2016 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic Sedan
In the U.S., 2016 calendar year-to-date numbers as of October are 87,196 units for BMW and 62,561 for Mercedes; Audi trails considerably with just 29,253 A4 and A5 deliveries. Lexus actually did better than Mercedes and nearly matched BMW with 86,491 sales of its IS, RC and ES (although the latter FWD-only model is sized more like an E-segment E-Class and 5 Series and therefore only fits into this class due to price), whereas Infiniti found 37,049 combined Q50 and Q60 buyers, Acura pulled in 31,258 TLX customers, Lincoln closed 25,343 clients on its larger mid-size Lexus ES-fighting MKZ, Buick attracted 22,935 customers for its Regal and new Cascada convertible, Cadillac lured in 17,723 ATS Sedan and Coupe buyers, Volvo managed 15,179 buyers for its S60 and V60, and Jaguar found 4,543 buyers for its entirely new XE (although it only arrived in May).
Yes, these other brands and models exist, most of which are only given a cursory glance by 3 Series and C-Class faithful. Like opting for yet another Rolex Submariner instead of flirting with an Omega Seamaster 300 Titanium, or something more radical like the Corum Admiral’s Cup Seafender 48 Deep Dive or Clerc Hydroscaph TI, the two bestselling luxury car lines deliver exactly what their owners want while holding their value well, making them sound business choices. Just like a pampered Rolex, you’ll never have a problem reselling a nicely kept, low mileage C-Class sedan.
The C-Class at my disposal was a new 2016 C300 4Matic Sedan, the bread and butter model that outsells every other iteration. While simple Polar White in color it was personalized with active LED headlamps, a Sport package that added some nice aero bits and upgraded the stock 17-inch rims to five-spoke 18-inch AMG alloys, an AMG interior package, Cranberry Red AMG leather, open-pore Dark Ash hardwood trim, and more, resulting in a very special looking Mercedes sedan, the equivalent of a silver-faced Submariner with a ruby red bezel (or anything but black).
The C300, which was thoroughly redesigned just last year, is a handsome four-door with no shortage of sporty visual elements, especially as tested, yet its upright body style and chunky tail end imbue a certain rigid solidity. This quality image becomes reality upon opening the door and sliding behind the wheel, with more soft touch surfaces than any rival. Premium pliable synthetics cover the instrument panel including the glove box lid, both sides of the center stack and lower console, plus all door panels from top to bottom; even the backsides of the seats are made from a soft high-grade composite. No competitor goes so far to coddle its occupants, but of course it doesn’t end there. The upper edge of my loaner’s instrument panel and the entire dash top was covered in contrast stitched leather, while along with the open-pore hardwood noted earlier were real aluminum inlays in brushed and satin finishes depending on the trim piece.
Following this theme, many of the buttons, knobs and toggles were aluminized, some even knurled to perfection like the bezel of a finely made watch, but not a Submariner, more like a Breitling for Bentley GMT Light Body B04, which wouldn’t be my personal choice for timekeeping, but it’s plenty rich looking. Come to think of it, the last time I saw automotive metalwork like this was during a recent drive in a Bentley Flying Spur V8 S, pretty spiffy company Mercedes. Then again Stuttgart might take offense at such a comparison, its beautiful new S-Class arguably up to par with the aforementioned Brit.
My tester came fitted with a sensational sounding Burmester surround audio system upgrade with innovative FrontBass technology, its dual door speakers capped off with beautiful aluminum grilles, these nicely matching the circular metal HVAC vents that dot the dash, while all of the door’s switchgear, including Mercedes’ trademark power seat controls, was aluminized for a particularly highbrow premium experience. As noted the door inserts and seats were upholstered in a beautiful dark red leather, this being a favorite retrospective reference of ’50s and ’60s era Mercedes models. It plucks memories of my dad and I pulling up to my Onkel Gleissner’s house and eyeing his cream on red 1959 300SL roadster. I hardly remember my uncle today as I only met him a few times, but I’ll never forget his car. I wouldn’t dare compare the classic 300SL to this C300, even Mercedes PR reps would be offended, but the red leather is homage paid to an earlier era that still has the power to wow today.
The C300’s 16-way driver and 14-way front passenger seats are ideally formed to hamstrings and torso, while roominess is not an issue front or back. The rear seats are almost as comfortable as those up front, and plenty spacious with six to seven inches ahead of my knees when sitting behind the driver’s seat that was preset for my five-foot-eight medium build frame, plus plenty of room for my feet even with my largest clodhopper Timberland shoes on, plus about three to four inches above my head and four inches from door panel to shoulder and hips.
