2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 23, 2016

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one very charming luxury car; in AMG trim, it's risen above and beyond Bavarian levels of handling.

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan is more beautiful than ever. Redesigned for the 2015 model year, the four-door grew slightly larger, and much more luxurious, ushering in a new era for what's now a mid-size car in the three-pointed-star lineup.

Rivals for the C-Class include the BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Audi A4, Lexus IS, and Infiniti Q50, with the Jaguar XE compact arriving for the 2017 model year.

The striking exterior of the new C-Class can be deceiving. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the much larger and more expensive S-Class from a distance. But we like how the new C-Class doesn't just ape the Mercedes flagship; it has its own profile and its own details. Inside, the decision to swing for S-Class standards is even more apparent. Large round vents, a flowing center console, and inlaid metallic-look panels in the door all speak a design language that’s usually reserved for the executive luxury class.

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The C-Class launched in the 2015 model year with two engine choices, and for 2016, it swaps out of one of them. In the C300, there's a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 241 horsepower, teamed to a 7-speed automatic. In most kinds of driving, it's quick and entertaining, even in highway passing situations. With small displacement and stop/start, it returns the lineup's best fuel economy, too. It also offers the only rear-drive model in the C-Class sedan lineup, and the only one with a conventional steel-spring suspension, versus an adaptive air suspension—but even without those features, the C-Class is an engaging ride. Some of us even prefer the more straightforward handling of the standard suspension.

The C450 AMG Sport replaces the C400 this year, and moves the midpoint of the C-Class lineup much closer to the purer AMG forms. The new twin-turbo V-6 in the C450 delivers 362 hp, up from 329 hp in the former powerplant. It's a potent mill, capable of 4.9-second runs to 60 mph, and it feels strong in any of its seven forward gears or at almost any point in its rev range. The engine sings through a sport exhaust in a pleasantly muffled way, and the adaptive controls for the sport-tuned air suspension, steering feel, throttle input and transmission shift timing all meld into a powerful piece that's deserving of the AMG initials, while leaving the truly bonkers acceleration and track-ready responses to the next step up the performance ladder.

That next step would be the Mercedes-AMG C63 and C63 S, which we cover separately. In short, they do everything expected in adding huge power figures, impressive handling, and more aggressive style. With a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine rated at 469 hp, the C63 is capable of a 4.0-second run to 60 mph and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. The C63 S rates 503 hp, cutting 0-60-mph times to 3.9 seconds, and lifting top speed to 180 mph. The C63 S’s extra power and torque is much more noticeable behind the wheel than the stats would suggest, with palpably more power on demand at any given time or rpm.

The luxurious C-Class cabin has grown along with the body, but not as much as we might have hoped. A longer wheelbase means more rear-seat leg room, and while 6-footers won’t have abundant space for knees, elbows, or crania, they’ll fit with adequate comfort for even fairly extended drives. The front seat is spacious, with plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room, though the width of the (rather beautiful) center console can impinge on side-to-side knee room for the longer-legged. Entry and exit to the back seat also seems to have fallen victim to the roofline and more aggressive door cutlines. Trunk space is just 12.6 cubic feet, though the rear seat backs flip forward easily (and flat).

The undisputed highlight of the new C-Class, including the AMG models, is its interior. Apart from options like a Burmester sound system, new touch-controlled COMAND infotainment system, or Mercedes’ suite of safety technologies, the cabin exudes luxury in a way that none of its competitors manage. Material quality, fit and finish, and design are all top-notch, class-leading. Optional trims include a gorgeous open-pore black ash wood that feels like it comes from a car several classes higher.

So far, the C-Class has earned some good crash-test ratings, but the data isn't complete. The NHTSA gives it five stars overall, with a mix of four- and five-star ratings on individual tests, while in IIHS testing it has some "Good" results—but it's an incomplete set of tests.

Mercedes’ suite of technology in the C-Class puts it almost on par with the E-Class and S-Class in terms of safety and driver assistance. In fact, many of the systems are identical to the others, while a few arrived in the C-Class first, before moving to the rest of the lineup. The Intelligent Drive package rolls up many of the headline aspects, and 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 surround-view camera system, among other features. A head-up display can relay navigation instructions, vehicle speed, and other driving data.

The new COMAND infotainment system gets Mercedes’ latest mbrace2 app suite and an all-new touchpad controller that hovers above the familiar (but now knurled) COMAND control wheel. This new touchpad system offers gestural input, including swipes, pinch-zoom, and tap/click maneuvers, all familiar to computer or tablet users. The touchpad is better in idea than in execution, however. It's a competition between unusual inputs and inconsistent responses that aren't as well-coordinated with the menu system as they could be. Give us a clean tablet interface, please?

