have much in common: four doors, turbocharged four-cylinder engines, all-wheel drive, panache. But it's the differences, the nuanced bits of flourish and soul that give each character. It's the way that they drive, the noises they make (or don't make) and the way they coddle their occupants that matter here.

After several weeks of evaluation it's those details that mark the better car. So we looked critically at each car's personality and the details a car in this class should possess. We also analyzed performance, price, efficiency and features.


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And then we picked a winner. Here's how.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

An All-New C-Class
As the volume leader of the brand's line, Mercedes takes changes to the C-Class seriously. Last redesigned in 2007, it is all-new for 2015. The most significant updates are dimensional as the car's wheelbase increases 3 inches (to 112). Overall length is up 3.7 inches and width increases 1.6 inches.

The old C-Class lacked both the personality and functionality of its primary competitors, so Mercedes is taking a slightly different tack this time around. At launch, all versions of the C-Class will have all-wheel drive. A rear-drive four-cylinder version will come later.

There are two basic models: the base C300 and the top-tier C400. Our test model featured here is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 241 horsepower. The C400 boasts a 3.0-liter, turbocharged V6. Both get a standard seven-speed automatic transmission.

Starting at $41,325 our C300 was optioned up to $50,935 with the addition of multiple packages and stand-alone options.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

Same Solid A4
Audi's current-generation A4 exists relatively unchanged since its introduction for the 2009 model year. Despite an overall length about a half-inch longer than the now-expanded C300, its wheelbase is 1.4 inches shorter than the Benz.

The A4 is offered with only one engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 220 horsepower. Multiple drivetrain configurations are available: front-wheel drive with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or all-wheel drive paired with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. Our tester has all-wheel drive and the automatic.

With a starting price about $4,500 less than that of the C300, the Audi makes a solid case for itself based on value alone. Of course our test car was fitted multiple options that increase its functionality, appeal and, of course, price. The Premium Plus Model package and MMI Navigation Plus package bring the price of this sedan to $43,845.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

How Do They Drive?
Both are reasonably quick in a straight line, as each car took 6.5 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph. It's a dead heat, which continues through the quarter-mile where they're separated by a mere 0.1 second, the edge going to the Mercedes. In other words, don't split hairs when it comes to acceleration.

Neither car in this test came with an adjustable suspension, though it's offered on both. The Benz's $3,000 Sport package, however, brought a measure of response to the sedan that was distinctly absent in the Audi. And the Mercedes' throttle, transmission and steering are adjustable over four drive modes. The differences between them are significant enough to matter, too.

Though our handling tests proved it better in outright grip (0.87 vs 0.84g) and slalom speed (65.5 vs. 64.6 mph), the C300's edge was even clearer when driving both cars back to back in the mountains. With less roll and better body control, the Benz was a sharper tool on back roads. It also offers quicker steering response, which is largely a product of its 19-inch summer tires. The A4 wore 18-inch all-season rubber.

The Benz's handling advantage is mostly found in the upper reaches of both cars' abilities. Truth is, unless you plan to explore the absolute boundaries of the C300's potential, you'll go just as quickly in the Audi. And the other 95 percent of the time you won't be tolerating the C300's busier ride, which might prove annoying for some buyers.

Otherwise, the C300 also offers paddle shifters, which allow you to change gears without moving your hands from the wheel — a benefit in any driving situation. Both cars perform rev-matched downshifts, but executing them in the Audi means toggling its gear lever to the manual gate and pulling it backward.

Braking tests fell in favor of the Mercedes as well. In addition to stopping much shorter from 60 mph (114 vs. 127 feet), the C300's solid, responsive pedal is more confident in everyday use. By contrast, the Audi's soft pedal lacks immediacy.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

Interiors That Are Plush and Palatial
Inside, the C300 provides an experience more like a downsized S-Class than anything we're accustomed to seeing in this segment. Part of the S-Class resemblance is thanks to our C300's $2,300 Interior package, which replaces MB-Tex with real leather: Cranberry Red in this case. The big-spender interior also gets you ventilated seats (heated seats come with the $2,700 Premium package, which is also included).

There's a sculpted feel to the C's interior that's not present in the A4. Its dash wraps into both doors to surround the front occupants. Sprouting from the otherwise coherent design is a 7-inch display screen that looks like an afterthought. The flat-bottom small-diameter steering wheel, also included in the Sport package, finishes the experience with a sense of purpose.