Increasing the feeling of spaciousness is a large dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof overhead, but those relegated to the rear middle position won’t likely care much about such niceties as the sizable center tunnel makes it less than ideal, but such are the challenges of rear- or all-wheel drivetrains. It’s really more of a four-seater with space for five in a pinch, a comfortable flip-down center armrest nicely dividing the two rear seats while adding two pop-out cupholders and a shallow felt-lined compartment. The trunk is large at 17.0 cubic feet, while the rear seatbacks can be lowered via the optimal 40/20/40 configuration to allow for greater passenger and cargo flexibility.
Along with the items already mentioned my C300 4Matic tester included proximity-sensing keyless access, illuminated doorsill scuff plates, a garage door opener, ambient lighting, a 360-degree surround camera, navigation, MB Apps, satellite radio, parking sensors with self-parking capability, and more. The LED headlight upgrade noted earlier also includes auto high beams, while the aforementioned Sport package also adds sport brakes and a specially tuned suspension.
The only noticeably lacking features were active safety gear such as Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with steering assist, Pre-Safe Plus monitoring with rear-end collision alert and mitigation, BAS (brake assist) Plus with rear cross-traffic alert, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and autonomous emergency braking, most everything needed for a self-driving car, although these are all available if desired. Additional standalone options can include but aren’t limited to a head-up display unit, heatable steering wheel, cooled front seats, rear window sunshades, a powered rear shade, while my loaner was upgraded with heated front seats and a powered trunk lid.
Standard features with the $39,500 base C300 that were grandfathered up to my tester included heatable power-folding side mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Nappa leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a color multi-information display, a large state-of-the-art high-definition tablet-style infotainment display with superb graphics, rich colors, full functionality and easy usability that’s modulated via one of the slickest touch-sensitive and knurled metal dial-type controllers in the industry, complete with smartphone-style capability that allows gestural inputs such as pinch and swipe plus tap and click, etcetera. The only negative is the exclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an oversight that probably won’t turn anyone off the car completely, but should cause the C’s diehard faithful to question why. Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD adds $2,000 to the bill.
The standard safety suite includes all the usual active and passive systems as well as Attention Assist, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, regular Pre-Safe, adaptive braking with a hold function, and runflat tires, which is enough to earn it both IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus and NHTSA five-star status. These base features, as well as all of my C300 4Matic tester’s extras, including some lesser items not mentioned, raised its base price to just over $55k, which still seems reasonable when considering how fully featured and impressively finished it was, not to mention how brilliantly it drives.
Ask any German luxury car owner why they prefer their brand and it will often come down to driving dynamics. The C-Class simply delivers at a higher level than most peers, with a wonderful balance of ride comfort and handling prowess. I’m not going to go so far as to say the C300 is as capable through the corners as the equivalent 3 Series, which many consider the quintessential sports sedan, but it comes very close while delivering a more comfortable driving experience overall. What’s more, the C300’s 2.0-liter twin-turbo four-cylinder feels more powerful than BMW’s mid-grade four and is, the 328i making a single horsepower less albeit lacking a significant 15 lb-ft of torque when compared side-by-side with its main competitor, the C300’s engine putting out 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Its 4Matic all-wheel drive makes sure the wheels with the best grip get more twist, the result being a spirited launch off the line and good positive shifts from its standard 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic.
Those shifts get energized when Sport or Sport+ mode is chosen, Eco and Comfort more suited to a relaxed driving style. These not only alter the transmission shift points, but also throttle response and the suspension setup, whereas a fifth Individual mode lets you design a Dynamic Select mode that’s all you own, even allowing pure manual shifting via the gear lever or steering wheel paddles if DIY is more your style. As is now becoming the norm with German cars an auto start/stop system shuts down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions. It helps the C300 4Matic eke out a very reasonable 24 mpg city, 31 highway and 27 combined rating (the RWD version gets a 25 city, 33 highway and 28 combined rating), which is very close to the 328i xDrive’s estimated city/highway number despite the Merc’s performance advantage.
The C300 4Matic’s electro-mechanical steering is highly reactive yet rock steady at speed with very little deadness at center. It also gives commendable feedback, as does the entire multi-link suspension, but like I mentioned earlier the little Merc is as much about performance as comfort, the C300 being my first choice in the D-segment for a high-speed long distance cruise.
I have to admit that Mercedes’ C-Class would be my first choice for a lot of reasons, and this from a four-times past BMW 3 Series owner. The C has long been competitive with the 3 from a performance perspective and the car’s styling is now much more dramatic inside and out, while it’s a class above all comers in interior quality, something I’m a stickler about.
So if you’re ever wondering why there are so many C-Class sedans running around, don’t think for a second their drivers have merely bought into Mercedes’ slickly marketed three-pointed star brand image, because the current car is easily one of the best, if not the best in its class. Do yourself a favor and drive a new C300 4Matic.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press