All C-Class sedans get power windows, locks, and mirrors; a power driver seat; cruise control; keyless ignition; and the COMAND interface with capacitive touchpad and a 7.0-inch display. Major options include leather; navigation; a power passenger seat; LED headlamps; an in-car fragrance dispenser (like the one in the S-Class); a panoramic sunroof; a lighting package with LED headlamps and Active Curve Illumination; a head-up display; a hands-free trunk closer; AMG Performance sport seats; and a Sport Package with AMG bodywork, AMG wheels, and a sport suspension, distinct from the C450 AMG model.

Gas mileage ratings span a range from 24 mpg combined to 28 mpg combined, depending on drivetrain. With limited powertrain possibilities—just two gasoline engines—Mercedes has room for improvement. Stay tuned for upcoming hybrid and possible diesel powertrains.

9

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Styling

The C-Class has an elegant new body to show off, but it's even prettier on the inside.

Mercedes redesigned its C-Class sedan in 2015, and it was a clean break with the recent past. Bigger, more directly linked with the S-Class than ever, the latest C-Class has a slippery, sexy shape that bids farewell to most of the sharp corners and blunt details of the previous car.

Two-door coupes return in beautifully redefined form for the 2017 model year.

The latest C-Class sedan has a more upright grille, one that's flanked by more intricately styled headlamps—they wear brows of LEDs, and can be composed of LEDs themselves. The lower front end is punctuated by big air intakes, flared and curved to convey performance without leaning too heavily on racing-derived shapes. Flared front fenders and three big creases that rise out of the nose give it a more streamlined appearance. The tail has a more rounded appearance that's a softer, pleasant complement to the front end.

On sporting AMG models, distinct touches include a tweaked front bumper with larger air intakes, new trim in matte silver, a trunk-lid spoiler, and chrome-plated dual tailpipe outlets. There's a gloss-black package for an extra layer of glitz, and the usual cues like painted brake rotors are options.

Inside, Mercedes has also moved design language found in its other new vehicles into the C-Class, with long lines wrapping around the cabin's belt line, layered into tiers. Front and center is a free-standing display at the top of the center stack, three circular vents below, and two thin strips of buttons to control key functions.

AMG models can wear different grades of optional leather—regular or sueded Nappa on the seats—as well as a choice of Linden wood, piano-black trim, carbon-fiber, or silvered fiberglass. An analog clock is an option; seat belts can be red, black, or silver; and you can have Mercedes wipe all the badging off the front and back of the car, and add an illuminated three-pointed star. 

The latest iteration of the COMAND controller for the vehicle's infotainment system sits atop the center tunnel, with a mouse-like touchpad puck hovering over a control wheel. In front of the driver, the steering wheel is flat-bottomed and offers a familiar set of controls on either of the horizontal spokes. The instrument panel offers a speedometer and a tachometer in separate analog gauge housings, with a full-color LCD screen between. It's by and large the most luxurious cabin in its class, though some of the small buttons that flank the steering wheel are finished in gloss black.

Altogether in design, details, and features, the cabin is a knockout. It really could fit right into a luxury flagship with double the price. Whether you expect something contemporary and fresh, or whether you want an updated take on the traditional, it fully fits.

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9

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Performance

The C-Class performs better than it has in its entire history, with clear strata of luxury, green, and high-performance editions.

Mercedes-Benz completely changed the C-Class for 2015. A ground-up redesign endowed the C with a new architecture with more aluminum, which gave engineers rein to design a larger car that still weighs about 200 pounds less than the previous version.

The lighter weight makes itself known in the C-Class' performance profile. Over the course of a few generations, it's truly met the BMW 3-Series, head to head, for performance, ride, and handling—and this year's new C450 AMG takes down the mid-line 3er by the neck.

This year's base engine carries over from 2015. It's a 2.0-liter turbo-4, as installed in the C300, that delivers 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Coupled to a 7-speed automatic and either rear- or all-wheel drive, it's plenty fast for most drivers, with 0-60 mph times registering in the mid-6-second range. It feels wonderful and whizzy in the way that the compact CLA45 AMG does; the engine finds its boost almost instantly, and while it doesn’t build to a high-rev frenzy or crackle like in the CLA45, throughout the rev band it feels strong and its turbo is staged well.

