2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 20, 2009

For the price, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers sportiness, luxury, safety, and creature comforts in an attractive package.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Mercedes-Benz C-Class for this firsthand set of driving impressions. Editors have also compiled opinions from other respected reviewers to bring you a comprehensive look at the new C-Class. Finally, editors also compared the C-Class to other compact luxury sedans to point out how competitors may offer superior styling, performance, features, utility, or safety.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the company's smallest sedan and one of a trio of German four-doors that comes in an almost bewildering array of powertrains and body styles-at least, overseas. Here in the United States, the C-Class comes just as a sedan and in two primary performance versions, with the wild Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG in a whole other realm (and reviewed separately by TheCarConnection.com). At a base price of $34,475, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has many rivals in luxury and in sport, but it's challenged most directly by the Audi A4, the BMW 3-Series, the Lexus IS, the Infiniti G37, and the Cadillac CTS.

A single body style has two subtly different flavors in the 2010 C-Class. There's a Luxury version, with the familiar Mercedes-Benz grille and a three-pointed star for a hood ornament. The Sport model forgoes the ornamentation for a flat badge on the grille, which is styled differently as well. Both have a somewhat busy exterior shape, with an arc rising from the front end and tapering to the rear. The theme is more dramatic and edgier than the former C-Class, and it's a larger car that looks more expressive and imposing when it's on the road. Inside, the C-Class has a well-organized cabin with large and clear gauges, distinctive-looking door panels, and an audio system that's a little too overwrought with identical black buttons. Somewhat awkwardly, the audio and navigation display is tucked behind a hinged dash panel that sits up while the screen's in use. The Sport wears a three-spoke steering wheel and either matte aluminum, burled walnut, or black maple dash trim in sparing amounts, and it has more drab plastic than the Luxury, which dons burled walnut, chrome, and a four-spoke wheel.

Two V-6 engines provide the C-Class' power. The 2010 C300 offers up a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, while the C350 Sport antes up a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. The C300 has a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic, but the C350 can only be had with the automatic. The two V-6 engines are fairly similar in performance, but the C350's added power is noticeable under full-throttle acceleration and in more sporting driving. Mercedes-Benz quotes a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds for the C300, and 6.1 seconds for the C350; both are rated at a 130-mph top speed. TheCarConnection.com's editors haven't experienced the manual-transmission C-Class; the far more common seven-speed automatic shifts cleanly and offers a manual-shift mode for more engaged drivers, but it can feel slow to respond. The C-Class range is primarily rear-wheel drive, but the C300 can be ordered with 4Matic all-wheel drive, which is set with a 45:55 rear torque bias and shifts more torque to the front wheels as the rears begin to slip. Fuel economy checks in at 18/26 mpg for the C300 Luxury and the C300 Sport with the manual transmission; it's 18/25 mpg for the Luxury AWD and the Sport automatic. The C350 is rated at 17/25 mpg.

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Handling in this generation of C-Class is greatly improved, and Sport models are ever closer to the standard set by BMW. All C-Class sedans have an Agility Control suspension, which uses mechanical switches to change suspension tautness and reduce body motion, while still giving the C-Class a well-controlled ride. The same Sport/Comfort button that speeds up gearchanges and throttle response feeds more feel into the steering and stiffens the suspension. Even so, steering response is quicker in this new C-Class than in former versions, but it's not quite as direct as BMW's 3-Series. The Sport versions are highly recommended, because the ride quality doesn't suffer much at all for its more aggressive cant; the Sport sedan also gets bigger wheels and brakes, as well as a dual exhaust to go with its lower, more tightly sprung suspension. For 2010, Mercedes-Benz adds a Dynamic Handling Package to the rear-drive Sport sedans; it fits the suspension with electronically controlled shocks, even faster steering, and AMG 18-inch wheels.

Front-seat passengers have plenty of room and wide, flat-bottomed seats at their disposal. The driving position in the 2010 C-Class is quite good, between the telescoping steering wheel, the power driver seat, and the car's tall, glassy cabin. The rear seats still are a significant drawback for full-sized adults, though. Average frames will have enough headroom to be comfortable; taller adults will lean over to fit in, and all rear passengers will find legroom at a premium, even when the front passengers inch forward. The trunk is a little small for its class at 12.4 cubic feet, but interior storage has been bumped up to first class, with a big console, cup holders, door pockets, and a sizable glove box. And aside from some middling trim in the base car, the C-Class's fit and finish benefit from fewer pieces, fewer cutlines, and simpler styling. Both the Sport and the Luxury C-Class models have quiet cabins with good isolation from the road, although you hear the engine when accelerating.

