by Aiden Eksteen
In a class where vehicles are meant to be all things to all people, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi are possibly the first nameplates that come to mind, with those brands having pioneered the compact luxury sedan segment that has existed nearly five decades. Popularity is pretty well spread through each of those brands but with some new enhancements and alterations of the C-Class Sedan, Mercedes has made a good effort in improving its overall appeal. The rear-wheel-drive and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive systems of the 2019 C300 twins are now powered by 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque sourced from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot motor that's mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Appeal for the C-Class Sedan has increased favorably with its mid-cycle refresh, but it's still aging compared to the newer, better 3 Series, having been released originally back in 2014. Can the C-Class hold on against more contemporary rivals, or is it outgunned by opposition found more relevant by younger audiences?
The C-Class Sedan receives a prominent mid-cycle facelift for the 2019 model year along with some powertrain enhancements and extended driver assistance features borrowed from the E-Class. Along with its redesigned front and rear fascias, the C300 models also now come fitted with LED headlights and taillights as standard, both of which have also been restyled. The 2019 C300 has also been equipped with a new, slightly more powerful and efficient engine, increasing peak outputs by 14 horsepower. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are now standard in every C300 along with Mercedes-Benz's Intelligent Drive suite of driver aids. Mojave Silver Metallic has been added to the exterior color palette and 17-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels are now available as a cost-inclusive option.
The C-Class' new front fascia features chrome-plated trim and, along with the lower rear fascia, carries a new geometry for a more expressive and sophisticated aesthetic. C300 models outfitted with the AMG Line Appearance Package now feature a diamond radiator grille and a more aggressive AMG-derived front and rear fascia with a newly designed diffuser at the rear. LED headlights, DRLs, and taillights are standard across the lineup for this model year as well, along with 18-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels on base C300 models, with AMG-Line models boasting 18-inch AMG-styled twin five-spoke alloy wheels.
The C-Class' dimensions are typical of the class, and alongside the Audi A4 Sedan, the C300 measures only 1.6 inches shorter with an overall body length of 184.5 inches; it gets a wheelbase that's 0.8 inches longer, however, with 111.8 inches between the front and rear axles. The C300 is shorter in stature by 0.9 inches with a height of 55.3 inches and is similarly wide at 71.3 inches. The RWD C300 has a curb weight of 3,472 lbs, while the AWD system adds around 130 lbs on to that with the C300 4MATIC coming in at 3,605 lbs. That makes the Mercedes around only 155 lbs heavier than the relative Audi models.
With Mojave Silver Metallic having been added to the exterior color palette for the 2019 model year, there are now ten exterior hues available for both models of the C300 with Black and Polar White making up the only cost-inclusive options. The Metallic hues, featured in Obsidian Black, Iridium Silver, Mojave Silver, Lunar Blue, Brilliant Blue, and Selenite Grey, all carry an additional charge of $720. There is also a designo Cardinal Red metallic available at an extra cost of $1,080 and a designo White Diamond Metallic available for an extra $1,515. Any of the darker hues suite the C300 as they contrast with its chrome exterior accents and new chrome grille really well, while the designo Cardinal Red Metallic enhances its sportier side.
In terms of performance, the C300's powertrain is best described as sophisticated, with throttle responses that are instant and consistent. Power delivery is smooth but only to a casual level. There's nothing athletic about the C300 although the powertrain is quite capable, with both the RWD and 4MATIC AWD model sprinting from 0-60 mph in a class-average 5.7 seconds. The BMW 3 Series is a little quicker, with the xDrive-equipped model reaching the 60 mph mark in 5.3 seconds in 330i guise. The Audi A4 is also quicker off-the-line, the Quattro AWD 2.0T model beating the C300 to the 60 mph mark by around only 0.5 seconds.
As with the BMW 3 Series, the base C-Class is available in RWD or AWD guise; the base models of the Audi A4 come standard in FWD with Audi's Quattro AWD system coming into play with the upper-level models of its lineup. While the RWD and AWD C300 perform identically in terms of off-the-line acceleration, the RWD system is the more fuel-efficient setup of the two with the 130 additional pounds and extra energy requirements of the 4MATIC AWD system notably increasing demands from the engine.
With peak outputs of 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque ceded from the new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-pot motor, the C300 now has 14 more hp than last year's motor. The new engine remains coupled to the refined nine-speed automatic transmission that the C300 is familiar with.
