Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review
With striking style, a luxurious interior and the latest safety and driver-assist technology, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the best small sport-luxury sedans, coupes and convertibles available. More than just a scaled-down model with a few three-pointed stars stuck on it, the C-Class exhibits the core strengths of the brand, with cutting-edge features, lively performance and a feeling of solidity. Fans of performance cars can choose the AMG versions, which boast blistering acceleration and tenacious handling, along with tastefully sporty styling accents.
Head-turning style plays a major part in the small Benz's appeal, with the C-Class drawing inspiration from its bigger stablemates. The front and rear fascias of the latest generation are instantly recognizable as part of the Mercedes family, while the side views provide a new take on the classic look, with sleek lines and a modern profile. In the past, the cabin of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wasn't up to the brand's historical standards in terms of quality, but Mercedes has rectified that issue in recent years.
Current Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles. The sedan was completely redesigned for the 2015 model year, and the coupe and convertible followed for the 2017 model year. Trim levels include the base C300, the all-wheel-drive C300 4Matic, and the AMG C43, AMG C63 and AMG C63 S, as well as the plug-in hybrid C350e. The C300 sedan is available with two subtrims, Sport or Luxury, which offer slightly different suspension, wheel design and styling details. Options and packages abound for all models, allowing buyers to add a host of comfort, convenience and technology items.
The standard powerplant for the C-Class is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic is the only available transmission. It normally sends power to the rear wheels, although opting for the 4Matic system gets you all-wheel drive. Those seeking more power can step up to the AMG C43 with its turbocharged V6 that produces 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque and comes mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. And then there's the AMG C63 with a twin-turbo V8 that pumps out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, and the C63 S that increases output to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both come with a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
In reviews, we've been very impressed with this Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Whether you're looking for a comfy, extensively equipped luxury sedan or a dynamic, impressively engineered sport model, the C-Class lineup has you covered. Power from the 2.0-liter engine is more than adequate for accelerating up to freeway speeds, although there is a noticeable amount of road and wind noise on the highway. The midlevel Benz handles well and provides a pleasant enough ride with either the standard suspension or the available air suspension, but in the coupe and convertible versions, the standard setup may be a bit harsh for some buyers.
The AMG models amp up performance with strong acceleration and a burly exhaust note. Their sport-tuned suspensions provide taut handling in the curves while still offering reasonably comfortable rides on long trips. Acceleration remains faithful to the AMG tradition. Mercedes estimates the AMG C43 will reach 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, while the AMG C63 and C63 S are estimated to hit 60 mph in 4.0 and 3.9 seconds, respectively.
Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class Models
The current, fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan debuted for the 2015 model year, with the redesigned coupe and convertible following two years later. These models are longer, wider and sleeker than the previous versions, with roomier, more stylish cabins trimmed in top-quality materials. There are also new engine and transmission choices, as well as updated suspension systems and a host of standard and available convenience, driver-assistance and safety features.
For 2016, the C-Class sedan lineup added the C350e plug-in hybrid variant. At the same time, the C400 was replaced by the C450 AMG, which upgraded to a higher-output turbo V6 and much of the AMG C63 S model's performance hardware. An optional Night package added black-and-silver 18-inch wheels and gloss black exterior trim, while the Premium package was split into two individual packages, and a heated steering wheel joined the options list.
The third-generation C-Class was produced from 2008 to 2014 and, with the exception of some equipment shuffling, went largely unchanged from its debut through 2011. During those years, the C-Class was available only as a sedan as the C300, C350 and C63 AMG. Originally, the C300 came standard with rear-wheel drive, and 4Matic was an option. The C350 trailed most of its competitors in horsepower and torque, and the C63 had a traditional (versus automated dual-clutch) seven-speed automatic transmission.
Many changes took place for 2012. Visual cues included refreshed front and rear styling and an updated cabin with more luxurious materials and the replacement of the old pop-up LCD infotainment screen with a fixed display. The coupe body style debuted that year, as did the C250 with its turbocharged 1.8-liter four with 201 horsepower. The C350's V6 got a 32-hp bump in output, the C300 came standard with 4Matic, and the C63 AMG picked up the automated manual transmission found in most other AMG models.
