With base prices ranging from about $40,000 to about $75,000, the Mercedes C-Class lineup is extraordinarily broad in scope. But that's largely a function of powertrains, as all models have a substantial list of standard equipment, with some keen option packages open to those who want to spend more.
For 2016, the C300 sedan is priced from $39,875; with all-wheel drive, it starts at $40,875. The plug-in hybrid C350e starts at $45,490. The C450 AMG begins at $51,725. The AMG C63 is priced from $66,175 in standard trim and $74,175 in AMG C63 S trim. The starting price for the C300d hasn't been disclosed.
No matter which model you choose, the equipment offered by Mercedes-Benz is usually limited to mid-size and full-size luxury sedans. All C-Class sedans get power windows, locks, and mirrors; a power driver seat; cruise control; keyless ignition; and the COMAND interface with capacitive touch pad and a 7.0-inch display.
Highlights from the options list include navigation; leather; a power passenger seat; an in-car fragrance dispenser (like the one in the S-Class); LED headlamps; a panoramic sunroof; a head-up display; a lighting package with LED headlamps and Active Curve Illumination; a hands-free trunk closer; Nappa leather seats; AMG Performance sport seats; a Sport Package with AMG bodywork, AMG wheels, and a sport suspension, distinct from the C 450 AMG model; and on base vehicles, the Airmatic suspension.
The COMAND interface and its various pieces requires more description—and a guidebook to learn its intricate abilities and controls. A control layer atop the standard Bluetooth, AM/FM/XM, and USB inputs, the COMAND system knits together all those pieces with voice commands and touch control in a haptic mess of a system.
Where the center stack meets the console, where there’s ordinarily just a dial in other vehicles, there’s something that’s impossible to miss: a new capacitive touchpad controller, which looks a little bit like a rounded-form smartphone mounted at a slight angle. It includes hot buttons for favorites and audio features, and recognizes some gestures.
In theory, the touchpad is a very elegant solution. In execution it’s not as smooth as it might promise, most notably scrolling just isn’t as smooth as those with tablets have come to expect. There are various ways to get back to the homepage, to audio and navigation menus, and to car settings. However, after using it for a full day, COMAND is still confounding. It might feel familiar and somewhat easier to use than those who have had previous versions of the system (and the Siri EyesFree support is cool and, from what we've seen, flawless), but the menu system and lack of smooth scrolling makes BMW's iDrive feel elegant and streamlined, and highlights the effectiveness of Audi's MMI. It’s time for COMAND to evolve into something else that better matches how we today use tablets.
The salve for this open wound: the exceptional Burmester sound system, a pricey option. The matte-metallic brightwork of the Burmester in-door speaker enclosures are unmistakable. Some of us haven't been blown away by the sound of that system, but in many genres it's a blast. The typically clearer frequency separations or jazz or techno register clean and bright over its umpteen speakers.