By KBB.com Editors
The C-Class offers young drivers a way to join the exclusive Mercedes-Benz family without spending an arm and a leg. Although priced slightly higher than similarly equipped models from Audi, Infiniti, Saab, Cadillac and Lexus, the C-Class can certainly match these vehicles in the areas of luxury, performance and value. The availability of a slick-shifting six-speed manual with the C230 and C350 Sport trims is a must for the driving enthusiast and is offered as a no-charge alternative to the seven-speed automatic. Those not concerned by such matters will find much to like in the C-Class, including a number of desirable features such as the 4MATIC all-wheel drive and a new Flex-Fuel V6 capable of running on E85 or gasoline.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for the quality and prestige that comes from the Mercedes-Benz brand at a price comparable to some top-of-the-line family sedans, the C230, C280 and C350 are the way to get it.You May Not Like This Car If...
Prestige has its price. The C-Class is tight on rear-seat legroom and can cost thousands more than comparably equipped European, American and Japanese rivals.What's Significant About This Car?
The C230 receives a new E85-compliant engine, while the C280 and C350 Luxury models gain power front seats and a power-adjustable steering column with memory settings for up to three drivers. C230 and C350 Sport models receive new 17-inch wheels, an AMG rear deck spoiler and dual AMG exhaust pipes.Driving It Driving Impressions
The top-of-the-line C350 definitely feels tighter and more in touch with the road than most of its luxury counterparts. Yes, the ride is a bit firm and can even be rough over broken pavement and untended expansion joints, but it's a small price to pay for the benefits a taut suspension yields.
The C350's six-speed manual is a vast improvement over previous Mercedes-Benz manuals, with much tighter gates facilitating shorter shifts. The 3.5-liter V6 engine is an absolute dream. It responds willingly to the slightest throttle input, calling upon its ample low-end torque to shoot you across busy intersections or to overtake slower-moving traffic.
Panoramic Glass Sunroof
The C-Class's panoramic glass sunroof covers the entire interior and includes an electric sunshade for both the front and rear panels.
The C230, C280 and C350 models offer a Mercedes-quality interior at a surprisingly affordable price.
Inside you'll find a comfortable set of sport bucket seats complete with fore and aft adjustable headrest and controls for the seat-bottom angle and seat height adjustment. From the driver's seat, you'll find a logically appointed instrument panel, devoid of overly complicated touch-screen menus and confusing switchgear. The instrument cluster features a digital trip computer neatly tucked between the speedometer and tachometer. Steering wheel-mounted controls regulate the audio and information screens.Exterior
The C-Class is a Mercedes-Benz product through and through. With overtones of E- and S-Class clearly visible in the design, the C-Class fits right into the Mercedes family and should more than satisfy any entry-level buyer. The Sport models offer a more distinct look than their Luxury counterparts, with sporty six-spoke alloy wheels and numerous details borrowed from Mercedes-Benz's AMG performance division.Notable Standard Equipment
The C230 Sport features a six-speed manual transmission, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), front and rear fog lights, dual heated power mirrors with turn signals, AM/FM/CD stereo, front and rear side-impact and head-curtain airbags, stability control, cruise control, sport suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and heated windshield wipers. The C280 and C350 Luxury models add more powerful V6 engines, 16-inch wheels and more standard equipment plus the choice of rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.Notable Optional Equipment
Popular C-Class options, which are typically grouped into packages, include a panoramic glass sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, in-dash six-disc CD changer, audio upgrades, COMAND navigation system, heated front seats and a power rear sunshade.Under the Hood
The C230's new 2.5-liter powerplant is a definite improvement over the old supercharged four-cylinder and its Flex-Fuel versatility makes it ideal for areas that supply E85. The more powerful V6s found in the C280 and C350 suit this car's image, but buyers will pay a price, first at the dealership and then at the gas pump.
201 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
181 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/18 (E85), 19/25 (Gasoline)
228 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
221 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (RWD), 19/26 (AWD),
268 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (RWD manual), 20/29 (RWD automatic), 19/24 (AWD automatic)
The C230 Sport has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $30,425, while the C280 and C350 are $34,175 and $39,375 respectively. 4MATIC all-wheel drive adds another $1,800. The C-Class base price is deceiving, however, as option packages can add thousands to the bottom line. In order to make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. It shows the typical transaction price people are paying for the C-Class in your area. As for resale value, the C-Class falls short of typical Mercedes-Benz expectations. It has only a slightly better-than-average projected residual value over a four-year period, besting the Saab 9-3 and Cadillac CTS, but ranking far behind the values expected of the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and Infiniti G35.