The new mill moves the C300 around competently, whether accelerating away from a standstill or getting up to highway speeds throttle responses are accurate and power delivery smooth and consistent. Furthermore, there are no bouts of turbo-lag exhibited by the mill whatsoever. Overall, the powertrain setup feels suited to the C300's luxury-commuter position and fairs well in city and highway conditions alike. It also works notably well with the transmission, which manages to stay effectively within the engine's powerband and efficiently make use of its torque. Shifts are precise and smooth and the shift points nearly imperceptible. If there is a single complaint about the C300's powertrain, it's that its soundtrack is rather uninspiring, hinting at the C-Class's inclination for luxury over sporty driving. While that factor may appeal to some, many may find that the BMW and Audi alternatives prove to be the better driver's cars, with a little more engagement on offer.
The underpinnings of the C300 are tuned to deliver more of a sophisticated ride quality than a sporty one. Its softly-tuned suspension makes short work of most common road imperfections and everyday undulations without compromising on the sedan's overall composure. The cabin is also effectively isolated from most road, engine, and wind noise, adding to the overall feeling of refinement and luxury. There are selectable drive modes in the C300: the Eco and Comfort modes keep things comfortably sedate, while the Sport and Sport+ modes are meant to sharpen throttle responses and tighten up the mechanics for a sportier drive - but there's really little difference made in improving driver engagement.
The C300's numb steering also takes away from the driver's experience, with very little feedback provided. There's not much confidence ceded to the driver to push the car at all. Its responses are otherwise accurate and smooth and the weighting adjusted according to the drive mode or speed the C300 is moving at - light at low speeds for easy maneuvering and tight at higher speeds for added control. Though its suspension is softly tuned, it still manages to remain firmly planted to the road and suitably stable when taken around long corners and sharp turns. Overall, it's clear that Mercedes-Benz focused the C300's ride toward luxury as opposed to athleticism, so those looking for a little more performance and handling capability should rather look to something like the BMW 3 Series to get their kicks.
The 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder motor and nine-speed automatic perform most efficiently with the standard RWD setup, the C300 returning EPA estimates of 24/35/29 mpg city/highway/combined. The 4MATIC AWD setup is a little heavier and energy-sapping, the C300 4MATIC returning slightly worse EPA estimates of 23/33/27 mpg on those same cycles. Though the sportier BMW 3 Series is surprisingly more fuel-efficient, the RWD model returning 26/36/30 mpg and the AWD model returning 25/34/28 mpg on the EPA cycles, the C300's gas mileage figures are still relatively average for the class. The C-Class is, however, equipped with a competitively large fuel tank with a capacity of 17.4 gallons, availing the C-Class with a maximum range of around 504 miles from full to empty.
The inside of the C-Class Sedan is an exquisite place to be, the general build quality is exceptional, with a solid feel to all the doors, fittings, and fixtures. There are no squeaks or rattles originating from anywhere within the cabin, as is expected from a Mercedes. Furthermore, the majority of materials used throughout the cabin are of high-quality; key touch-points are swathed in premium soft-touch trim and the seats are upholstered in Mercedes-Benz' premium MB-Tex synthetic-leather upholstery. The controls and cabin layout are ergonomic too, with a minimalistic style that's easy to live with. Additionally, the driver's controls and seating position are set ideally. Overall passenger room is ample throughout the cabin, though legroom is less than that one could find in alternate luxury sedans.
There is seating for five occupants in the C-Class Sedan, however, it could be an uncomfortably tight squeeze with three larger passengers in the rear - there just isn't sufficient shoulder room in the center back seat. The front and rear-outboard rear seats are very comfortable, supportive, and spacious, however, making them pleasant to sit in even for extended durations. The otherwise spacious cabin is easy to enter and exit too, thanks to decent ride height, a relatively high roofline, and suitably wide-opening doors. There's plenty of adjustability in the steering wheel and driver's seat, which means drivers with most physiques will easily be able to find an optimized driving position with a commanding outward view. A heated steering wheel is available for both models as is heating and ventilation for the front seats.
There's a fine array of interior color and material themes available for the C-Class sedan. Mercedes' MB-Tex synthetic-leatherette upholstery is standard in either Black, Silk Beige, Magma Grey, or Saddle Brown hues. The seats can be upgraded with genuine leather upholstery for an additional charge of $1,620, along with the aforementioned hues, the leather upholstery can also be featured in a Cranberry Red. There is also a $3,800 Nappa leather seating upholstery upgrade which comes standard in designo Platinum White Pearl/Black. Depending on the upholstery color chosen, either Walnut wood, Brown ash wood, Dark Brown Linden Wood, Grey Oak wood, or Black Ash wood and aluminum will make up the in-cabin trim.