In contrast, the Audi's subdued interior gives a greater sense of space. It's among the oldest designs in the segment but remains attractive and utilizes space well. And, unlike in the Benz, its display screen is well integrated above the center stack. Aluminum inlays help maintain the design's contemporary feel.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

Despite a significant difference in wheelbase, head- and legroom are similar in both cars. Large occupants fit easily up front in both. The C300's seats offer better bolstering, though lateral support during cornering was equal with the A4. Rear-seat space is adequate in both, but our 6-foot-3-inch road test assistant found the Benz's rear roof intruded less into his headroom.

Both cars offer a split-folding rear seat, though it's standard and folds flatter in the Benz, enabling more utility in load carrying. The difference in trunk space isn't significant: 12.8 cubic feet for the Benz vs. 12.4 cubes in the Audi.

What About Fuel Economy?
If the interior finish was a shot across the Audi's bow, then we score fuel economy as a direct hit for the Benz. Aided by its standard auto stop-start function, the C300 easily proved the more efficient of the two.

During the course of this test, in which we drove more than 2,000 miles combined, the C300 produced a 25.8 mpg average. The Audi managed 22.2 mpg.

We put more highway miles on the Benz, but on our 116-mile test loop, which includes a variety of roads, it consumed a half-gallon less fuel and beat the A4 by 1.4 mpg (25.4 vs. 23.0).

The EPA also rates the new Benz higher: 27 mpg combined vs. 24 mpg combined.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

Safety and Technology
With 11 airbags to the Audi's 10, the Mercedes offers marginally better supplemental coverage. Both cars, however, provide advanced antilock brake systems, stability control and rearview cameras.

The C300's standard Collision Prevention Assist Plus, which can autonomously apply the sedan's brakes to avoid a collision, is a true safety benefit that's absent on the Audi. Pre-Safe is also included, and increases the effectiveness of the car's restraint systems should a collision occur.

The benefits of our C300's Garmin Map Pilot Navigation system exceeded the unit's modest cost. At $600, the Garmin unit provided a screen size identical to Audi's full-blown $3,050 MMI Navigation Plus package. Both systems provide traffic data, but the Garmin system lacks ultra-high-resolution graphics and 3D mapping. Mercedes' optional $2,690 COMAND system replaces the Garmin's small display with an 8.4-inch screen and adds those features and more.

Bluetooth is standard in both, but the C300 offers a USB port for your music device while the Audi requires a proprietary cable.

2014 Audi A4 vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300

The Winner
In this case, paying more definitely means getting more. There's a wide cost gap here and ultimately it might be one that many buyers can't justify, but there's no arguing that the Benz is the more modern, efficient and striking automobile. It's also more engaging to drive and simply feels more like a serious luxury car. For those reasons it wins this test.

The Mercedes won't have long to savor its triumph. An all-new A4 is coming next year, and even the much newer BMW 3 Series is gearing up for a refresh. That's the nature of this highly competitive segment. For now, however, the new C-Class has clearly transformed itself into one of the best sedans in this class.

Audi and Mercedes-Benz provided these vehicles for the purpose of evaluation.

