The compact luxury sedan segment is arguably one of the most competitive domains for manufacturers today, with the segment dating back nearly five decades. It was German rivals such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW that essentially pioneered the segment; however, since then, times have changed, and the vehicles within the segment are now expected to be all things to all people as the most rounded vehicles available on the market. This is where the C-Class sedan steps in; still competing with the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, these luxury-family cruisers are packaged as the most well-rounded and contemporary offerings from performance to features, and everything in between. The 2020 C-Class Sedan is equipped with the prior year's upgraded 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder producing 255 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, directed to either the rear-wheel-drivetrain of the C300, or all-wheel-drivetrain of the C300 4MATIC via a nine-speed automatic gearbox on both.
Though no enhancements have been given to the 2020 year model, considering that the C-Class had its mid-cycle refresh for the 2019 model year, a lot of feature standardization has taken place for the latest model. All C-Class Sedans now come with the previously optional 10.25-inch high-resolution infotainment display as standard, along with the prior year's optional 18-inch twin five-spoke alloy wheels, blind-spot assist, keyless ignition, hands-free access, and electronic trunk closer. Finally, three-zone automatic climate control has also now been made available for the C-Class Sedan as an option.
See trim levels and configurations:
Remaining true to its focus as a businessman's commuter, the C300 rides comfortably - soft and smooth over almost any surface. Its standard suspension tuning gives it the ability to keep things comfortable, as the setup absorbs most imperfect road surfaces and typical undulations with competence and poise. The cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise, with a quiet, refined quality that adds to the feeling of luxury. The C300 comes with selectable drive modes; in Eco and Comfort modes, things are kept luxurious while engaging the Sport or Sport+ modes sharpens up throttle responses and tightens up the mechanics for a sportier drive - but, this is at the expense of the exemplary ride quality. Sadly, it's all smoke and mirrors, and little is done to involve the driver more.
The C-Class Sedan's steering is responsive and accurate but not very communicative at all, which means driving becomes an uninspiring chore. Its effort adjusts according to the drive mode selected or rate of speed the vehicle is traveling at, tightening up at higher speeds for added control. It manages to stay reasonably stable and firmly planted around the bends as well, offering some level of capability, but the C-Class offers no real level of driver-focused tenor - at least nowhere near to that of the BMW 3 Series. But within this segment of vehicles, it isn't really just sportiness that's sought after, but an all-rounded package offering the right amounts of everything, and the C-Class strikes a good balance, even if it errs on the luxurious side a little too much.
The 2020 C-Class Sedan is, as it has been for some time now, an impressive compact luxury sedan. It's nothing dynamically exceptional, but it is an exceptionally luxurious means to get the family from one point to another. Its powertrain is decent, and the standard suspension setup accords it with a tangibly refined ride quality. Its interior is one of the most opulent of the class, exhibiting an impression of sophistication and modernity, bedecked with high-quality materials that make for a cabin that is always pleasing and comfortable to occupy, even for extended durations. Its standard tech consignment is appealing too, with the 10.25-inch infotainment display and full smartphone integration being a big drawcard in a segment where these features aren't always standard; additionally, standard and optional safety features are truly exemplary. That's about it for the C-Class Sedan, however, as despite being a well-rounded vehicle, it's also a rather bland and uninspiring one. It offers very sedate levels of driver engagement, the infotainment is clunky and awkward to use, and it lacks practicality compared to newer rivals. So it might not be the perfect all-rounder that the segment requires, but with a greater focus on luxury, it has a way of making you feel a little more special than your average compact luxury sedan would.
The BMW 3 Series is priced relatively similar to the C-Class, coming in at around only $650 cheaper with its relative rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive offerings. It comes with its own 2.0-liter turbo four-pot engine with identical outputs to that of the C-Class', but manages to not only outperform the C-Class off-the-line (achieving the 0-60 mph sprint nearly half a second quicker than the Merc), but it performs considerably more fuel-efficiently as well, returning 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined. The C-Class offers greater levels of luxury, as well as a more comprehensive infotainment suite thanks to standard inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - the latter not available in the BMW at all. However, BMW has packaged their compact sedan far better, providing more passenger room and much more cargo space, all in a package that's far more enjoyable to drive. BMW has shown up Mercedes once more, but as an all-new model, this was to be expected.
The CLA-Class is around $8,000 cheaper than the C-Class; it's equipped with a less powerful four-cylinder engine and an older seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It's slower off-the-line, and not much more efficient with that setup, despite being front-wheel-drive. On the inside, it's also found lacking in terms of luxuriousness, being a member of a cheaper, more compact segment. While the C-Class also offers ample passenger room throughout its upscale cabin, the CLA-Class' rearward sloping roofline cuts away at the rear headroom. It's less practical than the C-Class, too, offering about the same amount of trunk space, but with tougher access. The C-Class, being more expensive and occupying a higher segment, is naturally better than the CLA, but, for the minor bump in price over the smaller Merc, the increased levels of luxury, roominess, and performance are well worth the extra spend.
The E-Class is a larger luxury sedan than the C-Class, justifying the $13,000 price leap over its smaller sibling. Both feature identical powertrains, although the E-Class is more spacious and gets a better version of the COMAND infotainment system. However, the E-Class isn't necessarily luxurious enough to justify opting for the larger, more expensive model, and frankly, if you can do without the extra cargo volume and rear passenger space, the C-Class is about 90% as good as an E-Class for $13,000. For those looking for a luxury bargain, the C-Class is more than good enough, but for those who don't care about the price, the E-Class is superior.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan: