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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
powerful enough to make short work of tight passing situations
Car and Driver
surefooted aplomb and little body lean
Seven gears means more time at the power peak
Substantially revised chassis has dramatically improved the steering's precision and feel
Mercedes-Benz's compact sedan almost always takes second place to BMW with regard to performance, but in Sport or AMG trim, the 2009 C-Class is surprisingly competitive.
Road holding is one of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class strengths. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously praise the handling of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. 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 the C-Class is an exception; they find that "despite its sportier character, the C-Class is never harsh on the road." Cars.com agrees, claiming the "new C-Class offers a nice blend of ride comfort and handling performance," though "brake pedal feel is average." ConsumerGuide mentions the "surefooted aplomb and little body lean" the C-Class exhibits when cornering.
As with the selection between the Luxury and Sport models, there's a choice to be made when it comes to engines. According to Cars.com, "a 3.0-liter V-6 engine powers the C300, while the C350 gets a 3.5-liter V-6." Regarding the power of the two motors, Edmunds states 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." For those who have driven older C-Class models, Edmunds notes that Mercedes-Benz's 2009 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 the Mercedes-Benz's 2009 estimate of 7.1 seconds from 0-60 to be "somewhat optimistic." When it comes to the more powerful C350, ConsumerGuide reviewers feel 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.”
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class also offers different transmissions depending on which engine is under the hood. Reviews of the seven-speed automatic are mixed, with Kelley Blue Book 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." Car and Driver reports 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 and 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." ConsumerGuide claims that the "automatic transmission operates smoothly but can be slow to downshift for more power" and "slow to respond to manual shift inputs." Also worth a mention is the optional all-wheel-drive feature on the C300.
The EPA estimates that Mercedes-Benz's 2009 C-Class in C300 trim will return 18 mpg city, 26 highway 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. Despite a usually thrifty V-6 arrangement, the heavy curb weight of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class limits fuel economy, and the premium fuel requirement can eat into fuel budgets quickly.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers typically tight European handling, but unless you choose the over-the-top AMG version, its power isn't the most inspiring.