New & Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a line of sedans and coupes from the German automaker. At one time the automaker's entry-level U.S. model, the C-Class has evolved to become more of an executive-luxury car--one that closely resembles the larger, more expensive flagship Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Today's lineup of C-Class cars includes the C300 sedan; the C450 AMG Sport sedan; and the AMG C63 sedan. A coupe model joins the lineup in the 2017 model year, while turbodiesel and plug-in hybrid sedan models are set to join the lineup sometime in 2016.
MORE: Read our 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review
Rivals for the C-Class include BMW's 3-and 4-Series cars, the Audi A4 and A5, and the Cadillac ATS coupe and sedan.
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The latest C-Class sedan sports a new architecture, excellent interior styling and features, and advanced safety equipment, all put together in a way that creates a very charming, very good luxury sedan.
Exterior styling on the C-Class is striking, a scaled-down homage to the S-Class without being a mimic. Inside, the cabin continues themes first shown on the big S-Class, with large round vents, a flowing center console, and inlaid metallic-look panels that speak to a grade of luxury higher than the C has ever had.
Two C-Class models were offered for 2015: the C300 and the C400. Initially, both came standard with the Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, but the C300 added a rear-drive variant later in the model year. A 241-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four powers the C300; the C400 got its power from a 329-hp twin-turbo V-6.
For the 2015 model year, Mercedes also added both the AMG C63 sedan, powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, available in 469-hp or 503-hp trim.
In 2016, Mercedes replaced the C400 model with a new C450 AMG Sport, carrying a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 362 horsepower. An air suspension is standard on the C-Class, as is a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The cabin of the C-Class is larger than the previous generation, with more rear-seat leg room. The highlight, though, is the avant garde console that houses features like a Burmester sound system and a new touch-controlled COMAND infotainment system.
Crash-test scores aren't complete, but the C-Class has myriad new safety systems, many bundled under an Intelligent Drive package. It includes adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera system that further aids lane-keeping and semi-autonomous functions, brake assist, active parking assist, and a 360-degree camera system.
Fuel-economy ratings are respectable, with the C300 posting 27 mpg in the combined EPA cycle.
A plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class, dubbed C350 Plug-In Hybrid, is on the horizon. It combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a hybridized seven-speed automatic transmission for total system output of 275 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It can drive for 20 miles on electric power and should return impressive fuel economy. The system is related to that in the S550 Plug-In Hybrid and offers many of the same fuel-saving technologies and tricks.
The upcoming C300d turbodiesel will offer a 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine, with 195 horsepower. Fuel economy ratings haven't been disclosed.
Since 2015, C-Class sedans are built in the company's Vance, Ala., plant, while coupes are manufactured in Germany.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class history
The C-Class luxury sedan replaced the former Mercedes 190E in American showrooms in the 1994 model year. The first generation of the C-Class was a conventional sedan with relatively safe styling and a range of economical four- and six-cylinder engines. Of course, there was also a V-8 engine used in a high-performance AMG variant, of which only limited numbers were imported to the U.S.
Mercedes launched its second-generation C-Class in 200. The car's design went curvy, a daring departure from the boxy first attempt, but something more in lime with the brand's designs of the day. A year after the sedan, a C-Class SportCoupe (really a three-door hatchback) debuted. It didn't sell well, in part due to price and also because of its odd silhouette; it left the U.S. lineup in 2005. Mercedes created a follow-up hatch coupe called CLC, which was launched overseas for 2008.
The third generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class arrived on the market as a 2008 model, on a new platform, upmarket styling derived from the bigger S-Class and new levels of quality and refinement. Most notably, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class set two distinct styles, with separate Luxury and Sport models that catered to different types of C-Class buyers (Sport models were our favorites, as they have better performance, and ride quality doesn't suffer).
No major changes were implemented from then through 2011, with recent model years offering the choice of two V-6 engines--a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter unit and a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter mill--as well as a 451-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 in the high-performance AMG C 63 model.
The 2012 model year marked a significant change for the C-Class. In addition to a light facelift inside and out, a new C250 model was introduced, with a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood. The C300 (228-hp six) continued, while C350 models gained a new 302-hp, 3.5-liter 60-degree V-6. Also, a new Coupe model joined the range, as did the brilliant C63 AMG Coupe, with its 457-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 and 186-mph top speed.
For the 2013 and 2014 model years, few changes were made, although Mercedes-Benz phased in its mbrace2 telematics system, with emergency assistance, destination planning, a smartphone app, a suite of in-car apps, and new controls for teen drivers or valet parking. For the final 2014 model year of the sedan, Mercedes offered a limited-edition run of the C63 AMG dubbed the Edition 507.