New Car Review
2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: New Car Review
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has blossomed into a wide-ranging portfolio of superb premium compact cars, going from a plug-in hybrid to a 503 horsepower devil-may-care soft-top.
As one of the company's top sellers, successive waves of C-Classes come ever closer to emulating the excellent S-Class flagship sedan, only on a smaller scale. But that still means useful occupant space, an optional air suspension (the only car in its category to offer this feature), exciting technology and state-of-the-art safety equipment, all wrapped up in sophisticated styling.
What's New for 2017?
The 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic replaces the C450 AMG Sport, and comes in sedan, coupe and cabriolet (convertible) form. Other new coupe and cabriolet versions also join the range.
What We Like
Styling; technology; quiet, well-trimmed cabin; impressive handling; optional air suspension
What We Don't
Pricey options (as usual with German cars); rearview camera not standard in the C300 coupe
$40,425 to $81,775
The entry level C300 moves to the tune of 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter/4-cylinder engine, linked to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as an option. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rear-drive C300 sedan achieves 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. The 4Matic version returns 24/31/27 mpg.
The rear-drive C300 coupe is rated at 23/30/26 mpg, or 23/29/25 mpg with all-wheel drive. The C300 cabriolet returns 23/31/26 mpg in rear-drive guise, 22/29/25 mpg as a 4Matic model.
States with the most stringent emissions regulations are eligible for the C350e plug-in hybrid. Only the rear wheels receive the combined system output of 275 hp and 443 lb-ft that comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder combustion engine and an electric motor. The transmission is the regular 7-speed automatic.
Fuel consumption is calculated by the EPA taking in both gasoline and electric power to come up with a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe). The C350e is estimated to achieve 45 MPGe in the city and 61 MPGe on the highway. Range in EV-only mode is 20 miles.
C43 4Matic cars have a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 for a meaty 362 hp and 384 lb-ft. This engine is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. The EPA reckons consumption will run to 20/28/23 mpg in the sedan and coupe versions, and 19/26/22 mpg in the cabriolet.
A turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 propels both the C63 and the C63 S. The former kicks out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, the latter is boosted to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. These cars use AMG-tuned 7-speed automatic transmissions and are rear-wheel-drive.
The C63 sedan runs to 18/25/21 mpg; the S version is thirstier by only one mile per gallon on the highway and in the combined figure. Both versions of the coupe achieve 17/23/19 mpg; both cabriolets manage 17/22/19 mpg.
All C-Class models have an Eco driving mode which uses an automatic stop/start feature to save fuel when the car is at rest.
Standard Features and Options
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in sedan, coupe and cabriolet (4-seater soft-top) body styles, with an array of drivetrains and features.
The C300 sedan ($40,425) has 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, simulated leather upholstery (much better than it sounds), 14-way power driver's seat with memory, power front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, Comand infotainment system with a 7-in screen, Bluetooth, and an 8-speaker audio system with USB/SD card slots and HD radio.
A Luxury package adds exterior styling tweaks (including different wheel designs), comfort-tuned suspension, accent stitching on the dashboard and wood inlays. The Sport bundle brings AMG body styling, 18-inch AMG wheels, sport-tuned suspension, performance front brakes, sport steering wheel and various sporty interior flourishes.
The Premium 1 options bundle consists of keyless entry/start, satellite radio and blind spot assistance. Premium 2 has full LED lighting, a 590-watt/13-speaker Burmester audio system and heated front seats.
Premium 3 brings a powered trunk lid, ambient cabin lighting and a touch pad control for the infotainment system, which also gets an 8.4-in display and navigation.
As well as a cabin ventilation system that emits fragranced air, Premium 4 is when advanced safety features start to kick in, like adaptive cruise control and headlamp beams that follow the steering.
The sedan-only C350e ($46,415) does not offer the Sport package, but has air suspension and 18-in alloys as standard.
The C300 coupe ($43,575) and C300 cabriolet ($51,825) are generally equipped to the level of Premium 1 from the outset, although the coupe loses the rearview camera as standard. And naturally the cabriolet has a powered fabric roof, while offering the neck-heating Airscarf feature among the options.
Additional C-Class options include leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, head-up display and the adaptive air suspension.
The C43 4Matic sedan ($52,925), coupe ($56,425) and cabriolet ($61,325) have all-wheel drive as standard, plus 18-in alloy wheels and the contents of the Premium 1 bundle.
The C63 sedan ($66,125 or $73,725 for the S), coupe ($67,925/$75,925) and cabriolet ($73,775/$81,775) have an aero body kit, 18-in alloys, huge brakes, sport suspension, sport exhaust, more prominent seat bolsters and dedicated interior trim. Exclusive options include a limited-slip differential, plus dedicated cosmetic and performance upgrades.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the C-Class sedan four out of five stars for front impact protection, five stars in the side impact test, four for its rollover test, and five out of five overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a top score of Good for side and moderate front overlap, plus Superior with optional equipment for front crash prevention.
The C-Class comes with stability control, anti-lock disc brakes and a comprehensive tally of airbags as standard. Rear side airbags are optional. Parking sensors and a self-parking system are also available. Cabriolet versions have a special roll-over protection system.
Additional electronic safety aids in the optional Driver Assistance package include adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation system with automatic braking, active blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist and active lane-keeping assist.
Behind the Wheel
The overall look and feel is strikingly upscale. Materials and finishes are uniformly top-notch.
The Comand system keeps its familiar control knob on the center console, but puts a touch-sensitive extension on top for smartphone-like swiping gestures. There's a learning curve, but the horizontal menus at the top and bottom of the screen are user-friendly.
It's hard to fault the front seats of any model. The sedan's rear legroom is still tight if tall folks are sitting up front. Trunk capacity in the sedan is 12.6 cubic feet (average for the segment). The C350e's trunk space is 11.8 cubes, because it has to accommodate some of the plug-in hybrid hardware.
The C-Class is remarkably quiet, cruising at highway speeds like a bona fide luxury car. The standard suspension's ride is taut but well damped; the optional air suspension is a joy. The sport-tuned suspension amplifies the occasional thud, but it also turns the C-Class into a genuine 3 Series rival. Apart from numb steering through fast corners, there's little room for improvement.
Many drivers will be satisfied with the 4-cylinder engine, which has enough torque for most situations. However, the C43 straddles the area between regular C-Class cars and the higher-performance C63 derivations. That's a good spot, because sometimes an AMG in typical traffic feels like taking an alpha wolf to the dog park. At the heady end of the performance spectrum, the C63's V8 is one of the world's finest engines.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Audi A4 -- All-new generation for 2017. Polished and packed with tech. The S4 variant is a credible alternative to the C43.
2017 BMW 3 Series -- Continues to offer an unbeatable mix of athleticism and luxury, and it has an adult-sized back seat.
2017 Cadillac ATS -- One of the best-handling compact sport sedans.
2017 Lexus IS -- Distinctive styling, smartly trimmed interior and a generous equipment list.
Used Cadillac CTS -- An excellent luxury sedan and a blast to drive hard. A certified pre-owned (CPO) model enables a step up to the midsize segment without spending more money.
From all the body styles and engine choices, a recommendation for one person would make no sense for another. But you can't go wrong with any of them. Then again, C300 versions might seem a little polite and C63 cars perhaps too wild. The C43 section is bold yet bearable and the coupe model feels particularly special.