With only 12.6 cubic feet of cargo room provided in the trunk of the C-Class, there's a lot more cargo practicality offered by many of its class rivals, especially the BMW 3 Series, which has 17 cu.-ft. of cargo room in the trunk. The C-Class' 12.6 cubes are enough for a large travel case and a couple of soft duffel bags, and perhaps a laptop case. Additionally, the rear seats are 40/20/40 split-folding, which expands the trunks cargo room for added storage practicality and versatility.
Fortunately, the C-Class' in-cabin storage solutions are a little more impressive, with all four doors featuring wide item-storage pockets capable of holding large bottles, a concealed cubby comprising a cellphone tray and dual cupholders ahead of the shifter, and a sizable center armrest storage bin up front. The passenger-side glovebox is spacious, and there are another two cupholders located within the center rear seat backrest.
Though both the C300 and C300 4MATIC come with the same specification levels, the C-Class' standard feature specification levels are generally impressive overall. Remote keyless access with keyless ignition and an ECO start/stop system is standard as is Mercedes' Dynamic Select which includes Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ drive modes. A Nappa-leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel is also standard and is mounted to a power tilt and telescoping steering column, and the front seats are power-adjustable with four-way lumbar support and the driver's seat features a three-position memory system. Other standard features include the remote operation of all the power accessories including a tilt/sliding sunroof, there's an illuminated entry system, a hands-free access trunk, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a Homelink garage door opener. In terms of safety and driver-assist features, there's a mandatory rearview camera, blind-spot assist, crosswind assist, attention assist, and all Mercedes' essentials such as PRE-SAFE, etc. Available features include a head-up display, heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated front seats just to name a few.
Unfortunately, the C-Class Sedan is the only C-Class variant that doesn't come with the 10.25-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display that the Coupe and Cabriolet variants come with as standard. Instead, the Sedan is fitted with a seven-inch color touchscreen display installed with Mercs' COMAND infotainment software which comprises functionality in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with voice control, Bluetooth audio streaming capabilities, and HD radio connectivity. The COMAND user interface isn't one of the most user-friendly systems available, though the functions can be controlled via either the multi-function steering wheel or console-mounted dial. The system is tethered to a six-speaker audio layout which comprises Mercs' familiar FrontBass system too. The 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen is optional for the C-Class Sedan, as is a premium Burmester audio system.
There have been three recalls commissioned for the 2019 year model C-Class Sedan, with issues ranging from fastened seat belts being detected as unfastened by the cars safety system to a locknut in the steering rack that may break under high load. J.D. Power gave the 2019 year model C-Class Sedan an above-average predicted reliability rating of three out of five nonetheless. Fortunately, for added peace of mind, Mercedes-Benz covers every new C-Class Sedan with a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and provides various extended warranty options.
There's no overall safety rating provided by the NHTSA for the 2019 C-Class Sedan, the authority having only evaluated the model for its frontal and rollover crashworthiness both in which the model scored four out of five in. The IIHS availed the 2019 C-Class Sedan with its highest honor of Top Safety Pick+ for scoring Good in all test crash scenarios.
The C-Class Sedan comes fitted with an impressive standard safety consignment comprising eight advanced airbags, including driver and front passenger knee airbags. The sedan also comes outfitted with an integrated rearview camera, and features driver-assist technologies including blind-spot assist, crosswind assist, attention assist, and brake assist. Also standard is an advanced tire pressure monitoring system, electronic stability program, adaptive braking technology, and all the essentials such as ABS and ESC. There's a whole lot available for the C-Class Sedan too, including a surround-view system, active parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and active lane-keep and change assist, to name a few.
The C-Class Sedan would be an appealing daily for anyone that's loyal to the Mercedes-Benz badge and can look beyond the C-Class' relatively high starting price. There's plenty of value to be found in the C-Class Sedan, with its exceptional build quality, premium features, and in-cabin materials that justify its premium price. It's a shame that the C-Class Sedan doesn't come fitted with the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen that every other C-Class variant gets as standard, but the upgrade is available and the base system that the Sedan does come with, does feature full smartphone integration as standard. It also comes outfitted with an array of stock-fitted safety and advanced driver-assist features, with a large selection optionally available too, which, along with its exceptional crashworthiness safety ratings make it a brilliant commuter and family vehicle, too. When it comes to the C-Class' ride quality and performance, you won't go wrong if you are looking for a relaxed, comfortable drive - if you want more performance, you will need to look to the AMG derivatives. But if you need a comfy luxurious sedan for more sedate driving, you won't regret buying the C300.