Vehicle
Model year2015 Mercedes-Benz C300
Year Make Model2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300 Sport 4MATIC 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 7A)
Base MSRP$41,325
Options on test vehicleBlack , Sport Package ($3000-AMG bodystyling; Sport suspension; 18" AMG wheel with high performance tires; Open Pore Black Ash trim; Black headliner; Sport seats; Flat bottom sport steering wheel; Front perforated disc brakes; Aluminum pedals with rubber studs; AMG floormats; MB-TEX top-stitching and dash, Premium Package ($2700-Heated front seats; SiriusXM satellite radio; Burmester premium sound system; LED headlamps; KEYLESS-GO), Interior Package ($2300-Leather upholstery; Ventilated seats; Ambient lighting; Passenger seat with memory; Illuminated door sills), Garmin Map Pilot navigation system ($600), Blind Spot Assist ($550-Blind Spot Assist), Rear View Camera ($460)
As-tested MSRP$50,935
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, all-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, gasoline with auto-stop/start
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,991
Block/head materialAluminum/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves/cylinder variable intake + exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)9.8
Redline, indicated (rpm)6,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)241 @ 5,550
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)273 @ 1,300
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission type7-speed Automatic
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=4.38, II=2.86, III=1.921, IV=1.37, V=1.0, VI=0.82, VII=0.73
Final-drive ratio (x:1)3.07
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent double-wishbones, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist, speed-proportional, variable-ratio, rack-and-pinion power steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.5
Tire typeSummer
Tire size, front225/40R19 Y XL
Tire size, rear255/35R19 Y XL
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front12.9-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 1-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear11.8-inch ventilated cast-iron discs with 1-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.2
0-45 mph (sec.)4.0
0-60 mph (sec.)6.5
0-75 mph (sec.)9.5
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)14.7 @ 92.7
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.2
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)2.9
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)4.9
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.4
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)10.5
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.3 @ 92.3
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.0
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)28
60-0 mph (ft.)114
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph)65.5
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON64.9
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g).87
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON.87
Sound level @ idle (dB)41.7
@ Full throttle (dB)77.8
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)62.6
Engine speed @ 70 mph (rpm)2000
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsPedal overlap helps acceleration considerably. The C300 reponds well to power braking up to about 2,700 rpm. 0-60 time drops almost a full second from a standard pedal-swap launch. No wheelspin. Best run using auto shifting. Rev-matched downshifts, but won't hod gears at redline -- even in Sport+ m
Braking commentsVery solid, confident pedal. The C300's brake pedal is responsive, solid and consistent -- as good as it should be in this class.
Handling commentsSlalom: Even in Comfort mode the C300 is grippy and resposive. Step it up to Sport+, however, and response to inputs is genuinely surprising. It's easy to drive through the slalom with predictable direction changes. ESC is reasonable in its intervention and manages to make small trims when its limits are overrun. Skidpad: Though the C300 won't rotate off the throttle (even with ESC disabled), it's easy to predict its limits and drive right to them. Grip is reasonably high and I could use more lateral support in the seat. Despite its relatively aggressive bolsters, the C300's seats don't hold me in place.
Testing Conditions
Test date8/5/2014
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)85.5
Relative humidity (%)23.88
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.78
Wind (mph, direction)1.0, cross
Odometer (mi.)2,731
Fuel used for test91 Octane
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)39/45
Fuel Consumption
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)18.0
Driving range (mi.)0
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,583
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,722
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)55/45
Length (in.)184.0
Width (in.)71.3
Height (in.)56.8
Wheelbase (in.)118.0
Turning circle (ft.)36.8
Legroom, front (in.)41.7
Legroom, rear (in.)35.2
Headroom, front (in.)37.1
Headroom, rear (in.)37.1
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)12.8
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 yr./50,000
Powertrain4 yr./50,000
Corrosion4 yr./50,000
Vehicle
Model year2014 Audi A4
Year Make Model2014 Audi A4 2.0T Premium quattro 4dr Sedan AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A)
Vehicle TypeAWD 4dr 5-passenger Sedan
Base MSRP$36,795
