New & Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is frequently a shopper’s first taste of the luxury car class, much like the Infiniti Q50, Cadillac ATS, Audi A4, and the BMW 3-Series. For now, it’s the brand’s entry-level car, or at least it was before the introduction of the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA.
Either a luxury two-door coupe or a four-door sedan, the C-Class will soon be built in the U.S. Mercedes is planning to upsize the line and to begin building it at a newly expanded assembly plant in Alabama for the 2015 model year.
See our 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
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.
The second generation of the car was launched in 2000 and adopted a more daring design dominated by curved surfaces. One year later a new three-door hatchback variant dubbed the C-Class Sportcoupe was launched but poor sales, brought about by its relatively expensive pricetag, saw the model removed from the automaker’s U.S. lineup in 2005. Despite its failure in the U.S., a successor to the C-Class Sportcoupe, the new CLC, was launched overseas in 2008.
The current and third generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class arrived on the market as a 2008 model, complete with a brand 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 are 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 C63 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. 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.
All C-Class models have seating for five but only four adults can comfortably fit inside. The 2015 model is expected to grow a couple of inches in wheelbase to accommodate passengers in better comfort.
For the 2013 model year few additional changes arrived, 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. Also in 2013, Mercedes-Benz replaced the former V-6 in the C300 with a 248-hp version of the new 60-degree, direct-injected, 3.5-liter V-6, and also introduced an AMG sport package. For the final 2014 model year, there's a limited-edition run of the C63 AMG dubbed the Edition 507.