Both NHTSA and the IIHS have tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the results fall a bit shy of what TheCarConnection.com has come to expect from the brand. The federal agency gives it a four-star grade for frontal protection, but five-star ratings in side impact. The IIHS, conversely, calls the C-Class "good" for front-impact protection, but hasn't tested its side-impact strength. All models come equipped with dual front, side, curtain and pelvic airbags, and they offer a rearview camera and rear-seat side airbags.
The 2010 C-Class equipment list leaves few major options on the table. All C-Class sedans come to the United States with Bluetooth connectivity; a power sunroof; dual-zone climate control; power windows/locks/mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; power front seats; and cruise control. Optional equipment includes a voice-activated navigation system; Sirius Satellite Radio; a 4GB music hard drive; a media interface for iPods and other MP3 players; a DVD entertainment system; a panoramic sunroof; heated seats; xenon headlamps; a keyless ignition system; trunk- or roof-mounted spoilers; and power lumbar adjustments for the seats.

8

2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Styling

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class goes for more of a styling edge, and tweaks its look for luxury and sport buyers-successfully, according to experts.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the company's smallest sedan, one of a trio of German four-doors that comes in an almost bewildering array of powertrains and body styles-at least, overseas. Here in the United States, the C-Class comes just as a sedan and in two primary performance versions, with the wild Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG in a whole other realm (and reviewed separately by TheCarConnection.com).

A single body style has two subtly different flavors in the 2010 C-Class. Car and Driver says the C-Class has "a look that says Mercedes in any language, conferring undeniable status on its owner." The theme is more dramatic and edgier than the former C-Class, and it's a larger car that looks more expressive and imposing when it's on the road. Kelley Blue Book describes it as "eye-catching" and "cutting edge," while noting "the longer wheelbase and body give the car a substantial road presence." There's a Luxury version, with the familiar Mercedes-Benz grille and a three-pointed star for a hood ornament. Cars.com finds the Mercedes-Benz C-Class has a "cleaner, more jagged appearance," one that "looks much like the redesigned S-Class." The Sport model forgoes the ornamentation for a flat badge on the grille, which is styled differently as well. Both have a somewhat busy exterior shape, with an arc rising from the front end and tapering to the rear. Aside from the wholly different front ends, MotherProof points out "more subtle differences in styling include unique side molding and wheels for each model."

Inside, the C-Class has a well-organized cabin with large and clear gauges, distinctive-looking door panels, and an audio system that's a little too overwrought with identical black buttons. Cars.com loves the "simple, purposeful and uncluttered" cabin design, which is complemented by either wood or aluminum accents, "both of which enhance the interior." Somewhat awkwardly, the audio and navigation display is tucked behind a hinged dash panel that sits up while the screen's in use. Kelley Blue Book points out other foibles: "a few oddities stand out, namely the awkward placement of the manual lumbar control," along with somewhat confusing, "less-than-intuitive steering-wheel controls." The Sport wears a three-spoke steering wheel and either matte aluminum, burled walnut, or black maple dash trim in sparing amounts, and it has more drab plastic than the Luxury, which dons burled walnut, chrome, and a four-spoke wheel. Edmunds deems the interior "well-crafted," but it can "come off as a little austere and a bit bland."

8

2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Performance

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class tunes up its handling, and V-6 power is ample, if not up to that of the fastest four-doors in the class.

The 2010 C-Class is aimed at two audiences, but in Sport form it approaches the BMW 3-Series for that elusive perfect blend of handling and ride.

Two V-6 engines provide the C-Class' power. The 2010 C300 offers up a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, while the C350 Sport antes up a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. The two V-6 engines are fairly similar in performance-ConsumerGuide comments that the "C300 models provide good acceleration" in all driving conditions-but the C350's added power is noticeable under full-throttle acceleration and in more sporting driving. Mercedes-Benz quotes a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds for the C300, and 6.1 seconds for the C350; both are rated at a 130-mph top speed. Edmunds thinks the new C-Class models "are no quicker than the cars they replace" and calls performance estimates "somewhat optimistic." ConsumerGuide says they're "credible," though, and reports the performance "is stronger at all speeds, particularly in highway passing." Car and Driver adds the C350 is "powerful enough to make short work of tight passing situations as well as sorting out everyday traffic."

