- Choice of two distinct looks
- Smooth, responsive V-6 engines
- Sport model takes on the BMW 3-Series
- Good ride comfort and quiet cabin
- Standard Bluetooth
- Lacks backseat legroom
- Base instrument panel plastics look drab
- Steering isn’t very communicative
More sport, more luxury, and more features for the money make the new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class a more attractive possibility.
The compact C-Class is the least-expensive model--and the smallest sedan--in Mercedes-Benz's U.S. lineup, and it's been completely redesigned for the 2008 model year. Most notably, the new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sets two distinct styles, with separate Luxury and Sport models that cater to different types of C-Class buyers.
The two models can be distinguished from afar, from the front especially, due to their very different front-end treatments. The Luxury follows tradition with the familiar chrome grille and three-pointed-star hood ornament; the Sport takes a new tack, with no hood ornament but rather a body-color, straked grille, and a large emblem in the middle of the grille. Inside, the two models have different trim (chrome and burl walnut wood for the Luxury, matte-aluminum or maple wood on the Sport), although the plastics used in the base Sport look somewhat drab. The Sport also gets a lowered, sport-tuned suspension, larger wheels, a sport braking system, and dual exhaust.
Two different V-6 engines are offered on the C-Class line--with model designations made accordingly. The C300 comes with a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6, while the C350 gets a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. The C300 has a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic, but the C350 can only be had with the automatic. The C300 models are available with 4Matic all-wheel drive, a full-time system that reverts to sending 55 percent of power to the rear wheels when more isn't needed at a particular wheel.
At the top of the range is the exclusive C63 AMG (covered separately by TheCarConnection.com), which adds a 451-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-8 engine along with loads of performance equipment, including a sport suspension, Z-rated performance tires, bigger brakes, a sport exhaust, special AMG heated sport seats, a race timer, and plenty of additional appearance upgrades.
The two V-6 engines aren't that different from each other in normal driving, but the additional performance of the C350 is only noticeably during full-throttle acceleration or the most demanding mountain roads. The seven-speed automatic shifts smoothly, whether using the manual mode or not, and it downshifts quickly and decisively when needed.
The C-Class has a very well-controlled ride and stays flat in corners, with much crisper steering response than the former C-Class sedans--thanks in part to a quicker steering ratio. The steering isn't quite as direct in feel, though. A new so-called Agility Control suspension helps by mechanically adjusting damper settings to reduce body motion during spirited driving and sudden maneuvers, without a sacrifice in ride comfort.
Of the two models, the Sport allows better handling without any significant decrease in ride quality. In both models, the C-Class cabin stays quiet, with good isolation from the road, although you hear the engine when accelerating.
The C-Class's backseat is its single most significant weakness. Headroom is just adequate for average adults, but legroom is very tight, and unless the front seats are pulled far forward, most will not find it comfortable.
A twin-panel Panorama sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and Bluetooth are now standard on all models, including the base Luxury. Options have been streamlined into major packages and include heated seats, a rear sunshade, bi-xenon headlamps, and a lighting system with corner-illuminating fog lamps. An available entertainment system bring 4GB of music storage and accepts music on memory cards; there's also a DVD entertainment system and a voice-activated navigation system with a convenient pop-up display screen.
All C-Class models include dual front-side airbags and side-curtain bags, plus electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes. Crash-test performance in the federal government's program is somewhat disappointing for a vehicle from a brand that's known for such high safety standards, with four-star results in frontal protection but five-star ratings in side impact. The IIHS rated the C-Class "good" in frontal impact but didn't test it in other areas.
2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Handsome on the outside, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is less universally pleasing inside.
At Mercedes-Benz, 2008 brings an all-new C-Class that is characterized by two distinct looks: Sport and Luxury.
Cars.com finds the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has a "cleaner, more jagged appearance," one that "looks much like the redesigned S-Class." Kelley Blue Book describes the exterior of the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class as "eye-catching" and "cutting edge," while noting "the longer wheelbase and body give the car a substantial road presence." Overall, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree that the new Mercedes-Benz's 2008 redesign of the C-Class is a resounding stylistic success. Perhaps the biggest affirmation of this sentiment comes from Car and Driver, where reviewers feel that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class maintains "a look that says Mercedes in any language, conferring undeniable status on its owner."
