Restyled and sporty C class may again spur sedan sales …
The compact C Class sedan has been a hot seller for Mercedes-Benz for years, but its popularity has waned like yesterday’s boy band the last couple years and one has to wonder how much of that is because it hadn’t been redesigned in seven years.
That and the fact crossovers and SUVs are eating all sedans lunch these days in the U.S. market where bigger is always better.
Well, Mercedes will get its answer soon enough as it launched a restyled C Class for 2022. It’s sporty and touts an interior that you’ll either love, or strongly dislike. Hate is such a loaded word.
My tester was a black C 300 4Matic sedan, but be aware a coupe and convertible also are available, yet look more like the previous generation C Class as they have yet to be restyled.
Mercedes stretched the car two inches and lengthened its wheelbase an inch while widening it just a bit. The philosophy is old-school, longer, wider, lower. That formula has worked for various brands through the years.
I enjoyed how the C 300 drives. Its 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged I4 is perky with just slight turbo lag, even in Sport and Sport+ drive modes. This is no dragster, but there’s some kick and the engine sounds throaty and fun at high revs, albeit a bit tinny at idle.
Pressing the 255-horse turbo and Mercedes’ 9-speed automatic into service on the freeway was both smooth and speedy. The German automaker claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds and the C quickly galloped to 90 mph on a highway entry ramp, with more power still available. The C 300 can be pushed a bit and easily slips in and out of freeway traffic.
Plus the four-link front suspension and multi-link rear are finely tuned for crumbling Midwest roads so that even on the crumbliest of streets the ride was pleasant and well controlled. If only more crossovers and SUVs were this competent.
Handling is lightly weighted and nicely sharp if not sports sedan precise. This doesn’t feel like a BMW because it’s a Mercedes, so leans more toward luxury. Press the Dynamic button on the center stack’s base and either Sport or Sport+ mode will significantly firm steering effort, but never to a tiresome level. To me, Sport seems the best mode as it quickens acceleration, while firming the steering enough to feel more, well, sporty.
Add in the 4Matic AWD system and the 19-inch tires for excellent grip. We had some snow and sleet to contend with during my test. The car handles tight twisties well even with slop under its treads.
Note that the test car added the 19-inch tires and fancy blacked out spoked AMG style wheels. Those wheels add just $600 to the bottom line, quite reasonable for a spiffed look. But beware, there are viele extras here that push the C 300 to near upper-level luxury pricing.
Speaking of which, before we get to the spiffy interior, Mercedes has priced the C 300 at $46,600 for the 4Matic model, while a rear-driver starts at $44,600, so a $2 grand premium for AWD. At that price the car is at the upper edge of low-end luxury models. For instance, a Genesis G70, a lovely car, starts at about $39,000.
But Mercedes likes to sell its vehicles with ala carte options and the test car’s 16 add-ons could make one woozy. They propelled this one to $60,870. Ach du lieber! Choices are plentiful between the base and $60+ grand, including Volvo’s S60, BMW’s 3 Series, the Audi A4, Cadillac CT5 and Lexus IS.
Pricing be damned though if you love this interior.
The layout is bold and brassy and ladles on the digital finery with the best of them. But the impressive (or some say no) look starts with a $1,620 black and red leather package. Seats and doors reflect both colors and then there’s the glammy spray of metal-weave trim across the dash’s face and on the expansive center console. Other trim, such as door armrests and five oval-shaped air ducts is a satin chrome. Add in stylish aluminum speaker covers in the doors and the interior sparkles like a jeweled timepiece.
I like the two-tone look, although some may think it comes on too strong like a guy wearing an overabundance of Versace cologne. But compared with Mercedes’ all-black interiors of the past this is a breath of fresh air. Tan and cream would look smart too, but be less dramatic.
Beyond looks Mercedes updates the digital screens, a 12+ inch display for the driver’s instruments and separate nearly 12-inch info touchscreen angled toward the driver at mid center stack. They are high-def and the driver’s can be adjusted to reflect the dial structure and colors a person desires, including one allowing the nav map to appear mid-gauges. I like digitals, but sometimes there are too many choices and many look pretty flat.
The touchscreen was easy enough to use, but there are haptic touchable controls, so you swipe a button on the steering wheel to boost radio sound, or lower it. Also one can swipe a finger along the trough in the roof control panel to open or shut the dual panoramic sun roofs ($1,000 extra). That one was OK, but adjusting the radio sound took a lot of tiny swipes to reach a proper sound level. Dials my friends, dials work.
Rear seat passengers also were concerned that their sunroof shade closed in synch with the front roof’s. They wanted a separate control so they could leave theirs open when the driver had closed the main roof’s shade.
I can’t say enough good things about the power heated seats and their supportive side and back bolsters. Wow, these were terrific, just a scrunch less snug than Aunt Hilda’s hug at the holidays.
There are three memory settings along with power seat controls on the door panels, but I found them a bit clunky to operate, sometimes not responding with the angle I was hoping to adjust. Again, simplicity may be a better solution. Good news though, the heated seat button is on the door and is simple to push. It also turns on the heated steering wheel ($250 extra), a must in our climate. Oddly no cooled seats in this luxury sedan.