With this newest chassis and steering and suspension, the C-Class can finally claim a lock on the same level of handling as the 3-Series, or even our current favorite, the Cadillac ATS. Steering in the C-Class is electrically assisted, but it's one of the best systems available today among luxury cars. Its variable ratio is precise and accurate, delivering predictable results for a given steering input; and there's just a bit of real feedback from the road surface. It's also fairly quick in its ratio, requiring just about 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, making tight maneuvers, especially when parking, that much easier.

The suspension the new chassis rides on is improved as well, still offering standard steel springs in its base configuration, but now available with the first air suspension system to be offered in the compact luxury segment. The continuously variable damping system can be adjusted through a range of settings including Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Sport+ modes, along with an Individual option that allows the driver to tweak the settings to their own preferences.

In practice, the Airmatic suspension yields a comfortable, smooth ride and, thanks to a progressive-rate tune on the air-spring system, surprisingly little total body roll at the limit. While that sounds good, it's a little disconcerting, keeping oddly flat in all but the tightest corners. You're not quite as "in touch" with the base car at times when you want it to momentarily play the role of sport sedan. That's better attained in the relentlessly flat-cornering C450 AMG Sport or the AMG C63 twins.

The delightful new mid-range C-Class is the C450 AMG Sport, a model that replaces the former C400. Both carrying a twin-turbo V-6, the C450's engine is an entirely new architecture as well, and it delivers 362 hp, up from 329 hp in the former powerplant. Like its predecessor, the new twin-turbo V-6 engine is potent, and feels strong in any gear or rev range; it pulls willingly whether passing at 60 mph, which it can reach in about 4.9 seconds, or accelerating from a stop. The engine's note, though muted, is pleasant, with a good balance of induction and exhaust sounds penetrating the cabin at lower engine speeds, giving off that classic AMG whuffle. It's much, much closer to the C 63 AMG in output and mission, while leaving the truly bonkers acceleration and track-ready responses to its purer AMG kin.

Covered separately, the C63 AMG is a piece to behold. Sold as either the Mercedes-AMG C63 or C63 S, it ushers in an entirely higher plane of performance with a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine. In the C63 it's rated at 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, while the C63 S gets 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. The resulting acceleration is brisk, if not quite as mental as the Caddy ATS-V: the C 63 will hit 60 mph in 4.0 seconds; the C63 S takes 3.9 seconds and can hit 180 mph.

The AMG models offer improved steering feel, thanks to a separately engineered front end and AMG-tweaked steering assist. Adjustable dampers control ride quality, standard all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential control power application (and aid handling). The all-wheel-drive system is set with a 33/67 torque bias, and offers electronic torque vectoring across the rear wheels. Brakes are upsized; the transmission has five modes of control, including a true manual, rev-matching mode; and a sport exhaust mode gives the V-6 a muscular takeaway.

Together with 18-inch staggered wheels (19s are an option), the whole setup feels much crisper, much more tied together, than the standard non-AMG C-Class range—and more than the competition from BMW.

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8

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Comfort & Quality

With its waterfall of wood, the Mercedes C-Class is sensually appealing, but rear-seat room is still a little tight.

Compared to the model that ended its run in 2014, today's Mercedes-Benz C-Class is longer, wider, with more space between the front and rear wheels. The boost in size translates into a sedan with more comfortable space for adults, and a more usable rear seat that still is somewhat compromised by the sleek roofline.

By the numbers, the C-Class has grown 3.7 inches overall, to 184.5 inches; the wheelbase is up 3.0 inches, to 111.8 inches; it's 1.6 inches wider, at 71.3 inches.

The cabin is the undisputed star in this C-Class. It's styled with a gorgeous waterfall effect at the center stack, rendered either in wood (including a stunning open-pore black ash wood), aluminum, or carbon fiber, depending on the model. The dash gently arcs around the front seats, which offer excellent shape and support, with extendable lower-cushion bolsters, good mid-back support, and full power controls for the front passengers. It all gives a sense of quality and appeal not found in the previous C-Class, or in many competing makes.

On the C450 AMG, the grippy, sueded AMG sport seats go beyond the usual bolstering with power-adjustable headrest height and thigh-cushion extenders. It's easy to power into a supremely comfortable seating position, with a good view of the gauges through the three-spoke, flat-bottomed Nappa leather steering wheel.

Inside the enlarged cabin, Mercedes has upgraded the look and feel of materials throughout, as well as the technological side controls. A 7.0-inch central display is standard, with an optional 8.4-inch screen as part of the Multimedia package.