In comparison with some rivals such as the Audi A4, the 2019 C-Class Sedan is relatively expensive in comparison. The C300 starts the lineup with an MSRP of $41,400 and is followed by the C300 4MATIC with its MSRP of $43,300. Those prices are excluding Mercedes' destination charge of $995 as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees. There's a vast array of packages and options available for the C-Class Sedan and opting for a fully-loaded model of the C300 4MATIC can be significantly costly with its base price reaching the $66,000 mark with all possible options boxes ticked.
There are two fundamentally similar models that comprise the C-Class lineup, differentiated only by their individual drivetrain setups: the rear-wheel-drive C300, and the all-wheel-drive C300 4MATIC. Both models are equipped with a 2.0-liter turbo inline-four engine that's mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
On the outside, the C300 is equipped with 18-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels, it's outfitted with all-LED lighting including the headlights, DRL's, and taillights, and with a power glass panorama sunroof and power-functioning heated side-view mirrors. There's an illuminated entry system and a hands-free access trunk. Moving to the inside sees a power tilt and telescoping Nappa leather steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats, three-way driver-seat memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a Homelink garage door opener. Other standard features include remote keyless access with keyless ignition, an ECO start/stop system, Mercedes' Dynamic Select which includes Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ drive modes.
The infotainment setup comprises a seven-inch color touchscreen display tethered to a six-speaker audio layout and FrontBass system; it includes functionality in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as in voice command, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free calling, and HD radio connectivity.
There's an array of specified packages and standalone options available for the C-Class Sedan. The head-up display is available for $990, heated and ventilated front seats can be installed at an additional cost of $1,030, there's a heated steering wheel available for $250, and a high-resolution center display for $300. Blind-spot monitoring for $550 is available as a standalone feature.
The AMG Line appearance package is also available for $2,000, which equips the C-Class with 18-inch AMG twin five-spoke alloy wheels, AMG body styling, an AMG Line interior with sport front seats and brushed aluminum pedals, a chrome diamond-block grille, and sport-tuned steering, suspension, and braking system. There's an AMG Line with Night Package as well, which for $2,400 adds all of the above plus gloss black exterior accents and black wheel accents.
A $900 Exterior Lighting Package throws in adaptive high-beam assist and an LED Intelligent light system, while the Premium Package can be optioned on for $1,600 and comprises the premium Burmester surround-sound audio upgrade, SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity, and 64-color LED ambient interior lighting, and illuminated front door sills.
The $2,600 Multimedia Package upgrades the infotainment system with a 10.25-inch central display, COMAND navigation, enhanced voice control, Car-to-X communication, navigation map updates, Live traffic by TomTom, and with a touchpad controller.
With there being no difference between the trims other than in their drivetrain setups, deciding on which model to buy will come down to whether the all-weather abilities and improved traction of the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system would be more beneficial, or whether the rear-wheel-drive system will suffice. Whichever model you opt for we suggest optioning in the available Premium Package and Driver Assistance Package for the driver-assist technologies and improved convenience features it comprises. The Multimedia Package is also a good one to add in for the navigation system and 10.25-inch color touchscreen upgrade.
The C-Class and 3 Series are both exceptional vehicles, and while they're two compact luxury sedans that have a lot in common, the differences that they do have are significant. The C-Class is the more luxury-oriented vehicle, focusing predominantly on driver and passenger comfort in ride quality and features. The 3 Series, on the other hand, offers far greater driver engagement and superior performance and handling dynamics. Its engine is a little more powerful than the C-Class' as well, with a bit more torque offered at peak output. Furthermore, both the 3 Series' powertrain setups are a lot more fuel-efficient than the C-Class'. The C-Class is also a little more expensive than the 3 Series, but it has the more premium cabin and comes with a significantly greater selection of standard features. Even so, the 3 Series has a slightly more spacious interior and a far more practical trunk, with 17 cu.ft. of cargo room on offer. Overall the BMW 3 Series is just a little better than the C-Class in many aspects and while being the more driver-centric car, it still delivers a premium level of comfort too.
At the base level, the Audi A4 is a whole lot more affordable than the C-Class and still manages to offer an impressive level of feature specification as standard. There's also a lot more trim and specification options available within the A4's lineup, which may appeal to some in terms of personalization and customization opportunities. The C-Class has the more premium interior, however, that none of the A4 trims can come close to. The C-Class has more in-cabin room although the A4's interior feels more commodious due to an ergonomic design, with seemingly more stretch-room in the rear. There's a minuscule amount more cargo room in the trunk of the A4 as well. The A4 offers a little more performance-wise in acceleration and handling while also remaining a slightly more fuel-efficient at the same time. It's also luxuriously comfortable in ride and passenger creature-comforts, just not quite to the degree of the C-Class. Both vehicles are exceptional, but the C-Class is just a little posher overall.