With the introduction of the coupe-like CLA sedan this past year, and the GLA crossover this year, the pressure’s off on all counts. And seemingly free of its segment constraints, the C-Class has become a better car than its predecessor—in absolutely every way we can see. That’s why we give it such high ratings in all of our Overall Rating categories, and why it’s a 2015 Best Car To Buy Nominee.
While on the outside the new C-Class offers a racier, more sculpted look and softer, more rounded detailing, yet with plenty of German formality carried ahead, the interior is a different story: It’s a knockout, expressive in a way that we never would have expected of the brand in the past. The C-Class flamboyantly works the textures and colors, and confidently blasts ahead with such a unified design language that’s usually reserved for flagship models (and compromised on more affordable ones).
As always, you’ll have several important model choices to make. There’s the C300, with its new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, making 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet, and the C400, with turbocharged V-6 making 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. You can opt for all-wheel-drive versions, as well as those with the Airmatic air suspension.
Of all these, after driving much of the lineup, we’d opt for a C300 with the base (non-Airmatic suspension) and rear-wheel drive (or all-wheel drive if climate requires it). These cars ride well; the new turbo four feels as quick and flexible as any non-AMG shopper would really need; and they’re noticeably more nimble than the C400 or their predecessors (with aluminum in the hood, roof, and doors, they’re nearly 200 pounds lighter than last year’s model).
We like how Mercedes-Benz has finally purged one staple: the ‘C,’ ‘E,’ and ‘S’ transmission modes that have always been a little puzzling to some owners; instead there are new Agility Select drivin modes that bring four modes combining special settings for a host of systems like steering, transmission, and suspension—all at once and in a straghtforward way, thanks to a graphical representation, yet with the ability to customize if you want to. One tip, though: The C-Class only really wakes up as a sport sedan in the most heightened Sport+ mode; yet the more time you spend with this model, the more you’ll discover that’s not exactly the point—and more the upcoming C63 AMG’s forte.
And you no longer have to move up to the S-Class, or even the E-Class, to get some of the best active-safety features. Pretty much the entire suite is offered here, including Attention Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Parking Assist, various collision-prevention systems, and Distronic Plus active cruise control with Steering Assist (yes, it’ll actually steer to help keep you in your lane).
Among our High Gear Media editors, some still find the latest iteration of the COMAND interface to be confounding, although others think it one of the better systems. In any case, the new touch pad is a neat touch.
The only real down side we see to the new C-Class is the price tag. At around $62,000 for a well-optioned C400 we had for testing, we were reminded that there’s a lot of temptation in various appearance, comfort, and technology extras. But you can take it easy, we think, and be perfectly happy adding just a few options or packages of choice to the $39,325 C300.
Without a doubt, the new C-Class has become a more complex and multi-layered, yet more vivid vehicle. The new C-Class isn’t simple, by any means, but it’s simply wonderful.This year there are 11 nominees ranging from family sedans, crossovers, a pickup truck, and even ... in The Car Connection Polls on LockerDome