While you might normally associate Mercedes-Benz only with lavish comfort, the 2014 C-Class sedans and coupes deliver more satisfying performance and nimbler handling than you might expect. 2012 was a year for the car, and it brought a new lineup of V-6 engines and a entry-level turbocharged four-cylinder with it.
Up at the top of the lineup stands the C 63 AMG Coupe, which can get to 60 mph in a very brisk 4.4 seconds thanks to a 451-horsepower, 443-pound-foot 6.2-liter V-8 engine. It's not all about straight-line performance, however, with a highly tuned suspension that raises the C 63's performance to something on par with the class benchmark, the BMW M3.
The C 350 gets a 302-hp version of this same smooth 3.5-liter engine, making 273 pound-feet of torque. At 5.9 seconds to 60 mph, it's quick, but not shockingly so. Like its stablemates, the rear-drive C 350 is available only with a seven-speed automatic transmission.
In the middle, the all-wheel-drive C 300 models get their motivation from a V-6 and are again offered with a seven-speed automatic. For 2013 they drop the previous engine in favor of a 248-hp version of Mercedes' new-generation 3.5-liter 60-degree V-6, which has direct injection.
With the base C 250 models you get a turbo-charged, direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. This engine is fuel-efficient and fun, and it actually feels quicker than the previous V-6 C 300 (its official 7.1 seconds to 60 mph is the same). The C250 is available only in rear-wheel drive, with a seven-speed automatic transmission changing gears.
As for the rest of the C Class models, expect the driving feel to be quite engaging, yet with the straight-line stability and refinement that distinguish most of the models in the M-B lineup. The C250, in particular, punches above its weight in this regard thanks to a lighter, more nimble feeling. C350 models feel like fast, no-compromise touring sedans or grand-touring coupes.
Despite their performance, only the C63 AMG gives up comfort in its quest to tame the twistier bits of tarmac.