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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
C350 is stronger at all speeds, particularly in highway passing
Substantially revised chassis has dramatically improved the steering's precision and feel
Delivers a blend of firm autobahn ride and willing response
Car and Driver
Seven gears means more time at the power peak
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers typically tight European handling, but its power isn't the most inspiring.
Just as the exterior styling of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in two distinct flavors, denoted by the Sport and Luxury monikers, there are two distinct choices for what sort of engine you'd like under the hood of your C-Class. Cars.com writes, "a 3.0-liter V-6 engine powers the C300, while the C350 gets a 3.5-liter V-6." In terms of power numbers, Edmunds offers some help, stating that the 3.0-liter in the C300 "produces 228 hp and 221 pound-feet of torque," while the larger 3.5-liter version in the C350 "makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque." Driving impressions understandably vary when there is a 40-horsepower disparity between the two options, but for those who have driven the outgoing C-Class model, Edmunds notes that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 editions "are no quicker than the cars they replace." ConsumerGuide comments that the "C300 models provide good acceleration" in all driving conditions, but they find that the Mercedes-Benz's 2008 estimate of 7.1 seconds from 0-60 to be "somewhat optimistic." When it comes to the more powerful C350, ConsumerGuide reviewers feel that it "is stronger at all speeds, particularly in highway passing," and the Mercedes-estimated 6.1 seconds from 0-60 seems "credible." Car and Driver adds that the C350 is "powerful enough to make short work of tight passing situations as well as sorting out everyday traffic.”
Transmission options on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vary depending on which engine is under the hood. Car and Driver writes that C350, available only in Sport trim, is exclusively "mated to Benz's seven-speed automatic transmission," while the C300 has a "six-speed manual" as standard equipment, with the seven-speed automatic available as an option. On either version of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Kelley Blue Book notes that the seven-speed automatic "offers a manual shift feature." Reviews of the seven-speed automatic are mixed, with Consumer Guide claiming that the "automatic transmission operates smoothly but can be slow to downshift for more power" and "slow to respond to manual shift inputs." Kelley Blue Book agrees, saying that the "slow-to-come shift points make it more enjoyable to just leave the lever in the 'D' position." Taking a different view is Car and Driver, which finds the automatic transmission to be "milkshake smooth in full auto mode, with ratios well matched to the engine's broad torque band." The six-speed manual receives somewhat nicer treatment, with Kelley Blue Book musing "the six-speed manual transmission brings out the C300's playful side." Also worth a mention is the optional all-wheel-drive feature on the C300.
Despite a usually thrifty V-6 arrangement, the heavy curb weight of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class limits fuel economy, and the premium fuel requirement can eat into fuel budgets quickly. The EPA estimates that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 C-Class in C300 trim will return 18/26 mpg with the manual transmission and 18/25 mpg as an automatic. The automatic C350 features only a minor drop in fuel economy, to an EPA-estimated 17/25 mpg.
One of the strengths of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is its road handling. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously praise the handling of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with ConsumerGuide leading the way by mentioning the "surefooted aplomb and little body lean" that the C-Class exhibits when cornering. Edmunds offers high praise: "this C-Class comes closer to the vaunted BMW 3 Series than ever before," thanks to its "substantially revised chassis." While many vehicles sacrifice ride quality for improved handling, Edmunds feels that the C-Class is an exception, as they find that "despite its sportier character, the C-Class is never harsh on the road." Cars.com agrees, claiming that the "new C-Class offers a nice blend of ride comfort and handling performance," though "brake pedal feel is average."
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class handles well, while power is sufficient and fuel economy average.