Sedans have grow to be the Jan Brady of vehicles. They’re neglected and underappreciated, as shoppers lavish firstborn consideration on SUVs, or coo over the most recent electrical infants.
So when the all-new 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class was introduced, the information didn’t precisely mild the world on fireplace. However now that I’ve pushed the usual C 300, I really feel a bit responsible for overlooking its significance, not less than for SUV refusniks decided to maintain their ft and seat nearer to the bottom. In truth, this new C-Class is an amazing addition to the sedan ranks. It’s tastefully styled, extra richly appointed and technically replete than any rival, and immensely satisfying to drive. And its all-around excellence bodes effectively for variations to come back. They embody a 2023 AMG C 43 Sport later this yr, with customary AWD and rear-wheel-steering; and a skin-flaying 402 horses from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 48-volt hybrid help and electric-boosted turbocharging.
Tally the present era’s full lifespan, and the C-Class has remained the most-popular Mercedes; whether or not right here, in China or world wide, with 2.5 million world sedan-and-wagon gross sales since 2014. However a mannequin that was discovering greater than 85,000 U.S. consumers a yr within the mid 2010’s couldn’t escape the trade’s sedan tailspin, together with slightly below 31,000 gross sales final yr. Time to shore up the franchise, even when the GLC-Class SUV is now ensconced because the household gross sales star — Mercedes’ Marcia, if you’ll — with 51,000 prospects in 2021.
To do it, Mercedes climbed to its high shelf to raid key S-Class options, together with its dramatic 11.9-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen that’s been subtly tilted six levels towards the motive force to be used within the C. It additionally will get the most recent security and semi-autonomous tech, and choices comparable to augmented-reality navigation and a colour head-up show. That’s all wrapped in a barely roomier inside that nods gracefully to the S-Class — with flattering stuff like laser-cut Burmester speaker grilles, ambient lighting, polished metals and natural-grain woods — whereas giving up virtually nothing in luxurious to the midsize E-Class. We’re unsure the final C-Class ever gave up its standing as King of the Cabins within the compact sport sedan section, however the brand new automobile’s grip on the throne is unquestioned. It additionally now has essentially the most rear legroom within the section, at 36 inches. That’s simply 0.2 inches shy of the bigger E-Class’ again seat.
To drive residence the purpose, Mercedes accentuates the C-Class’ conventional cab-backward, long-hood sedan proportions, shoving the windshield and passenger house additional towards the rear axle. Mercedes’ A-shaped radiator grille and three-pointed star — blessedly, neither outsized nor radically statement-making — fronts a assured power-domed hood. A worthwhile AMG Line with Night time Package deal choice ($3,050) fills that grille with tiny chromed Mercedes stars (a pleasant contact), revises entrance and rear fascias and exhaust shops, and provides aspect rocker extensions. Different goodies embody a sport suspension and steering, brushed aluminum pedals, a dashboard trimmed in MB-Tex fake leather-based, and perforated brake discs with Mercedes-Benz emblem calipers.
The earlier C-Class’ physique creases are softened, amplifying the streamlined “catwalk” shoulder line. And the previous, considerably chunky butt and blobby taillamps are reshaped to interesting impact. Slender two-piece LED taillamps, a primary for a C-Class, sweep throughout the trunk lid and slender into sharp factors. On the opening of our two-day drive from New York to the Catskills mountains and again, the C-Class appeared virtually too demure. However this finely proportioned sedan, and its nothing-to-prove magnificence, grew on me virtually instantly. The C’s more-classic design is much extra profitable to me than Mercedes’ eggheaded EQS.
Mercedes stretched the brand new mannequin by 2.5 inches to 187 inches (simply shy of an Audi A4 or Cadillac CT4, and 1.3 longer than a BMW 3 Collection), with a 1-inch-longer wheelbase. It’s roughly a half-inch wider and decrease. There’s added shoulder and elbow room entrance and rear, almost an inch extra rear legroom, and 0.4-inches extra rear headroom regardless of the decrease roofline. An ordinary, clamshell-style panoramic sunroof boosts the spacious impression. Cut up rear seats fold, together with through switches within the trunk, to open up extra versatile house.
As famous, that inside is a deal with. Generously bolstered seats combine pivoting headrests on single posts, with a variety of inside colours and coverings — a racy red-and-black combo, or brick-like AMG Sienna Brown with pure wooden pinstriped with actual aluminum. Ambient lighting decorates the doorways, sprint and aircraft-inspired metallic vents with a selection of 64 colours. Architects would dig the cantilevered armrests and “floating,” light-rimmed door-control housings. A 3-spoke steering wheel seems to be nearly as good because it feels, as do bright-metal paddle shifters as cool and polished as river stones.
MBUX infotainment, regardless of the enhancements gleaned from the larger display screen, nonetheless requires a first-time studying curve. However as soon as your steering-wheel thumbs and mind are educated, MBUX actually is a nifty — and undeniably eye-popping — means of navigating right this moment’s data-heavy automotive panorama. One exception is the management chiclet on the left-thumb aspect of the wheel, which manages the graphically wealthy, freestanding driver’s show, together with full-screen 3D map views: Too usually, it errors a left-right thumb sweep for an up-down, and will get a thumbs-down for blowing a radio-station change or different operation. But the elective Augmented Actuality navs nonetheless amazes, superimposing directional arrows, road indicators and even addresses over a real-time digital camera atmosphere. (The addresses that hover and disappear, Rolodex-style, on remaining method to a hard-to-find enterprise or rural driveway, are a tech godsend).