The C300 has a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic, but the C350 can only be had with the automatic. TheCarConnection.com's editors haven't experienced the manual-transmission C-Class; Kelley Blue Book muses that it "brings out the C300's playful side." The far more common seven-speed automatic shifts cleanly and offers a manual-shift mode for more engaged drivers, but it can feel slow to respond. Car and Driver says it's "milkshake smooth in full auto mode, with ratios well matched to the engine's broad torque band." Kelley Blue Book thinks the manual mode's a waste: "slow-to-come shift points make it more enjoyable to just leave the lever in the 'D' position." ConsumerGuide observes the "automatic transmission operates smoothly but can be slow to downshift for more power" and "slow to respond to manual shift inputs."

Fuel economy checks in at 18/26 mpg for the C300 Luxury and the C300 Sport with the manual transmission; it's 18/25 mpg for the Luxury AWD and for the Sport automatic. The C350 is rated at 17/25 mpg. The C-Class range is primarily rear-wheel drive, but the C300 can be ordered with 4Matic all-wheel drive, which is set with a 45:55 rear torque bias and shifts more torque to the front wheels as the rears begin to slip.

Handling in this generation of C-Class has improved greatly, and Sport models are ever closer to the standard set by BMW. Edmunds offers high praise: "this C-Class comes closer to the vaunted BMW 3 Series than ever before," thanks to its "substantially revised chassis." ConsumerGuide mentions the "surefooted aplomb and little body lean" the C-Class exhibits when cornering. All C-Class sedans have an Agility Control suspension, which uses mechanical switches to change suspension tautness and reduce body motion, while still giving the C-Class a well-controlled ride. "Despite its sportier character," Edmunds observes, "the C-Class is never harsh on the road." The same Sport/Comfort button that speeds up gearchanges and throttle response feeds more feel into the steering and stiffens the suspension. Even so, steering response is quicker in this new C-Class than in former versions, but it's not quite as direct as BMW's 3-Series. Cars.com agrees, claiming the "new C-Class offers a nice blend of ride comfort and handling performance," though "brake pedal feel is average."

The Sport versions are highly recommended by TheCarConnection.com, because the ride quality doesn't suffer much at all for its more aggressive tuning. The Sport sedan also gets bigger wheels and brakes, as well as a dual exhaust to go with its lower, more tightly sprung suspension. And for 2010, Mercedes-Benz is adding a "Dynamic Handling Package" to the rear-drive Sport sedans; it fits the suspension with electronically controlled shocks, even faster steering, and AMG 18-inch wheels.

7

2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Comfort & Quality

The C-Class trades backseat space for front-seat comfort and a well-finished, quiet cabin.

Front passengers ride in comfort in the 2010 C-Class-and rear passengers are fine, so long as they're small.

Front-seat passengers in the Benz C-Class have plenty of room and wide, flat-bottomed seats at their disposal. The driving position is quite good, between the telescoping steering wheel, the power driver seat, and the car's tall, glassy cabin. ConsumerGuide deems the seats "supportive and comfortable" and says "even taller folks should find adequate headroom and legroom." Cars.com agrees; "it's easy to find a comfortable driving position," they report, thanks to a front cabin that "doesn't have the cramped feel of the 3 Series sedan."

The rear seats still are a significant drawback for full-sized adults, though. Average frames will have enough headroom to be comfortable; taller adults will lean over to fit in, and all rear passengers will find legroom at a premium, even when the front passengers inch forward. Edmunds feels that although the interior is larger, it is simply "not very spacious" in back. Cars.com adds that the "three-place rear seat is on the smallish side, with limited legroom and headroom."

The trunk is a little small for its class at 12.4 cubic feet, but interior storage has been bumped up to first class, with a big console, cup holders, door pockets, and a sizable glove box. Storage space, especially in the trunk, is adequate. Edmunds observes the trunk "can be expanded with the optional split-folding rear seats." ConsumerGuide feels that "the trunk is narrow," but the overall "area is quite deep and nicely trimmed." ConsumerGuide asserts "interior storage is adequate at best with a somewhat skimpy center console, two open console cupholders, and a decent-sized glovebox."

