Mercedes-Benz is on a roll. Not only has its Formula 1 racing team dominated for three straight years, now its street cars are back on top of their game.
A couple years ago I sort of fell for the C300 sedan and now, in the dead of winter I get to drive the C300 coupe with 4Matic, Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Glad I had the extra grip as we had snow and slush and sloppy roads during the test.
This model features slimming sporty coupe lines that make it stand out among today’s usual humdrum car designs. And while it leans heavily toward sport, the luxury and pleasantness of the sedan are ever present.
As in the sedan Mercedes delivers a scrumptious blend of sporty power, the eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that kicks out 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.
Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to be sporty. Cornering is smooth and as precise as you want it to be courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+.
Moving up from Eco, each setting adds a few hundred engine revs and slightly firms steering and ride. Eco naturally provides lackadaisical acceleration and a soft steering effort, but Comfort is close to perfect for city driving. In that mode the C300 has good power while ride and handling are forgiving, but fairly responsive.
For real fun, the Sport setting is required. It delivers a decided power punch and firms the steering effort to improve responsiveness. Go to Sport+ and the revs jump another 300-400 and steering becomes sports coupe firm. Perfect, if you’re on smooth pavement!
Mind you the test car’s Airmatic air suspension and agility system are part of a $1,190 package, but well worth that if you really want to personalize the ride. No matter the setting, ride remains well controlled, never harsh.
The dark metallic blue ($720 extra) coupe also came with 4Matic all-wheel-drive. It gives the car excellent traction and acceleration, easily tested on our sloppy southeast Wisconsin roads during my drive when side streets were at least ankle deep in wet snow.
Braking is first class, the C300 featuring large drilled disc brakes up front and giant rotors at all four corners. However, they screeched loudly every time I backed up. Several friends commented they heard me backing from the parking lot. The noise always occurred after the coupe had been at rest a bit and usually when the weather was quite damp.
The test car added a $500 package that included 19-inch alloy wheels mounted with performance tires, while 17-inchers are standard. The fancy wheels also carry Mercedes’ AMG performance branding to help you outshine your neighbors. There are AMG floor mats inside too, part of a sport package. More on that in a second.
The dash here is a black leather material with medium brown leather inserts in the doors and the same brown perforated leather sport bucket seats up front. Trim is a combo of satin silver and dark Linden wood ($325 option) on the console, center stack and doors. Speaker faces for the high-end Burmester system, part of the Premium 2 package, are a cool chrome that gives the car doors a jeweled look.
I like the dash’s overall layout with main gauges easy to see and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel to help get it aligned perfectly for driving comfort and visibility. The C300 has big toggles on the center stack for climate controls, plus large buttons for navigation, radio and media.
The large screen is easy to see, but looks a bit odd, like it’s bolted onto the dash. It protrudes starkly mid-dash and sadly is not a touchscreen. Radio controls and some other functions are awkwardly controlled via a dial on the console. Also, the power steering wheel is not heated, a rarity in today’s luxury market. A heated wheel is an option though. Get it if you live in Wisconsin or the upper Midwest.
Overhead is a big sunroof that helps brighten this interior on dark dreary winter days. A power sunscreen will cover it, if the sun happens to pop out.
Seats are sporty, shaped to support your back and hips, plus these are heated with three settings, a $580 option that’s needed in colder climes. The car also came with three memory settings for the driver’s seat. And Mercedes continues the wise move of putting its power seat buttons, in the shape of a seat no less, high on the door panels. They are easy to see, use and understand.
A few other interior notes, including the smooth looking cubby cover where the console and center stack merge. It slowly folds back to expose two cup holders and some additional storage, a good place for gloves, a notepad, etc.
Oddly Mercedes continues with four clumsy levers behind the steering wheel, three to the left that include the cruise control, turn signal and power wheel adjustment. It’s easy to confuse the cruise and turn signal as they are hard to see. The lever to the right is the shift lever, which takes getting used to, especially punching the end to put the car in Park. But a week or two and a driver will gain a comfort level.
I do like the radio volume roller on the console along with the dynamic Agility Select toggle. Also the steering wheel powers up and out of the way when the ignition is off, but the driver’s seat does not power back.
However, the front seatbelts are on power pulley systems that move forward once you’re in the car to make it easier to find the belts. In a coupe that’s a big help.
Note the trunk is modest in size at 10.5 cubic feet and the car’s gas mileage, despite stop-start technology, is mediocre at 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway, according to the EPA. I got just 19.9 mpg in a mix of driving. The Mercedes also requires 91 octane fuel.
Base price for the 4Matic is $44,650, plus $925 delivery. This one added about $12 grand in options to hit $56,355, not abnormally high for a luxury coupe, or sedan. The big-ticket items here were the Premium 2 package at $4,500 that includes the fancy stereo, blind-spot assist, power trunk lid, power folding mirrors, navigation upgrade with voice control, a larger screen and better lighting.
The sport package with all those AMG upgrades, plus textured leather dash with contrasting stitching, fancier chrome grille and flat-bottomed steering wheel added $1,675 to the total. A park assist package with surround-view camera and cross-traffic alerts added $1,290.
A base C300 coupe starts at $43,575, while a C300 sedan begins at $40,425 with 4Matic adding $2 grand. There’s also a convertible model with a 9-speed automatic transmission that starts at $51,825. Again, 4Matic adds $2 grand.
There are several pretenders near this price, but not as nice, plus a few competitors that think they’re worth a bit more dough. But few blend the luxury, performance and styling this well.
Hits: Power, ride and handling in spades. Sporty coupe lines, big sunroof, heated sport seats, power seat controls convenient on door panels, 3-memory seats, big climate control toggles and navigation-radio-media buttons.
Misses: Dial on console to tune radio screen, not a touchscreen, no heated steering wheel, requires 91 octane gas, mediocre fuel consumption, cumbersome 4 levers behind wheel, extremely squeaky brakes.
Made in: Bremen, Germany
Engine: 2.0-liter I4 turbo, 241 hp
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Weight: 3.770 lbs.
Length: 184.5 in.
Wheelbase: 111.8 in.
Cargo: 10.5 cu.ft.
MPG: 23/29 (EPA)
MPG: 19.9 (tested)
Base Price: $44,650
Brilliant blue metallic paint, $720
Linden wood trim, $325
19-inch AMG alloy wheels w/high-perf. tires, $500
Heated front seats, $580
Premium 2 package (blind-spot assist, Sirius XM, Keyless-Go, Burmester surround sound system, Comand navigation w/voice control, 5-year traffic/weather service, touchpad, 8.4-inch screen, power folding mirrors, power trunk lid, hands-free access, ambient lighting), $4,500
Airmatic package (Airmatic air suspension, dynamic select adjustable suspension), $1,190
Sport package (AMG body styling, diamond grill in chrome, flat bottom sport steering wheel, perforated front brake rotors w/Mercedes calipers, aluminum pedals w/rubber studs, AMG floor mats, black headliner, black textured dash w/contrast stitching), $1,675
Park assist package (Parktronic w/active parking assist, surround-view camera), $1,290
Test vehicle: $56,355
Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage