There’s a lot riding on the C-Class, Mercedes-Benz’s top-selling car. It competes in a crowded segment of compact luxury cars including the BMW 3-Series, the Audi A4, the Cadillac ATS, and Infiniti’s Q50 (the new nameplate replacing the G-Series).
The 2013 C-Class sedan comes in five trims: the C250, the C300 4Matic, the C350, the C350 4Matic and the high-performance C63 AMG. Prices range from $37,300 to $65,300. My tester is a C300 4Matic, which costs $39,990. Only available in all-wheel-drive, it comes with a new more powerful, yet fuel-efficient engine – a 3.5-litre V-6 that delivers 248 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque (20 more horsepower and 30 more lb-ft of torque than the 3.0-litre V-6 engine it replaced).
CO2 emissions and fuel consumption have also improved thanks to innovative technology such as an Eco mode and automatic start/stop function, which kills the engine when stopped and restarts automatically when you release the brake so you’re not idling needlessly and wasting fuel. The transition is noticeable, but it’s not annoying. At first, it’s jarring – you think the vehicle has stalled, but it starts up again seamlessly and effortlessly. You get used to it quickly but if you don’t like it, the system can be turned off by pushing a button on the instrument panel. Personally, I’d take advantage of the fuel savings.
The C300 4Matic is rated at 10.5 litres/100 km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 9.1 combined highway and city driving, which isn’t bad for an AWD vehicle. For better mileage, there’s a four-cylinder engine available in the base C250 model – it’s a 201-hp, 1.8-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder that is rated at 9.5 city/6.2 highway. But it doesn’t come with 4Matic like the C300 – it’s only offered in a rear-drive configuration; which is why I’d take the C300 4Matic trim.
During one of Toronto’s worst winter storms of the season, I was grateful for Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic permanent all-wheel-drive system. Initially launched in 1987, Mercedes officials boast that the fourth generation of the system, which came out in 2006, is the lightest all-wheel-drive system in the world. Depending on the model, it adds between 50 to 70 kilograms of extra weight with little sacrifice in fuel economy.
With 4Matic, the power transfer between the wheels is controlled by 4-ETS, an electronic traction control system that gently applies the brakes on slipping wheels allowing you to maintain the correct course. Though 4Matic is a permanent all-wheel-drive system, its multi-disc differential lock can vary where the motor’s torque is being sent, ranging from 30:70 (front to rear) to 70:30 depending on road conditions.
The shift is seamless and automatic, allowing the sedan to respond naturally to my steering inputs. It remains stable, sure-footed with excellent traction to keep you out of trouble. While many other vehicles ended up in ditches during the snowstorm, the C300 carved its way through snow-piled, unplowed roads with confidence and grace.
It also comes with standard safety features such as acceleration skid control, electronic stability program, a tire pressure loss warning system and a driver’s knee airbag. Other innovative technology is available such as blind spot assist, which warns you when a car is lurking in your blind spot and it’s unsafe to make a lane change, and lane keeping assist, which warns the driver when you are unintentionally crossing the lane.
When the snow cleared and the rain came, the system still worked well. The C300 is agile, quiet, and comfortable. The ride is steady and taut. The steering is responsive and the shifts from the seven-speed automatic are imperceptible. Acceleration is good, too.
On the outside, the Mercedes-Benz C300 exudes style and elegance. It’s sporty in appearance with crisp lines and smooth surfaces. A $1,200 sport package adds beefy 17-inch, five-twin-spoke wheels, LED daytime running lights and sharp AMG styling touches.
Inside, it is luxurious and refined. But the centre stack and some of the controls aren’t the most intuitive. From the driver’s seat, all-around visibility is excellent. The front seats are comfy and supportive, but the rear seats are tight for three.
An abundance of options are available, but be careful when picking them – it can push up the price fast. A Comand Navigation package with HDD navigation, DVD changer and electronic compass costs $2,250; while a Premium package includes a sliding glass sunroof, exterior power folding mirrors and tri-level heated front seats for an extra $2,350. With the added options, the price of my tester jumps to $45,790.
Still, the Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic offers an attractive package for those who want a refined ride with an all-wheel-drive system that’ll tackle anything Mother Nature throws your way.
2013 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic
Type: Four-door, five-passenger, luxury compact sedan
Base Price: $39,990; as tested, $45,790
Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 248 hp/251 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.5 city/7.3 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50 (which replaces the G37), Audi A4, Volvo S60, Acura TSX, Buick Regal