Aside from some middling trim in the base car, the C-Class's fit and finish benefit from fewer pieces, fewer cutlines, and simpler styling. ConsumerGuide raves about the "nicely padded surfaces and upscale trim," and Kelley Blue Book mentions the "tasteful wood inlays" that "surround the cabin." Edmunds judges the interior to be "beautifully crafted" and reports "excellent build quality."
Both the Sport and the Luxury C-Class models have quiet cabins with good isolation from the road, although you hear the engine when accelerating. ConsumerGuide praises the "level of serene isolation" that "few in the class can provide." Edmunds also gives a nod to the "more serene driving environment" and points out the Luxury model has a "quieter exhaust system" than the Sport.

8

2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Safety

A good safety performer in a great-performing family, the 2010 C-Class comes up a bit short in crash-test scores.

While still a good crash-test performer, the 2010 C-Class is a notch below expectations for safety.

Both NHTSA and the IIHS have tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and the results fall a bit shy of what TheCarConnection.com has come to expect from the brand. The federal agency gives it a four-star grade for frontal protection, but five-star ratings in side impact. The IIHS, conversely, calls the C-Class "good" for front-impact protection, but hasn't tested its side-impact strength.

All models come equipped with dual front, side, curtain, and pelvic airbags, and they offer a rearview camera and rear-seat side airbags. Edmunds says that the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes with "a full load of standard safety equipment, including front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags," and a convenient "brake drying" system that activates automatically when the windshield wipers start up. MotherProof reviewers devote significant space to listing the "safety highlights of the C-Class," which "include a standard electronic stability system, active head restraints," and "adaptive braking that can tell the difference between a regular stop and a panic stop."

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class gives ample visibility to drivers and passengers alike. Car and Driver raves about the "outstanding forward sightlines," and ConsumerGuide attests "there's little problem seeing around the tall but narrow front headrests and slender rear roof pillars."

9

2010 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Features

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class entertains drivers with options unrelated to performance-but relies on a complex controller for navigation.

The 2010 C-Class equipment list leaves few major options on the table.
All C-Class sedans come to the United States with Bluetooth connectivity; a power sunroof; dual-zone climate control; power windows/locks/mirrors; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; power front seats; and cruise control. Kelley Blue Book mentions both "a motorized LCD display" and "dual-zone automatic climate control." ConsumerGuide lists other impressive standard features to be a "power sunroof, AM/FM/weatherband/CD/MP3 player, digital-media player connection, satellite radio," and a Bluetooth "wireless cell phone link."
Optional equipment includes a voice-activated navigation system with a COMAND controller wheel; Sirius Satellite Radio; a 4GB music hard drive; a media interface for iPods and other MP3 players; a DVD entertainment system; a panoramic sunroof; heated seats; xenon headlamps; a keyless ignition system; trunk- or roof-mounted spoilers; and power lumbar adjustments for the seats. Kelley Blue Book notes that "optional on the C300 are auto-dimming power folding side mirrors, heated front seats, SIRIUS Satellite Radio," and "rain-sensing wipers."
Cars.com mentions the "impressive Harman Kardon six-CD/DVD surround sound system," but is slightly put off by having to pay "extra for folding seats," an optional feature on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class that they say is "standard in the least-expensive of cars." Edmunds raves the multimedia package transforms the C-Class "into a mobile sound studio-and movie theater. A built-in hard-drive not only powers the navigation system, it can also store up to 4GB." Even more unusual is the fact that on Mercedes-Benz's 2010 C-Class, "with the car in park, the car can also play DVDs through the pop-up LCD screen and superb Logic 7 surround-sound system," according to Edmunds. The pop-up screen is somewhat atypical; when it's not installed, the radio LCD screen sits in the same position, behind a pop-up cover that looks a little out of place in a $40,000 sedan.

As for the audio and navigation controller, Edmunds reports the latest version of COMAND "combines physical dash buttons with a mouselike controller" to give the driver access to functions without shifting eyes from the road. But while ConsumerGuide compliments the C-Class' "clearly marked buttons" for the climate controls, they feel that "audio controls are more complicated" and "the navigation system itself is difficult to use, with many controls buried in a series of menus and submenus."

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