Two trims are offered: Sport and Luxury. The Luxury follows tradition with the familiar chrome grille and three-pointed-star hood ornament; the Sport takes a new tack, with no hood ornament but rather a body-color, straked grille, and a large emblem in the middle of the grille. ForbesAutos writes that the distinctions between the two include "slightly racier exterior styling" on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport, "as well as a big, three-pointed Mercedes-Benz star in the grille, in place of the traditional, stand-up hood ornament." Aside from the wholly different front ends, Mother Proof points out "more subtle differences in styling include unique side molding and wheels for each model."
Inside, the two models have different trim (chrome and burl walnut wood for the Luxury, matte-aluminum or maple wood on the Sport), although the plastics used in the base Sport look somewhat drab. In both cases, reviewers greeted the new C-Class with decidedly less enthusiasm than the exterior. Edmunds finds that although the interior is "well-crafted," it also can "come off as a little austere and a bit bland." Kelley Blue Book contributes minor criticisms, remarking that "a few oddities stand out, namely the awkward placement of the manual lumbar control," along with somewhat confusing, "less-than-intuitive steering-wheel controls." On the positive side, reviewers at Cars.com love the "simple, purposeful and uncluttered" cabin design, which is complemented by either wood or aluminum accents, "both of which enhance the interior."
2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class handles well, while power is sufficient and fuel economy average.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers typically tight European handling, but its power isn't the most inspiring.
Just as the exterior styling of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in two distinct flavors, denoted by the Sport and Luxury monikers, there are two distinct choices for what sort of engine you'd like under the hood of your C-Class. Cars.com writes, "a 3.0-liter V-6 engine powers the C300, while the C350 gets a 3.5-liter V-6." In terms of power numbers, Edmunds offers some help, stating 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." Driving impressions understandably vary when there is a 40-horsepower disparity between the two options, but for those who have driven the outgoing C-Class model, Edmunds notes that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 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 that the Mercedes-Benz's 2008 estimate of 7.1 seconds from 0-60 to be "somewhat optimistic." When it comes to the more powerful C350, ConsumerGuide reviewers feel that 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.”
Transmission options on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vary depending on which engine is under the hood. Car and Driver writes 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, with 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." Reviews of the seven-speed automatic are mixed, with Consumer Guide claiming that the "automatic transmission operates smoothly but can be slow to downshift for more power" and "slow to respond to manual shift inputs." Kelley Blue Book agrees, 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." Also worth a mention is the optional all-wheel-drive feature on the C300.
Despite a usually thrifty V-6 arrangement, the heavy curb weight of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class limits fuel economy, and the premium fuel requirement can eat into fuel budgets quickly. The EPA estimates that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 C-Class in C300 trim will return 18/26 mpg 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.
One of the strengths of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is its road handling. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously praise the handling of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, with ConsumerGuide leading the way by mentioning the "surefooted aplomb and little body lean" that the C-Class exhibits when cornering. 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 that the C-Class is an exception, as they find that "despite its sportier character, the C-Class is never harsh on the road." Cars.com agrees, claiming that the "new C-Class offers a nice blend of ride comfort and handling performance," though "brake pedal feel is average."
2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
Comfort & Quality
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers exceptional build quality and a quiet ride, but comfort on longer drives or in the backseat remains an issue.
As an entry-level luxury sedan, sacrifices must be made somewhere on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class when compared to its bigger brothers, and comfort is the area where these compromises are most noticeable. However, for the C-Class from Mercedes-Benz, 2008 brings some decided improvements over the outgoing model.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has seatbelts for five, but the chances of fitting five adults in comfort are slim. The front seats of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class draw praise from reviewers, with ConsumerGuide writing that the "seats are supportive and comfortable" and claiming that "even taller folks should find adequate headroom and legroom." Cars.com agrees, adding that "it's easy to find a comfortable driving position," thanks to a front cabin that "doesn't have the cramped feel of the 3 Series sedan." The rear seats of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are a different story, however, as reviews read by TheCarConnection.com find them to be both uncomfortable and cramped. Edmunds feels that, although the interior is larger, it is simply "not very spacious" in the rear, and Cars.com adds that the "three-place rear seat is on the smallish side, with limited legroom and headroom."