Rear seats are comfy enough, but headroom is a bit tight for taller riders. Still, we got three adults in the back seat and only the middle rider complained of the big transmission hump at the floor’s center.
No one complained about noise inside the Benz, thanks to acoustic glass, a $150 option. This interior is quiet enough for easy conversation, even at highway speeds.
Cargo room is good too as the Benz has a deep trunk (with a power lid). I think it’ll hold more than the 12.6 cubic foot rating Mercedes places on it. Below the floor is a lot of hidden cargo space too, something you won’t find in any hybrid or electric sedans. Speaking of which, neither is available in the C Series yet, although there’s a mild hybrid system here like some other akes are using.
The hybrid battery smooths the Stop/Start function, plus the electric motor between the engine and transmission (Integral Starter Generator in Mercedes terms), allows the sedan to cruise without using gas at highway speeds. That extends gas mileage. The EPA rates this at 33 mpg highway and 23 city. I managed 26.0 in a fairly even mix and the C 300 prefers premium petrol.
A few other points to ponder, Mercedes adds a wireless charger, but it costs $200 extra and it’s tucked deep inside the center console, so not easy to see or simply use. Good news though, the car warns you if you’ve left your phone once the ignition is turned off.
I also confused the gear shift stalk on the steering column’s right (very old school) with a wiper stalk. That’s on the left combined with the light function. Took a few days to remember not to tap the gear shift when I wanted to clear the windshield though.
Maybe I should have first used the Ask Mercedes (like Siri) function. It talks to you whenever you want. Just ask it questions although it often says it can’t help. You can, however, tell it to do things like adjust the heat, radio, and maybe I could have sought wiper assistance.
Standard safety equipment here is a bit slim too, including blind-spot assist, attention assist (kept saying the camera wasn’t working), and a rearview camera (standard on all vehicles now). But much of the rest is included in two pricey packages. The driver assistance option costing $1,950 includes active assists for distance, steering, lane change, lane keeping, evasive steering, emergency stop, speed limit and cross-traffic, along with route-based speed adaptation. Similar items are often standard on even lower cost vehicles. I’m thinking Toyota, Honda and Hyundai/Kia.
Another $950 package adds parking pilot with a cool surround view camera and the Parktronic parking sensor system.
A Burmester surround sound system adds $650, which as these things go isn’t a bad price. Cost for premium sound in other makes can run up to $3,500 extra.
Finally a $3,050 AMG Line with Night package adds blacked out body trim, sport pedals, fake leather dash, but also tunes the suspension and steering to contribute to this model’s sporty feel. The package also drills holes in the disc brakes for faster cooling in case you’ll be racing on weekends. Likewise it also adds a lower nose splitter and rear diffuser.
All those add-ons are nice, but sadly they pushed the C 300 to beyond $60 grand. If you can keep this shy of $50,000 it’s in the correct pricing segment for entry-level luxury.
FAST STATS: 2022 Mercedes Benz C 300 4Matic Sedan
Hits: Sporty feel, quiet and gorgeous interior, composed ride and AWD grip. Panoramic sunroofs, heated seats and wheel, cool dash with large info screen, wireless charger, super comfy supportive seats, power trunk lid and multiple drive modes.
Misses: Cost, haptic touch controls and touchscreen do not respond to a gloved hand, wireless charger awkward to access, no cooled seats, seat controls a bit funky to adjust, no separate control for rear sunroof, shifter stalk can be confused for a wiper adjustment initially.
Made in: Bremen, Germany, & South Africa
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo I4, 255 hp/295 torque
Transmission: 9–speed automatic
Weight: 4,044 lbs.*
Wheelbase: 112.8 in.
Length: 187 in.
Cargo: 12.6 cu.ft.
MPG (tested): 26.0
Base Price: $46,600 (includes delivery)
AMG Power Red/Black leather interior, $1,620
19-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels w/black accents, $600
Illuminated door sills, $150
Panoramic roof, $1000
Heated steering wheel, $250
Satellite radio w/free trial, $350
Advanced USB package, $300
Acoustic glass, $150
Enhanced ambient lighting, $250
Inductive wireless charging, $200
Digital lighting pkg. (projection headlights), $1,100
Multimedia pkg. (nav., augmented video for nav., head-up display), $1,700
Sound pkg. (Burmester 3D surround sound, online music streaming, Sounds personalization), $650
AMG Line w/Night pkg. (AMG body styling, brushed alum. sport pedals, MB-Tex dash, AMG floormats, sport suspension, sport steering, perforated front disc brakes w/MB calipers, high-gloss black elements including front splitter, grille trim, rear diffuser, side mirrors & window trim), $3,050
Driver assistance pkg. (active assists of distance, steering, lane change, lane keeping, evasive steering, emergency stop, speed limit and cross-traffic + route-based speed adaptation), $1,950
DA3 pkg. (parking pilot w/surround view, Parktronic w/active park assist surround view system), $950
Test vehicle: $60,870
Sources: Mercedes-Benz, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage
*Car and Driver