The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class features two distinct styles; the Luxury and Sport models cater to different types of C-Class buyers. The two models can be distinguished from afar, especially from the front, due to their very different front-end treatments. Overall, the C-Class is the smallest and most inexpensive model in the Mercedes lineup.
The Sport has no hood ornament but rather a large emblem in the middle of the grille that's body-colored instead of chrome. The Luxury follows Mercedes tradition with the familiar chrome grille and three-pointed-star hood ornament.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sport models also differ from the Luxury by way of lowered, sport-tuned suspension, larger wheels, a sport braking system, and dual exhaust. Inside, the Sport's trim is composed of either matte-aluminum or maple wood, while the Luxury features chrome and burl walnut wood. However, the plastics used in the base Sport look somewhat drab.
Both the C300 Luxury and Sport models come with a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, while the C350 Sport gets a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. The C300 models are available with 4Matic all-wheel drive, a full-time system that reverts to sending 55 percent of power to the rear wheels when more isn't needed at a particular wheel. The C300 has a standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed automatic, but the C350 can only be had with the automatic.
The exclusive C63 AMG (covered separately by TheCarConnection.com) is the big dog of the 2009 Mercedes C-Class. Its 6.3-liter, V-8 engine produces 451 horsepower, which complements all the additional performance equipment the C63 features, including a sport suspension, Z-rated performance tires, bigger brakes, a sport exhaust, special AMG heated sport seats, a race timer, and plenty of additional appearance upgrades.
The two V-6 engines aren't that different from each other in normal driving, but the additional performance of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C350 is only noticeable during full-throttle acceleration or on the most demanding mountain roads. The seven-speed automatic shifts smoothly, whether using the manual mode or not, and it downshifts quickly and decisively when needed. The C-Class comes equipped with Mercedes' Agility Control suspension, which helps C-Class models stay flat in corners and maintain a well-controlled ride by mechanically adjusting damper settings to reduce body motion during spirited driving and sudden maneuvers, without a sacrifice in ride comfort. The C-Class has crisp steering response compared to former C-Class sedans, thanks in part to a quicker steering ratio, but the steering isn't quite as direct in feel. Of the two models, the Sport allows better handling without any significant decrease in ride quality.
Both the Sport and the Luxury C-Class models have quiet cabins with good isolation from the road, although you hear the engine when accelerating. The backseat is the C-Class' most significant weakness, though. The average adult will find headroom adequate, but legroom is very tight, and unless the front seats are pulled far forward, most will not find the space comfortable.
All 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class models come equipped with pelvic airbags that work in conjunction with the dual front-side airbags and side-curtain bags. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the C-Class "good" in frontal impact but doesn't test it in other areas. Crash-test performance in the federal government's program is somewhat disappointing for a vehicle from a brand that's known for such high safety standards, with four-star results in frontal protection but five-star ratings in side impact.
Standard on all models is Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and a twin-panel Panorama sunroof. An available entertainment system brings 4GB of music storage and accepts memory cards; there's also a DVD entertainment system and a voice-activated navigation system with a convenient pop-up display screen. Most options for the 2009 C-Class are grouped into major packages and include heated seats, a rear sunshade, bi-xenon headlamps, and a lighting system with corner-illuminating fog lamps.
The Bottom Line:
For the price, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers sportiness, luxury, safety, and creature comforts in an attractive package.