2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC Review
Redefining entry-level luxury.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: April 3rd, 2015
Back in the day, a C-Class was the most affordable Mercedes-Benz on sale, and it often represented a buyer's first experience with the brand. Now, though, the CLA-Class exists, and it occupies the C-Class's old haunts on the lower end of the $30,000 range. That doesn't give the C-Class less reason to exist, oh no; if anything, it lets the car stretch its legs and move a little more upmarket.
That's exactly what Mercedes-Benz did with the all-new 2015 C-Class; to reinforce this new positioning, it pulls far more design cues from its bigger brother, the S-Class. Combine this with a silky-smooth turbo four-pot, and you've got yourself a brilliant compact sedan that can be yours for a shade under $40,000.
It's a wonder how much a little brother can help you grow up yourself.
Wow. That's all there is to say about the C300's interior. It brings to the table all the best books in Mercedes-Benz's current interior-design library - the way the center stack flows smoothly to the touchpad, the look and feel of the switchgear, and the ethereal quality of the floating infotainment screen. Not everybody agrees with that last point, but considering the other options involve building a tall and obstructive dashboard to fit a screen of this size, this is one of the more elegant workarounds. The C300's interior is reminiscent of both the S-Class and the GT, and considering a starting price roughly one-half to one-third of those cars, that's a very good thing.
What will take the buyer the most time to get used to (unless this isn't your first M-B rodeo) is the shifter. It's on a stalk on the right side of the wheel; unlike traditional PRNDL column shifters, the Benz has you push a button for park. It becomes muscle memory quickly enough, though. And, unlike the other option - buttons - the stalk has some tactile heft.
If you opt for the Burmester audio system, you'll also have some of the most beautiful-looking speakers in an automobile.
From a distance, you won't be able to tell the difference between the C-Class and the S-Class. Get up close, and you'll see that the two are, in fact, awfully similar, albeit with shrunken proportions where necessary. The front end loses its old blockiness and gets a little softer. If you pick up a C300 with the optional Sport trim, as our tester was equipped, you'll end up with some more aggressive features, like AMG-branded wheels and some larger air intakes up front. All in all, it's far improved over the outgoing generation, no matter what trim you choose. And again, it looks far more expensive than it actually is.
On the Road
The C300 does quite well for itself on the road. It's not as precise as the 3 Series, but it's getting closer with every iteration; this is due in part to the 200-pound diet the car has taken over the past year. We haven't tested the C400, which ditches the four-banger in favor of a turbocharged V-6, but the C300 feels light on its toes, and the powertrain is quite smooth all the way from pedal to ground. With 273 lb-ft of torque starting at 1,300 rpm, the car will hustle through traffic while the seven-speed automatic does a great job of keeping everything nice and smooth.
Ride quality is equally cushy. Our C300 Sport included firmer dampers and larger wheels, both of which contributed to a ride that was a little less luxury and a little more sport; if you opt for the Luxury trim, the dampers are softer and provide for a more sumptuous feel. You can always forego both and get the Airmatic adjustable suspension, if you don't mind plunking down additional coin. The Sport's ride wasn't too harsh for us, but older buyers especially might want to test multiple trims before deciding.
If you pick up the full suite of driver aids, your car can very nearly drive you to and from work on its own. You can read more about that here, in its own, separate story.
This was our first experience with the new touch-based COMAND interface, which is becoming standard on nearly every Mercedes-Benz vehicle in the next year. Once we figured out the touch gestures, which are modeled after the finger-dances you do on your smartphone, we were able to manipulate music and navigation settings without more than a slight glance away from the windshield. Be careful where you rest your hand while driving, though; an errant finger may end up switching your radio station in the middle of your favorite song.
Truth be told, there weren't too many complaints with our C300. Pedal and steering feel was great, it returned right around the EPA-estimated fuel-economy numbers, and it really did capture the essence of cars much more expensive than it. It makes you feel far more special than the 3 Series or the A4.
Our biggest issue that didn't involve a window sticker was dash rattle. Being equipped with the optional Burmester audio package (purveyors of the best in-car speakers in existence, if we do say so ourselves), you may be inclined to crank the volume a tad. When we did that, the dashboard began to rattle around the tweeters. The speakers themselves could go louder without distortion, but the supporting infrastructure just can't handle the aural assault. It's about the only reminder that this isn't, in fact, an S-Class.
Other than that, we only urge to you be careful with your options. Only the bare-bones C300 starts below $40,000; if you buy either the Luxury or Sport trims, factor in destination and you're already up above that $40,000 line. Many individual options (like a head-up display) require other packages, costing another G or two. Our specific model came in at a surprising-but-not-really-all-that-surprising $51,970, but when you line it up next to its Vaterlander compatriots, it's no more expensive than they are.
But if you're looking for a compact luxury sedan that stretches beyond the typical use of the term "entry-level luxury," you can't do better than the 2015 C-Class.
Specs & Price
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Power Output: 241 horsepower / 273 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 24 city / 31 highway
Base Price: $40,400
As Tested: $51,970 (incl. $925 destination)
Lighting Package: Full-LED headlights and taillights, adaptive highbeams, active curve illumination
Air Balance Package: Cabin fragrance system, cabin-air purification system
Interior Package: Leather upholstery, ventilated front seats with memory, illuminated door sills, LED ambient lighting
Premium Package: Full-LED headlights and taillights, Burmester premium sound system, satellite radio, keyless access
Multimedia Package: Backup camera, 8.4-inch COMAND infotainment system, voice control
Airmatic Package: Air suspension with driver-adjustable modes
Driver Assistance Package: Adaptive cruise control with full stop and start, active lane-keep assist, active blind-spot assist, forward collision warning, cross-traffic assist, semi-autonomous braking
Individual Options: Panoramic moonroof, illuminated-star grille, head-up display, satellite radio, keyless access, power rear sunshade, side sunshades, heated front seats, parking sensors, blind spot assist, backup camera
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, click here: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.