The window line feels quite high, yet the dash is definitely lower than in previous models and its predecessor; we like the combination of security and outward visibility. The cabin stays tight and quiet, too, with excellent isolation of wind noise.

The only significant letdown inside is still backseat space. Despite the several inches of added length and wheelbase (and a claimed boost in leg room), there’s really not enough leg room or knee room for those 6 feet or taller. Changes to the door cut and roofline back there actually make it tougher to get in versus the outgoing version, we think.

Trunk space is on the slim side too, at 12.6 cubic feet. The rear seat backs flip forward, almost effortlessly, with a lever from the trunk side, to provide a flat floor that’s far more convenient than the pass-throughs found in some sedans.

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9

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Safety

Crash-test scores have improved over the 2015 run; the IIHS still hasn't reported complete data on the 2016 C-Class, though.

The C-Class is built with safety in mind, from the ground up, and it builds on a strong reputation for safety that's been been reflected in its real-world record.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class hasn't quite achieved top-notch ratings from the NHTSA or the IIHS, but so far its results are impressive.

So far, the C-Class has achieved top "Good" results from the IIHS in frontal and side impact, but it hasn't yet been tested in other categories, including the typically tougher small-overlap frontal test. From the federal government, results for the C-Class reveal a mix of four- and five-star ratings, with an overall rating of five stars.

All models offer numerous airbags, including pelvis airbags for the front row, a new window airbag, side airbags for the outboard rear seats, and a knee airbag for the driver.

The C-Class gained a slew of active-safety technology in its 2015 revamp, and some of the most interesting technological upgrades in the car come in that arena. There are electronic assists to warn of driver inattentiveness; to alert the driver of impending collisions (from speeds as low as 4 mph), and to automatically brake (from speeds as high as 124 mph); assistance to prevent rear-end collisions at speeds of up to 31 mph; and more.

The Distronic Plus system offers semi-autonomous traffic assistance, which is capable of following the vehicle ahead at speeds up to 37 mph—even in the absence of lane markers. Furthermore, an advanced brake assist system detects stationary vehicles or pedestrians, and automatically brakes to reduce the chance or prevent collisions entirely at up to 45 mph.

An enhanced lane-keeping system can hold the C-Class in its lane, applying the brakes along one side of the car to prevent unintentional drifting. Active parking assistance, surround-view cameras, and traffic sign assistance (which warns of speed limits, no-entry signs, and other information) are also part of the high-tech safety list.

In addition to its suite of advanced safety systems and optional driver assistance extras, the C-Class features a uni-body structure built from roughly half aluminum and half steel, much of the latter being high-strength steel. Attention paid to crumple zones to maximize energy absorption without intruding on the passenger compartment or key mechanical areas of the car, including the gas tank, should prove assets once the new C-Class is thoroughly crash-tested.

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10

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Features

The C-Class' features are truly in another class, from semi-autonomous driving to Burmester sound.

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.

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7

2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class scores decent gas mileage; coming plug-in and diesel models offset the AMG's appetite for fuel.

It's no hybrid or diesel in terms of ultimate fuel efficiency, but the Mercedes-Benz C-Class does well on the EPA's gas-mileage metrics, compared to rivals.

The turbo-4 C300, in rear-drive form, posts EPA ratings of 25 mpg city, 34 highway, 28 combined. Adding all-wheel drive lowers those numbers slightly, to 24/31/27 mpg.

In an early drive with the 4-cylinder C300 4Matic, we saw more than 30 mpg in a 90-mile mix of freeways, suburban traffic-light conditions, and tight two-lane country roads.

The new C 50 AMG 4Matic rates only marginally poorer at the pump, despite its turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine: 21/29/24 mpg.

The Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 and the C63 S are covered separately, but post EPA ratings of 18/25/20 mpg.

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September 30, 2017
2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-Door Sedan C 300 4MATIC

First MB and I am hooked

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My first Mercedes is a 2017 C-Class 4Matic. Have always wanted an MB, and finally in a position to live the dream. Spent a couple days at the dealership in Seattle driving various models. My budget was... + More »
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June 5, 2016
2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-Door Sedan C 300 4MATIC

price/value equation

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While the various controls may be a little quirky and initially inscrutable ( I know, read the manual) this is a pretty good balance between price and quality. Given that most dealers use these cars as their... + More »
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December 26, 2015
2016 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-Door Sedan C 450 AMG 4MATIC

Great car for it's size.

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I have a 2004 E500 and I keep saying I'm going to start back driving it again and I love that car but my new C450 AMG is unbelievable, you have to drive one to see why I am so excited whenever I talk about my... + More »
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