Aside from some complaints about the rear seating in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the storage space is adequate, especially in the trunk. ConsumerGuide feels that although "the trunk is narrow," the overall "area is quite deep and nicely trimmed." Edmunds states that "trunk capacity is 12.4 cubic feet, which can be expanded with the optional split-folding rear seats." However, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class loses points when it comes to cabin functionality, as ConsumerGuide reviewers noticed "interior storage is adequate at best with a somewhat skimpy center console, two open console cupholders, and a decent-sized glovebox."
Despite the entry-level status of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class within Mercedes-Benz's 2008 lineup, the typical Mercedes-Benz build quality is on display throughout the C-Class. Edmunds judges the interior of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to be "beautifully crafted," and overall they feel that the car sports "excellent build quality." Other reviewers tend to agree, with ConsumerGuide raving about the "nicely padded surfaces and upscale trim" and Kelley Blue Book mentioning the "tasteful wood inlays" that "surround the cabin."
One of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class's greatest luxury features is its quietness. Reviewers praise the "level of serene isolation" that ConsumerGuide feels "few in the class can provide." Edmunds also uses the term, writing that the C300 Luxury offers a "more serene driving environment" than the Sport version, which is to be expected, given the "quieter exhaust system."
2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
If not for the four-star rating in front impact tests, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class would be right at the top of the safety list.
For Mercedes-Benz's 2008 edition of the C-Class, safety remains both a priority and a hallmark of the lineup. Mercedes-Benz's reputation for safety is continued in the C-Class's safety features and supported by crash-test ratings.
When it comes to crash tests, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class performs very well in both the government's NHTSA testing and IIHS tests. After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) subjected the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to its battery of tests, they awarded it four out of five stars for front impact protection and five stars for side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) corroborates those results, as the independent agency awards the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class its highest rating, "good," for frontal offset collisions. The frontal offset test is the only one conducted by the IIHS.
Mercedes-Benz knows that commendable crash-test ratings alone are not enough to make drivers feel safe, since they all would prefer not to put those ratings to the test themselves. To that end, Mercedes-Benz offers a wealth of safety features built into the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Mother Proof reviewers devote significant space to listing the "safety highlights of the C-Class," which "include a standard electronic stability system, active head restraints," and "adaptive braking that can tell the difference between a regular stop and a panic stop." Edmunds adds that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes with "a full load of standard safety equipment, including front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags," and a convenient "brake drying" system that activates automatically when the windshield wipers start up.
Also aiding in the perennial quest to keep drivers from getting into accidents is the tremendous driver visibility on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Car and Driver raves about the "outstanding forward sightlines," while ConsumerGuide offers that "there's little problem seeing around the tall but narrow front headrests and slender rear roof pillars."
2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sports a long list of luxury features, with the difficult COMAND among them.
Even entry-level luxury cars these days offer a wealth of features to satisfy all but the most discerning of buyers, and the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is near the top of its class in terms of features.
The standard features list on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class contains many noteworthy items, but ConsumerGuide lists some of the most impressive as a "power sunroof, AM/FM/weatherband/CD/MP3 player, digital-media player connection, satellite radio," and a Bluetooth "wireless cell phone link." Kelley Blue Book adds "a motorized LCD display" and "dual-zone automatic climate control" to that roster.
Edmunds mentions a new version of "Mercedes' COMAND system" that "combines physical dash buttons with a mouselike controller" and allows the driver to control many of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class's functions. ConsumerGuide has many compliments for the C-Class, such as "clearly marked buttons" for the climate controls, but not for COMAND; they feel that "audio controls are more complicated" and "the navigation system itself is difficult to use, with many controls buried in a series of menus and submenus."
While the standard features are impressive on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the real standout section is the options list. Among the various options, Edmunds feels the coolest is the "Mulitmedia Package," which transforms the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class "into a mobile sound studio -- and movie theater. A built-in hard-drive not only powers the navigation system, it can also store up to 4GB." Even more unusual is the fact that on Mercedes-Benz's 2008 C-Class, "with the car in park, the car can also play DVDs through the pop-up LCD screen and superb Logic 7 surround-sound system," according to Edmunds.
Kelley Blue Book notes that "optional on the C300 are auto-dimming power folding side mirrors, heated front seats, SIRIUS Satellite Radio," and "rain-sensing wipers." Cars.com reviewers appreciate the available options that Mercedes-Benz's 2008 version offers, especially the "impressive Harman Kardon six-CD/DVD surround sound system," but are slightly put off by having to pay "extra for folding seats," an optional feature on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class that they say is "standard in the least-expensive of cars."