The choice of adopting the brand new “Zero Layer” residence display screen design first seen on the EQS neatly avoids digging into distracting menus. It retains a map view in sight always, flanked by principal “module” tiles and individualized “magic modules” managed by machine studying of a driver’s historical past and habits. In a single instance, if the automobile figures out a driver tends to name a accomplice on the every day route residence, it locations the cellphone quantity onscreen at-the-ready. A biometric fingerprint reader can maintain these behavior-based predictions and different issues personal, unlocking MBUX for particular person customers, their calendars, e-mails, fee authorizations, and extra. On-line music providers at the moment are built-in into the MBUX ecosystem. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are customary. To all that, the C-Class provides the most recent “Hey Mercedes” vary of conversational, Siri-style voice instructions.
Thankfully, when it’s time for fingers to grab the steering wheel, the C 300 is equally succesful. Sport-sedan number-crunchers may see the C 300’s 4 cylinders, 255 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque and say “The place’s my AMG?” Peak horsepower is certainly unchanged from 2021, with 20 extra pound-feet of max torque. However the C 300’s secret weapon is the M 254 2.0-liter engine. The all-new powerplant combines the topline options of Mercedes’ modular four- and six-cylinder engine household for the primary time. These embody patented “Nanoslide” cylinder coating, the weight-saving, friction-busting tech additionally utilized in Mercedes’ F1 powerplants. The engine integrates a 48-volt mild-hybrid system; and a brand new twin-scroll turbocharger whose tech was additionally developed at the side of Mercedes’ Petronas F1 staff — and previews probably record-setting four-cylinder energy on AMG C-Lessons to come back. The hybrid system provides temporary-yet-potent bursts of as much as 20 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Its starter/generator delivers almost imperceptible begin/cease engine features. The electrical motor, cooling and energy electronics are all packaged in (or on) the slick nine-speed transmission for weight-and-energy efficiencies; together with power restoration and gliding with the engine off.
Mercedes’ estimate of a 5.9-second squirt to 60 mph isn’t conservative, it’s sandbagging: 5.3 or 5.4 seconds appears extra prefer it. Throughout our spring fling within the Hudson Valley, if somebody had instructed me this Benz had 300 horses, I’d have believed it. The motor isn’t an thrilling revver, with full-throttle upshifts coming simply earlier than the 6,400-rpm redline. However the electrical surge and slick transmission ably fill any gaps within the engine’s armor. The brand new engine sounds higher as effectively — surprisingly husky at full throttle, as hushed on the freeway as any library-like Benz.
Add a critically dialed-in suspension, and the C 300 was up for Soiled Dancing within the Catskills, particularly in a Sport Plus mode that amps up already-sharp throttle and gearbox response. The C 300 gripped like loopy on good-looking, elective 19-inch, multispoke AMG wheels with summer time tires. Eighteens with all-season rubber are customary. The experience is agency, however by no means punishing. There’s a contact of physique roll, within the method of any base-model sport sedan, however all a part of the expertise.
This C 300 jogged my memory, once more, that you simply don’t want 500 horsepower to have a superb time. A bit like a Honda Civic vs. a Kind R — sure, Mercedes, this can be a praise — the C 300’s keen four-banger and supple, dialed-in chassis had me questioning why I’d must spend extra on a hopped-up AMG model. So what if passing takes a contact extra advance planning, or simply retaining your foot in it longer?
Improved gas financial system is the inexperienced icing on the cake: The EPA credit the C 300 with 23 mpg metropolis and 35 mpg freeway, the latter representing a 2-mpg acquire versus final yr. The EPA could also be understating issues: Retaining the speedo slightly below 70 mph, I handle to eke out a exceptional 41 mpg over a 60-mile cruise. The nine-speed gearbox retains the engine burbling at simply 1,400 rpm at 70 mph, and 1,700 rpm at 80 mph. Later, even after a number of romps previous freeway dawdlers, backing off nonetheless retains the C-Class round 37 mpg.
Concerning pricing, 2022’s simplified lineup technique presents three distinct trim strains — Premium, Unique and Pinnacle — with far fewer à la carte choices. So a C 300 Premium begins from $44,600, rising to $46,850 for an Unique and a Pinnacle at $48,500. For all fashions, an improved 4Matic AWD system, that may divert extra torque to the entrance axle for improved dynamics, provides $2,000.
The C 300 Pinnacle take a look at automobile reached $57,970, with add-ons comparable to a $1,950 Driver Help Package deal that provides greater than a dozen security and semi-autonomous options. However a disciplined shopper can simply maintain this C-Class nearer to $50,000, particularly in case your geography and outlook don’t demand 4Matic AWD.
As Mercedes has assigned fashions just like the GLA-Class to work the door and welcome entry-level buyers, the C-Class — as soon as referred to as the “Child Benz” in 190 guise —has been allowed to develop, mature and earn its increased standing within the model family. This new mannequin underlines that Mercedes’ transfer was the fitting one, even when SUVs hog the limelight and showroom flooring. This C-Class is a real aspirational sedan for grown-ups of any age; a junior-suite S- or E-Class that’s nonetheless compact, sporty, fuel-efficient and in no way stuffy. It’s not cheap, and the actually dear, highly effective stuff is but to come back. However drop $50,000 on this C 300, and I assure you’ll really feel like 1,000,000 bucks.