By KBB.com Editors
For many, the Mercedes-Benz name represents the pinnacle of automotive design and good taste. While they may not have the means to climb into a new S-Class, the upwardly mobile still have a shot at joining the exclusive MB club without breaking the bank. Mercedes-Benz' most affordable offering, the 2008 C-Class, comes loaded with style and content. Priced in the mid-$30,000 range, the C-Class must contend with the likes of the Audi A4, Infiniti G35 and Lexus IS. And while some will note the C-Class lacks such technological gadgets as adaptive cruise control and adaptive headlights, it is still a lot of car for the money. More importantly, it is a lot of Mercedes-Benz for the money.You'll Like This Car If... You May Not Like This Car If...
If bang for the buck is more important than the Mercedes-Benz name, makes from Audi, Infiniti and Lexus provide more features for about the same or less money.What's New for 2008
The 2008 C-Class marks the fifth major overhaul since its inception. The new car is longer, wider and offers more interior room than its predecessor, as well as more power and content.
In the Luxury trim, the C300 delivers an enjoyable ride, responsive handling and a quiet cabin. Acceleration with the 3.0-liter V6 is brisk and passing power is ample, even at high speeds. In Sport trim a six-speed manual transmission brings out the C300's playful side, making us wish for more aggressively bolstered front seats. Agility Control selectively stiffens or softens the shocks in response to road conditions and steering input. Like the C300 Sport, the C350 rides on larger tires and sits about an inch closer to the ground. While handling is improved over the Luxury model, ride comfort is diminished and cabin noise level increased. The 3.5-liter V6 packs a bit more punch than the base engine, but does not offer a manual transmission. The seven-speed automatic offers a manual shift feature, but the sometimes slow-to-come shift points often make it more enjoyable to just leave the lever in the "D" position.Favorite Features
Panoramic Glass Sunroof
When open, the roof exposes half the cabin to the open air and, when closed, delivers equal quantities of sunlight to front and rear passengers.
With 450-watts, 12-speakers and surround sound LOGIC7 technology, the system is good enough on its own. Add in a four-gigabyte storage unit for uploading songs, voice control and PCMCIA slot, and the C-Class delivers one of the most advanced audio systems in its class.
A blend of the old with the new best describes the C-Class interior. Optional leather seating and tasteful wood inlays surround the cabin, but the power-extendable LCD display screen and multifunctional central controller are far from traditional. The front seats are wide and somewhat flat, which is fine for the Luxury model but definitely lacking in the support that would be appropriate for the Sport. The optional panoramic glass sunroof opens the C-Class interior, making it feel larger and more airy. A few oddities stand out, namely the awkward placement of the manual lumbar control and the less-than-intuitive steering-wheel controls for the information screens and audio system.Exterior
The once-sedate C-Class comes alive with eye-catching new sheetmetal and two different grille designs (one for Luxury, the other for Sport). Following the styling of the new S-Class, the C-Class appears more on the cutting edge. The longer wheelbase and body give the car a substantial road presence as well as better interior dimensions. Notable features on the Sport model include a transfer of the three-pointed Mercedes-Benz star from the hood to the grille, a first for a Mercedes-Benz sedan. Racy alloy wheels, a lowered suspension and AMG-inspired lower bodywork complete the Sport model's aggressive new look.Notable Standard Equipment
New standard features for the 2008 C-Class include a power sunroof, eight-way power front seats with manual lumbar control, Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch alloy wheels, agility control selective dampening suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, central controller and a motorized LCD display. The C300 Sport features a six-speed manual transmission, while the 300 Luxury and 350 Sport have a seven-speed automatic. Standard safety features include six airbags, adaptive braking, traction and stability control, active front head restraints and extensive use of high-strength steel.Notable Optional Equipment
Among the more noteworthy options are Mercedes-Benz' 4MATIC all-wheel drive system (C300 models only), DVD navigation, 450-watt harman/kardon LOGIC7 surround sound audio with iPod connectivity and a four-gigabyte music storage register, leather seating, panoramic glass sunroof, Bi-Xenon headlamps, a rear sunshade and 18-inch alloy wheels. Standard on the C350 and optional on the C300 are auto-dimming power folding side mirrors, heated front seats, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, rain-sensing wipers and split-folding rear seats.Under the Hood
The new 3.0-liter V6 proves more than adequate for the C-Class. With 228-horsepower and ample torque, this engine delivers a nice balance between fuel economy and performance, taking only 7.1 seconds to go from zero to 60 miles per hour. Although the C350's 3.5-liter V6 delivers 40 more horsepower and shaves one second from the C's zero-to-60 time, it costs some $5,000 more than the C300 and offers no manual transmission or the 4MATIC option.
228 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
221 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2700-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/26 (manual), 18/25 (automatic)
268 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2400-5500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the C300 Sport starts just under $32,000, while the C300 Luxury starts in the mid-$33,000 range. Pricing for the C350 begins around $37,000 and tops out near $47,000 with all the options. A comparably equipped Audi A4 costs about the same but offers features not available on the C-Class. The same can be said of a loaded Infiniti G35, which also has more horsepower than the C350. Before you begin shopping, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which shows what others in your area are paying for their C-Class sedans. As with all Mercedes-Benz products, the new C300 and C350 are expected to retain high resale value, on par with the Audi A4 and better than the Cadillac CTS and Jaguar X-Type.