Options on test vehicleIce Silver Metallic ($500), Premium Plus ($3,500 -- includes 18-by-8-inch 10-spoke-Audi exclusive RS design wheels with 245/40 all-season tires, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto-dimming and heated exterior mirrors, Cold Weather package includes heated front seats and rear split-folding seats, Audi advance key, Audi xenon plus lights with LED daytime running lights and taillights, memory function for driver, three-zone automatic climate control, headlight washers, trunk storage package, aluminum window surrounds, S line fender badges, S line bumpers, aluminum door sills with S line badge, side sill blades); Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package ($3,050 -- includes single-disc CD/DVD player, HD AM/FM radio, color driver information system, Audi parking system plus with rearview camera, HDD navigation with voice control, MMI "high" control panel, Audi connect with online services).
As-tested MSRP$43,845
Assembly locationNeckarsulm, Germany
North American parts content (%)1
Drivetrain
ConfigurationLongitudinal, front-engine, all-wheel drive
Engine typeTurbocharged, direct-injected, inline-4, gasoline
Displacement (cc/cu-in)1,984/121
Block/head materialCast iron/aluminum
ValvetrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder variable exhaust-valve timing
Compression ratio (x:1)9.6
Redline, indicated (rpm)7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)220 @ 4,450
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)258 @ 1,500
Fuel typePremium unleaded (required)
Transmission typeEight-speed automatic
Transmission ratios (x:1)I=4.714, II=3.143, III=2.106, IV=1.667, V=1.285, VI= 1.0, VII= 0.839, VIII=0.667
Final-drive ratio (x:1)2.848
Differential(s)Front: open, Center: Rear: open
Chassis
Suspension, frontIndependent double wishbones with high-mount upper arm, double upper ball joints, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Suspension, rearIndependent multilink, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Steering typeElectric-assist, speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion steering
Steering ratio (x:1)15.9
Tire make and modelPirelli P6 Four Seasons
Tire typeAll-season front and rear
Tire sizeP245/40R18 93H M+S
Wheel size18-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel materialAlloy
Brakes, front12.6-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brakes, rear11.8-inch one-piece ventilated cast-iron discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Track Test Results
Acceleration, 0-30 mph (sec.)2.4
0-45 mph (sec.)4.1
0-60 mph (sec.)6.5
0-75 mph (sec.)9.6
1/4-mile (sec. @ mph)14.8 @ 92.8
0-60 with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)6.2
0-30 mph, trac ON (sec.)3.1
0-45 mph, trac ON (sec.)5.1
0-60 mph, trac ON (sec.)7.9
0-75 mph, trac ON (sec.)11.1
1/4-mile, trac ON (sec. @ mph)15.7 @ 91.1
0-60, trac ON with 1 foot of rollout (sec.)7.6
Braking, 30-0 mph (ft.)31
60-0 mph (ft.)127
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft. (mph) ESC ON64.6
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g)0.84
Skid pad, 200-ft. diameter (lateral g) ESC ON0.86
Sound level @ idle (dB)42.9
@ Full throttle (dB)69.3
@ 70 mph cruise (dB)63.5
Test Driver Ratings & Comments
Acceleration commentsThe 2.0T provides solid early- and midrange punch, which makes leaving the line quickly fairly easy. Still, it gets beat to 30 mph by 0.2 second by the AWD M-B C300. Even so, I prefer the 2.0T's power delivery and benign sounds. At wide-open throttle, it's just more refined than the Benz. Shift paddles, however, would help the Audi in many situations. Pedal overlap (power braking) helps it leave the line considerably quicker than with a pedal-swap (standard) launch. No wheelspin. Rev-matched downshifts, but won't hold gears at redline.
Braking commentsRelatively soft brake pedal, but consistent, if long, stopping distances. Ample body dive, too. The A4 is soft and it shows here. Still, there's nothing unsafe about this performance.
Handling commentsSlalom: The A4's relative softness shows here, but it's still a competent, stable performer that benefits from AWD dynamics. Steering isn't quick, but I found it relatively intuitive to place the car and shimmy it between the cones. Turn the ESC off and lift at the wrong time and it will swap ends. Just keep the ESC on and it'll trim the necessary speed without being overly intrusive. Skid pad: Body roll isn't pronounced, but it's clearly more abundant than in many competitors. Balance leans heavily toward understeer and there's little a driver can do about it except slow down.
Testing Conditions
Test date8/5/2014
Elevation (ft.)1,121
Temperature (F)84.5
Relative humidity (%)28.79
Barometric pressure (in. Hg)28.19
Wind (mph, direction)1.0, cross
Odometer (mi.)8,699
Fuel used for test91 octane
As-tested tire pressures, f/r (psi)36/38
Fuel Consumption
EPA fuel economy (mpg)24 combined/20 city/29 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg)22.2 overall combined, 23.0 Edmunds test loop
Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)16.1
Driving range (mi.)466.9
Audio and Advanced Technology
Stereo descriptionAM/FM/Satellite single-CD with SD card reader
iPod/digital media compatibilityiPod via proprietary cable, SD card
Satellite radioStandard with three-month complimentary subscription
Bluetooth phone connectivityStandard
Navigation systemOptional with traffic
Smart entry/StartStandard ignition, doors, trunk/hatch
Parking aidsOptional perimeter + back-up camera system
Dimensions & Capacities
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)3,693
Curb weight, as tested (lbs.)3,724
Weight distribution, as tested, f/r (%)56/44
Length (in.)185.1
Width (in.)71.9
Height (in.)56.2
Wheelbase (in.)110.6
Track, front (in.)61.6
Track, rear (in.)61.1
Turning circle (ft.)37.7
Legroom, front (in.)41.3
Legroom, rear (in.)35.2
Headroom, front (in.)36.9
Headroom, rear (in.)37.5
Shoulder room, front (in.)55.5
Shoulder room, rear (in.)54.3
Seating capacity5
Trunk volume (cu-ft)12.4
Warranty
Bumper-to-bumper4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance1 year/5,000 miles
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