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BMW 3-Series Vs. Mercedes-Benz C Class: Compare Cars

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BMW 3-Series Vs. Mercedes-Benz C Class

BMW 3-Series Vs. Mercedes-Benz C Class

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Among compact luxury sport sedans, reputation matters. And two of the titans of the class, with the best name recognition are the Mercedes-Benz C Class and the BMW 3-Series.

Perennially near (or at) the top of their segment, both sedans offer fresh styling and modern, sophisticated interiors. Both have recently been redesigned or heavily revised, and both offer new four-cylinder turbocharged engines in their entry-level versions for improved fuel economy. That's not unprecedented for either brand, but a bold move in the modern luxury marketplace.

Despite the higher gas mileage, however, the new turbo fours don't give up much--if anything--in terms of performance to the six-cylinder models they replace. The C Class uses a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder in C250 trim, rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. The 328i is a bit punchier, with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque on tap from its 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected engine; although the BMW 320i, with its 200-hp version of the same engine, will be a more even match to the C250.

While the C Class is less powerful and less sporty, it's the 3-Series that's more fuel efficient, scoring 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway to the C Class's 21/31 mpg rating. Both models also offer power upgrades to more potent six-cylinder engines, as well as motorsports-inspired AMG and M Division variants. The C Class offers a pair of V-6 models, the C300 and C350, though the C300 is only offered in all-wheel drive sedan trim. The C350 is the more varied choice, with 302 horsepower and 20/29 mpg city/highway rating. BMW's 335i offers an upgrade to a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder from the 328i's turbo four, bringing power to 300 horsepower and delivering up to 23 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

It's not all about power or fuel efficiency, however, in the luxury sedan class. Handling, ride quality, comfort, and features all play into the mix. Here the race is closer, with both cars delivering very well-built cabins wrapped in--mostly--quality materials. Both make some compromises for their price point in terms of plastics and controls, but both also do so better than all but a select few of the competition, notably Audi's A4.

Space and comfort are very good in the front seats of both the C Class and the 3-Series, though the redesigned 3-Series gains an extra inch of wheelbase mostly dedicated to rear-seat legroom--a much needed upgrade in this relatively compact class. Accordingly, it just edges out the C Class, which has a typically compressed rear-passenger experience.

On the technology front, both C Class and 3-Series offer many of the latest innovations, including telematics services, voice controls, and navigation/infotainment systems. Mercedes' COMAND system sometimes comes off a half-step behind being fully modern, however, with a slightly clunky interface despite packing many features inside. BMW's once-confusing iDrive, on the other hand, is slick and polished--and adds BMW Apps functionality for smartphone integration with music and social media apps as well as the standard multimedia you'd expect.

Safety-wise, these two models are also neck-and-neck. Both models earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick award, as well as top five-star overall scores from the federal government, but they fail to achieve a five in every category (both get four stars in side impact). However, the new 3-Series has some features more advanced than those in the mid-life C Class--features like wide-angle and birds-eye cameras for reversing, plus Active Blind Spot Detection and a Lane Departure Warning system, among other options.

While the numbers add up in the BMW 3-Series' favor, it may be hard for some to compare the two cars so coldly; they differ immensely in exterior and interior style, in ride and handling, and in the general atmosphere of the cabin. For those looking for luxury with a strong dash of performance, the 3-Series is a top choice, while those with more of an eye toward relaxed, luxurious comfort may prefer the C Class. At the same time, each of these models are offered in a vast range of trim and interior possibilities, giving you a chance to make them uniquely yours: warm or austere, sporty or plush.

One final footnote: If you're not finding quite what you want, a completely new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will arrive later this year, with a more flamboyant design, more interior space, and a much more technologically forward cabin.


2014 BMW 3-Series 2014 Mercedes-Benz C Class
2014 BMW 3-Series Gran Turismo 2013 Mercedes-Benz C Class Sedan
TCC Rating
8.4 The 2014 BMW 3-Series retains its sporting heritage, but has grown to become a high-tech, spacious, comfortable, and safe range of vehicles. 8.2 For those who have a want a value-oriented car that projects the right image, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz C-Class makes a lot of sense.
8The BMW 3-Series sedan and wagon have a trim, athletic look, while the all-new Gran Turismo is a new creation with essentially the same building blocks. Read more8The C-Class wears a suit full of flair, but the interior's a more sedate environment. Read more
9No matter which model of the 3-Series you go with, confident handling and dynamic excellent are a given. Read more8Choose your C-Class in Sport trim and it shows signs of handling life; it's a full-bore sports sedan as a C63 AMG. Read more
8The 2014 BMW 3-Series sedan is refined and comfortable, while the wagon and Gran Turismo are active-family material. Read more8The C-Class has a substantial feel, but its back seat is still on the skimpy side. Read more
8The 3-Series models come equipped with some useful active-safety features; and crash-test ratings are decent. Read more9Active-safety features are the newest options on the C-Class, which earns solid crash-test ratings. Read more
9Prices can hit breathtaking levels--even without some key features--but the positive is that you can build the car you want. Read more8Smartphone connectivity's a part of the Mercedes C-Class suite of features, but there's walnut trim, too. Read more
7The 3-Series is an unheralded green option for sport-sedan buyers--and it even includes a hybrid model now. Read more6The C63 AMG is a confessed gasoholic, but four-cylinder C-Class sedans and coupes earn respectable EPA ratings. Read more
from $32,750 from $35,800
from $30,130 from $33,294
Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway
28 25
Front Leg Room (in)
42 41.7
Second Leg Room (in)
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Read Full Specs
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