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road test

The 2020 Mercedes C-Class.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Time is not kind to cars, even the good ones. If they don’t rust, they break down. If they don’t break, they look dated. If they don’t look dated, their Windows XP-looking low-resolution navigation system sure does. And so, despite the fact cars are lasting longer than ever before they get sent to the big scrapyard in the sky – 15 years in many cases – the constant cycle of new models continues at dizzying pace.

Be honest, you were thinking about ditching your nearly new car once its lease is up and swapping it for the newer model, weren’t you?

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class was one of the good cars. When the current-generation of Benz’s venerable compact sedan debuted in early 2014, it trounced the usual suspects like BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4. The Benz’s sleek interior design and luxurious cabin were a cut above the rest. It was simply better than its rivals at impersonating a full-size luxury barge.

What we have now in 2020, though, is a car at the end of its life. In smartphone years, the current C-Class is ancient. When it was introduced at the Detroit auto show, the teeny-tiny Apple iPhone 5S was still new.

This C-Class will soon be replaced by an all-new version, likely debuting late this year or in 2021, assuming Mercedes continues its usual seven-year life cycle.

The quiet, sophisticated interior is still excellent.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The thing is, the C-Class is still excellent. It cruises down any street like it owns the place. It’s serene on the highway, even though it’s now dwarfed by supposedly compact SUVs. The cabin is quiet, and when the doors shut, they do so with the hefty thunk of an airplane’s main hatch.

Even this C300 4Matic, the lowliest of all C-Class models, is smooth and more than quick enough to remind you you’re driving a premium machine. The 2.0-litre turbo pushes out 255 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque with apparently zero effort. It does 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds for crying out loud.

On paper, its fuel economy is nothing special. But over a week – which admittedly included lots of highway driving – the car averaged 7.7 L/100 km. Not bad at all.

The traditional Mercedes gear lever, positioned on a stalk behind the steering wheel, is an acquired taste that I’ve never acquired. It does, however, free up space on the centre console for storage and make that sleek dashboard possible. It still looks good, even all these years later.

The Mercedes gear lever remains an acquired taste.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Our car was fitted with optional sport suspension, which was one of its few obvious flaws. It only serves to make the ride less comfortable on broken city roads.

No, the Mercedes isn’t as spacious or engaging to drive as the new BMW 3 Series. Volvo, Jaguar, Genesis and others also make some stylish little luxury sedans now. Some rivals offer a little more rear legroom or cargo space. Those improvements are all incremental though; the C-Class still holds its own.

The exception is all the in-car technology, such as the infotainment system’s frustrating rotating selector and hidden, unintuitive menu layout. The system in the less-expensive Mercedes A-Class is newer and easier to use.

The aging C-Class still cruises down the road like it owns it.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The aging tech in the C-Class also costs quite a lot of money. The $4,000 premium package gets you a 10-inch screen (instead of the dinky standard 7-inch item) as well as basic features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a voice-command system that is either hard of hearing or simply doesn’t understand English very well. Time is not kind to cars, but it’s downright brutal to digital devices.

A car is not its technology though. That the C-Class is still this good nearly at the end of its life makes you question what other automakers have been doing for the last six years. It’s probably not the class leader anymore, but it’s not that far off.

Tech specs

  • Base price: $46,400
  • Engine: 2.0-litre turbo 4-cylinder
  • Transmissions: 9-speed automatic
  • Fuel economy (L/100 km): 11 city, 7.3 highway
  • Drive: all-wheel drive
  • Alternatives: Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Genesis G70, Cadillac CT4, Jaguar XE, Volvo S60, Lexus IS, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Acura TLX, Infiniti Q50, Mercedes A-Class


The C-Class still looks good as it nears the end of this generation's life cycle.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

The design has aged well. It’s a genuinely compact car, noticeably narrower than the new 3 Series. If you drive downtown often, that might be a good thing.


The fit and finish inside the C-Class was impressive when it was introduced in 2014, and it still is now. Avoid the piano-black trim, which is a dust-magnet, and opt for the no-cost wood instead.


It can’t match the 3 Series in terms of driver involvement and handling, but for daily driving duties, the C-Class does everything you’d want. It may be old, but it’s still quick.


A 10-inch screen is available as part of a $4,000 premium package.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

A full suite of advanced driver-assistance systems is a $2,700 option. Still, the C-Class is overall better value than when it was launched; it has more standard equipment now, and its rivals have crept up in price.


Trunk space is adequate but smaller than in the 3 Series. The Benz, however, is available as a station wagon, which the BMW is not.

The verdict

Still a solid luxury car for daily driving duties, despite the outdated tech. This is for the sort of person who isn’t seduced by the latest shiny toys.

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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