The Car Connection Mercedes-Benz C Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a line of luxury compact coupes, convertibles, and sedans. The C-Class has grown, figuratively and literally, over the years and is no longer the smallest offering from Mercedes.
Today's lineup of C-Class cars includes the C300, the AMG C43, and the AMG C63, which are offered in sedan, coupe, or convertible body styles. All-wheel drive is available on the C300, and a coupe model joined the lineup in the 2016 model year, while a convertible joined in 2017. A plug-in hybrid C350e arrived in the 2018 model year, but has been dropped.
MORE: Read our 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class review
With the C-Class, Mercedes-Benz has rivals for cars that include BMW's 3-and 4-Series cars, the Audi A4 and A5, and the Cadillac ATS coupe and sedan.
For 2018, C300 cars adopted a new 9-speed automatic transmission. In 2019, the C-Class gained a new base turbo-4, a more powerful version of its V-6, and more safety equipment. In 2020, the C-Class came with more standard equipment, including a 10.3-inch display screen. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and heated seats became standard in 2021.
The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class
The latest C-Class sedan sports a new architecture, excellent interior styling and features, and advanced safety equipment, all put together in a way that creates a very charming, very good luxury sedan.
Exterior styling on the C-Class is striking, a scaled-down homage to the S-Class without being a mimic. Inside, the cabin continues themes first shown on the big S-Class with large round vents, a flowing center console, and inlaid metallic-look panels that speak to a grade of luxury higher than the C has ever had.
Two C-Class models were offered for 2015, the C300 and the C400. Initially, both came standard with the Mercedes all-wheel-drive system, but the C300 added a rear-drive variant later in the model year. A 241-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 powered the C300; the C400 got its power from a 329-hp twin-turbo V-6.
In 2015 the C-Class family added an AMG C63 sedan. Power came from a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, with output ranging from 469 hp to 503 hp.
In 2016, Mercedes replaced the C400 model with a new C450 AMG Sport, carrying a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 with 362 hp. An air suspension is standard on the C-Class, as is a 7-speed automatic transmission. Mercedes later dropped the "Sport" name from the sedan.
The cabin of the C-Class is larger than the previous generation, with more rear-seat leg room. The highlight, though, is the avant garde console that houses features like a Burmester sound system and a new touch-controlled infotainment system.
The federal government has given the C-Class excellent safety scores, including a five-star overall rating and the C-Class has myriad new safety systems, many bundled under an "Intelligent Drive" package. It includes adaptive cruise control and steering assist, a stereo-camera system that further aids lane-keeping and semi-autonomous functions, brake assist, active parking assist, and a 360-degree camera system.
Fuel-economy ratings are respectable, with the C300 posting 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined on the EPA cycle.
A plug-in hybrid version of the C-Class, dubbed C350e Plug-In Hybrid, is on the horizon. It combines a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with a hybridized 7-speed automatic transmission for total system output of 275 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. It can drive for 20 miles on electric power and should return impressive fuel economy. The system is related to that in the S550 Plug-In Hybrid and offers many of the same fuel-saving technologies and tricks.
In 2017, a convertible model joined the fray and mirrored the sedan and coupe in trim availability and powertrain configuration. The C450 AMG was renamed (again) to the Mercedes-AMG C43, and its 7-speed autobox was swapped out for a 9-speed unit.
In 2019 a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 arrived, with 255 hp, while the C43's twin-turbo V-6 cranked power up to 385 hp. The C-Class' adaptive safety systems gained more features including active lane-change assist and active blind-spot monitors with steering assist. An optional 10.3-inch display improved on the base 7.0-inch screen, which was discontinued for 2020 models in favor of the larger, clearer screen. .
Since 2015, C-Class sedans are built in the company's plant in Vance, Alabama, while coupes are manufactured in Germany.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class history
The C-Class luxury sedan replaced the former Mercedes 190E in American showrooms in the 1994 model year. The first generation of the C-Class was a conventional sedan with relatively safe styling and a range of economical four- and six-cylinder engines. Of course, there was also a V-8 engine used in a high-performance AMG variant, but few cars were imported to the U.S.
Mercedes launched its second-generation C-Class in 2000. The car's design went curvy, a daring departure from the boxy first attempt, but something more in lime with the brand's designs of the day. A year after the sedan, a C-Class SportCoupe (really a three-door hatchback) debuted. It didn't sell well, in part due to price and also because of its odd silhouette; it left the U.S. lineup in 2005. Mercedes created a follow-up hatch coupe called CLC, which was launched overseas for 2008.
The third generation of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class arrived on the market as a 2008 model, on a new platform, upmarket styling derived from the bigger S-Class and new levels of quality and refinement. Most notably, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class set two distinct styles, with separate Luxury and Sport models that catered to different types of C-Class buyers (Sport models were our favorites, as they have better performance, and ride quality doesn't suffer).
No major changes were implemented from then through 2011, with recent model years offering the choice of two V-6 engines—a 228-hp, 3.0-liter unit and a 268-hp, 3.5-liter engine, as well as a 451-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 in the high-performance AMG C 63 model.
The 2012 model year marked a significant change for the C-Class. In addition to a light facelift inside and out, a new C250 model was introduced, with a fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood. The C300 continued with 228 hp, while C350 models gained a new 302-hp, 3.5-liter 60-degree V-6. Also, a new Coupe model joined the range, as did the brilliant C63 AMG Coupe, with its 457-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 and 186-mph top speed.
For the 2013 and 2014 model years, few changes were made, although Mercedes-Benz packed in a new telematics system, with emergency assistance, destination planning, a smartphone app, a suite of in-car apps, and new controls for teen drivers or valet parking. For the final 2014 model year of the sedan, Mercedes offered a limited-edition run of the C63 AMG dubbed the Edition 507.