2016 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Sedan Road Test Review
Arguably the best in its highly competitive class
With each new generation the C-Class gets better and better, redefining its place within the compact luxury D-segment as more than just the best luxury offering. Now it not only delivers class-leading comfort and refinement, but also a sporting edge that previous non-AMG versions lacked when directly compared to the category’s performance leaders, this even apparent in the base C 300 4MATIC Sedan.
The C-Class at my disposal was a bit more enticing than the usual bread and butter C 300. While simple Polar White in colour it was personalized with active LED headlamps, a Sport package that added some nice aero bits and upgraded the stock 17-inch rims to five-spoke 18-inch AMG alloys, an AMG interior package, Cranberry Red AMG leather, open-pore Dark Ash hardwood trim, and more, resulting in a very special Mercedes sedan.
Big on style and refinement
The C 300 is a handsome four-door with no shortage of sporty visual elements, especially as tested, yet its upright body style and chunky tail end imbue a certain rigid solidity. This quality image becomes reality upon opening the door and sliding behind the wheel, with more soft touch surfaces than any rival. Premium pliable synthetics cover the instrument panel including the glove box lid, both sides of the centre stack and lower console, plus all door panels from top to bottom; even the backsides of the seats are made from a soft high-grade composite. No competitor goes so far to coddle its occupants, but of course it doesn’t end there. The upper edge of my loaner’s instrument panel and the entire dash top was covered in contrast stitched leather, while along with the open-pore hardwood noted earlier were real aluminum inlays in brushed and satin finishes depending on the trim piece. Following this theme, many of the buttons, knobs and toggles were aluminized, some even knurled to perfection like the bezel of a finely made watch.
Some impressive options worth considering
My tester came fitted with a sensational sounding Burmester surround audio system upgrade with innovative FrontBass technology, its dual door speakers capped off with beautiful aluminum grilles, these nicely matching the circular metal HVAC vents that dot the dash, while all of the door’s switchgear, including Mercedes’ trademark power seat controls, was aluminized for a particularly highbrow premium experience. As noted the door inserts and seats were upholstered in a beautiful dark red leather, this being a favourite retrospective reference of ’50s and ’60s era Mercedes models. It plucks memories of my dad and I pulling up to my Onkel Gleissner’s house in North Vancouver and eyeing his cream on red 1959 300SL roadster. I hardly remember my uncle today as I only met him a few times, but I’ll never forget his car. I wouldn’t dare compare the classic 300SL to this C 300, but the red leather is homage paid to an earlier era that still has the power to wow today.
Size aplenty even for its compact class
The C 300’s 16-way driver and 14-way front passenger seats are ideally formed to hamstrings and torso, while roominess is not an issue front or back. The rear seats are almost as comfortable as those up front, and plenty spacious with six to seven inches ahead of my knees when sitting behind the driver’s seat that was preset for my five-foot-eight medium build frame, plus plenty of room for my feet even with my largest clodhopper Timberland shoes on, plus about three to four inches above my head and four inches from door panel to shoulder and hips. Increasing the feeling of spaciousness is a large dual-pane panoramic glass sunroof overhead, while rear passengers can also enjoy a comfortable flip-down centre armrest integrating pop-out cupholders and a shallow felt-lined compartment. The trunk is large at 480 litres, while the rear seatbacks can be lowered via the optimal 40/20/40 configuration to allow for greater passenger and cargo flexibility.
Yet more features for greater comfort and convenience
Along with the items already mentioned my C 300 4MATIC tester also included the Premium and Premium Plus packages, the former including the just noted panoramic sunroof, a backup camera (which was upgraded further with an optional 360-degree surround camera), navigation, MB Apps, and more, while the latter adds proximity-sensing keyless access, illuminated doorsill scuff plates, ambient lighting, a garage door opener, satellite radio, and parking sensors with self-parking capability. The LED headlight upgrade noted earlier also includes auto high beams, while the aforementioned Sport package adds sport brakes and a specially tuned suspension.
The only equipment group that wasn’t included was the Intelligent Drive package that adds a host of active safety and autonomous driving features such as Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with steering assist, Pre-Safe Plus monitoring with rear-end collision alert and mitigation, BAS (brake assist) Plus with rear cross-traffic alert, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and autonomous emergency braking, which is most everything needed for a self-driving car. Additional standalone options can include a head-up display unit, heatable steering wheel, rear window sunshades, and a powered rear shade, amongst others, while my loaner was upgraded with a powered trunk lid.
The C 300 4MATIC’s standard features list is impressive
Standard features with the $43,800 base C 300 4MATIC that were grandfathered up to my tester included heatable power-folding side mirrors, an electromechanical parking brake, pushbutton ignition, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Nappa leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a colour multi-information display, a large state-of-the-art high-definition tablet-style infotainment display with superb graphics, rich colours, full functionality and easy usability that’s modulated via one of the slickest touch-sensitive and knurled metal dial-type controllers in the industry, complete with smartphone-style capability that allows gestural inputs such as pinch and swipe plus tap and click, etcetera.
As safe as this segment gets
The standard safety suite includes all the usual active and passive systems as well as Attention Assist, Collision Prevention Assist Plus, regular Pre-Safe and Blind Spot Assist, adaptive braking with a hold function, and runflat tires, which is enough to earn it both IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus and NHTSA five-star status. These base features, as well as all of my C 300 4MATIC tester’s extras, including some lesser items not mentioned, raised its base price to just over $58k, which still seems reasonable when considering how fully featured and impressively finished this car is, not to mention how brilliantly it drives.
More powerful than its peers
Ask any German luxury car owner why they prefer their brand and it will often come down to driving dynamics. The C-Class simply delivers at a higher level than most peers, with a wonderful balance of ride comfort and handling prowess. What’s more, the C 300’s 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder feels more powerful than its closest rivals and is, its engine putting out a lively 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. The C’s standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive makes sure the wheels with the best grip get more twist, the result being a spirited launch off the line and good positive shifts from its standard 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic.
Those shifts get energized when Sport or Sport+ mode is chosen, Eco and Comfort more suited to a relaxed driving style. These not only alter the transmission shift points, but also throttle response and the suspension setup, whereas a fifth Individual mode lets you design a Dynamic Select mode that’s all you own, even allowing pure manual shifting via the gear lever or steering wheel paddles if DIY is more your style.
Highly efficient notwithstanding its impressive performance
As is now becoming the norm with German cars an auto start/stop system shuts down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, thus saving fuel and reducing emissions. It helps the C 300 4MATIC eke out a very reasonable 10.1 L/100km city, 7.8 highway and 8.9 combined rating, which just happens to be identical combined city/highway mileage to its closest German competitor despite the Merc’s performance advantage.
The C 300 4MATIC’s electro-mechanical steering is highly reactive yet rock steady at speed with very little deadness at centre. It also gives commendable feedback, as does the entire multi-link suspension, but like I mentioned earlier the little Merc is as much about performance as comfort, the C 300 being my first choice in the D-segment for a high-speed long distance cruise.
Popular for good reason
I have to admit that Mercedes’ C-Class would be my first choice for a lot of reasons. The C has long been competitive with its peers from a performance perspective and the car’s styling is now much more dramatic inside and out, while it’s a class above all comers in interior quality, something I’m a stickler about.
So if you’re ever wondering why there are so many C-Class sedans running around, don’t think for a second their drivers have merely bought into Mercedes’ slickly marketed three-pointed star brand image, because the current car is easily one of the best, if not the best in its class. Do yourself a favour and drive a new C 300 4MATIC.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.