The following year saw the C300's V6 grow from 3.0 to 3.5 liters and gain 20 hp along with better fuel efficiency. Some new tech features came on line as well, including (depending on trim level) a fuel-saving automatic engine stop-start feature, available adaptive cruise control and standard smartphone-integrated telematics. Prior to 2013, the C300 4Matic was powered by a less powerful 228-hp 3.0-liter V6 that also trailed the current engine in terms of fuel economy.
In reviews, we found the third-generation C-Class to have precise steering and handling, with the standard four-cylinder engine in the C250 doing its job in a quiet, refined manner, although lacking the potency of some of its rivals from Audi and BMW. The V6-powered C350 is a good choice for enthusiasts, given its sharply responsive powerplant and rear-wheel-drive handling dynamics. Unsurprisingly, the C63 AMG variant will suit buyers looking for a potent V8 and much sportier handling characteristics.
The second-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 2001 and lasted until 2007. Mercedes made a variety of changes to the numerous models and body styles during this generation's run. The initial models were the C240 (168-hp V6) and C320 (215-hp V6) sedans. These were joined the following year by a C320 wagon and the C230 Kompressor two-door hatchback coupe (192-hp supercharged four-cylinder). The C32 AMG also showed up for 2002, outfitted with a 3.2-liter supercharged V6 producing 349 hp. The Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel-drive system became available for 2003 on sedan and wagon body styles, while the C320 two-door hatchback, C240 wagon and supercharged C230 sedan arrived. A variety of Sport upgrades debuted for particular models for 2004, while the following year saw freshened exterior styling and a revised interior. The C32 AMG was also replaced for 2005 with the C55 AMG, which featured a 362-hp V8.
In reviews, we found that this generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class provides a comfortable ride and an interior that pampers its occupants. The 3.5-liter V6 is the best engine of the lineup, but either of the smaller V6 engines will likely be adequate, especially for those shopping on a budget. In terms of handling, Sport models don't feel as light on their feet as other top sport sedans, but they turn in aggressively and offer decent grip. Body roll is reasonably well controlled, but driving enthusiasts will likely wish for even firmer damping and more steering feedback.
The biggest changes in the second-generation occurred for 2006, when the hatchback coupe and wagon were discontinued and a new selection of models and engines debuted that would remain with the car until it was replaced by the following C-Class. This was also the first year for the Sport and Luxury trim designations, which differed in wheel size, transmission choice, suspension tuning, styling elements and interior trim. Those considering this generation Mercedes C-Class probably won't regret their purchase, as there should be more than enough performance and luxury to satisfy them. Still, savvy shoppers should know that other automakers, particularly those from Japan, offered roomier, less costly alternatives that equal or better this C-Class in performance and features, although perhaps not in status.
The original Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 1994, replacing the small 190-Class sedan, and ran through 2000. With more room, a more luxurious cabin and styling that mimicked the larger E-Class, the first C-Class could be had with four-cylinder (C220) or six-cylinder (C280) power, with output ranging from 148 to 194 hp. Safety has always been a priority with Mercedes, and as such the C-Class benefited from the early adoption of such technologies as stability control, emergency brake assist and side airbags. Performance of the base C models rose through the years, as the 2.2-liter four gave way to a 2.3-liter, which was then replaced by a 2.3-liter supercharged unit.
A major change was the addition of the hot-rod AMG versions, starting in 1995 with the C36, which featured a 268-hp inline-six. Serious firepower arrived in 1998 with the debut of the C43, whose 4.3-liter V8 pumped out 302 hp. Die-hard enthusiasts should be aware that only automatic transmissions came with the AMGs, though this hardly hurt the performance of these fast little sedans.
Used-car shoppers should know that the Mercedes C-Class historically scores well in crash tests and ownership satisfaction is generally quite high, with consumers praising its handling, ride and reliability. However, maintenance is typically costly.
Read the most recent 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Mercedes-Benz C-Class page.
For more on past Mercedes-Benz C-Class models, view our Mercedes-Benz C-Class history page.