It took just moments in the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class to form an opinion of this all-new model: It's sensational. And I mean that literally as much as figuratively. 

Every year new cars seem to get more powerful, more efficient and more refined. This compact luxury sedan checks all those boxes. But as praiseworthy as its ride, handling and comfort are, I was just as impressed with this C300 model's, form, function and immersive audio capabilities.

For decades the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has been a well-rounded entry-level luxury car, an automotive stepping stone to the E-Class once the corner office is obtained -- and then perhaps an S-Class for the executive who is nominated for the board. With the arrival of the CLA-Class, the C-Class is no longer the baby of the Mercedes family. Thanks to details large and small, the only baby this new C-Class feels like is a baby S-Class. 

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Just one example why is the sound system available in the 2015 Mercedes C-Class. It's a Burmester, typically reserved for super-premium cars like the flagship S-Class. In the homes of German audiophiles, Burmester equipment can cost as much as a mainstream sedan. In the C-Class, it's a steal as part of the $2,120 Premium Package. The system includes 13 speakers powered by a 590-watt 9-channel digital amplifier. And don't let that power rating fool you. Other audio systems boast more watts, but few will sound better than what's in here. It streams just fine, but for a real treat put in a compact disc. The acoustic details are mesmerizing and can help you hear your catalog in a whole new way.

Feels pleasing, too

Beyond the quality of the new C-Class' sound is the way its entertainment and information controls are laid out and feel in your hand. The Mercedes' sturdy rotary wheel and mouse-like interface can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice they become easier to understand and use. Best of all, the command system is within easy reach. Located just ahead of the center armrest, its position is exactly where your hand falls. Changing the volume, for example, is as easy as flicking your finger.       

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Also notable is the fit and finish of the 2015 C-Class. Yes, unfortunately genuine leather still costs extra even in a roughly $40,000 base C300 model, but the standard MB-Tex faux hide is comfortable. The optional open-pore black ash wood like the kind found in our test model is especially appealing and only adds to the C-Class' surprising elegance, while the standard 14-way power driver seat is notable for its comfort and the way it hugs a variety of body shapes. 

Power and presence

Lest you think this new Mercedes-Benz is a one- or two-trick pony, fear not. These highlights complement a wholly substantial and satisfying small luxury car. Even with its base, 241-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, the C300 feels capable and confident. Our 4Matic all-wheel-drive version had plenty of power for passing, minimal turbo lag, and taut suspension (if you favor a plusher ride, opt for the Comfort-tuned suspension instead of the firmer Sport setup). Furthermore, the standard Agility Select system lets you tailor the throttle response, shift points and steering feel between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual modes.  

Never before has the C-Class felt so mature. And, thanks to details both small and large, it has never felt so rewarding. 

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