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2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2017

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class range encompasses a fine array of premium compact cars. At one end of the spectrum is a plug-in hybrid sedan. At the other, a soft-top with 503 horsepower. In between, there are various amounts of power and equipment, along with coupe variants.

As one of the company's top sellers, successive waves of C-Classes come ever closer to emulating the excellent S-Class flagship sedan on a smaller scale. But that still means useful occupant space, an optional air suspension, exciting technology and state-of-the-art safety equipment, all wrapped up in sophisticated styling.

What's New for 2018?

A 9-speed automatic transmission replaces the 7-speed unit in last year's C 300 and C 300 4Matic variants, resulting in 0.2 seconds shaved from the sedans' 0-to-60 mph time, which is now 5.8 seconds.

The C 350e plug-in hybrid receives LED headlamps as standard. The C 300 Coupe gets a rearview camera as standard.

A power sunroof is standard for the sedans; extendable sun visors are standard throughout. A smartphone integration package (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) is a new option. Mercedes-Benz says its AMG engineers have revised various technical features of the C 43 to improve its driving dynamics and bring them more into line with the higher-level AMG models.

The options structure has also changed. The bundles are now smaller, making it easier for buyers to select their preferred features.

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)

How Much

$41,245-$82,495

Fuel Economy

The entry-level C 300 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 new 9-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 C 300 sedan achieves 24 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving. The 4Matic version returns 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

In rear-drive guise or as a 4Matic model, the C 300 coupe is rated at 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined; the C 300 cabriolet returns 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

Only the C 350e plug-in hybrid's rear wheels receive the combined system output of 275 hp and 443 lb-ft from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor. The transmission is a 7-speed automatic. Consumption is calculated by the EPA by taking in both gasoline and electric power to come up with a miles-per-gallon equivalent (mpge). The 2018 C 350e's EPA figures have still to be finalized, but the 2017 model was estimated to achieve 45 mpge city/61 mpge hwy. Range in EV-only mode is around 20 miles.

C 43 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, and all-wheel drive is standard. The EPA puts consumption at 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined in the sedan and coupe versions, and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined in the cabriolet.

A turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 propels both the C 63 and the C 63 S. The former kicks out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, while 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 C 63 and C 63 S sedans achieve 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. Both C 63 coupes return 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined, and the cabriolets manage 17 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined.

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 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in sedan, coupe and cabriolet (4-seater soft-top) body styles, with choices of drivetrains and features. All-wheel drive (4Matic) costs $2,000 extra where applicable.

The C 300 sedan ($41,245) has 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, simulated leather upholstery (much better than it sounds), a 14-way power driver's seat with memory, a power front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, the Comand infotainment system with a 7-in screen, Bluetooth and an 8-speaker audio system with USB/SD card slots and HD Radio.

An AMG Line bundle brings AMG body styling, 18-in AMG wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, performance front brakes, a sport steering wheel and various sporty interior flourishes. A Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward-collision mitigation and lane-keeping assistance. The Advanced Lighting Package brings full LED lighting inside and out, automatic high beams and headlamps that follow the steering. The Multimedia package enlarges the infotainment screen to 8.4 inches while bringing a touchpad controller, navigation and voice control.

The sedan-only C 350e ($48,895) has the air suspension, LED headlamps and 18-in alloys as standard.

The C 300 coupe ($44,195) and C 300 cabriolet ($52,195) come with keyless entry/start, satellite radio, blind spot monitoring and 18-in alloy wheels. Naturally, the cabriolet has a powered fabric roof, with the neck-heating Airscarf feature as standard.

Additional C-Class options include leather upholstery, heated and/or ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a wood/leather steering wheel, a power rear sunshade, keyless entry/ignition, a cabin ventilation system that emits fragranced air, a head-up display, an illuminated grille star, a 590-watt/13-speaker Burmester audio system, satellite radio, a powered trunk lid, an adaptive air suspension and active parking.

The C 43 sedan ($54,395), coupe ($56,895) and cabriolet ($61,795) have all-wheel drive as standard.

The C 63 sedan ($67,095/$74,695 for the S), coupe ($68,495/$76,495) and cabriolet ($74,495/$82,495) have an aero body kit, 18-in alloys, huge brakes, a sport suspension, a sport exhaust, more prominent seat bolsters and dedicated interior trim. Exclusive AMG-related options include a limited-slip differential, plus dedicated cosmetic and performance upgrades.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the C-Class sedan four out of five stars for front-impact protection, five stars in the side-impact test, four in its rollover test and five out of five overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it a top score of Good in the side- and moderate-front overlap crash tests, plus Superior (with the optional safety equipment) for front-crash prevention.

The C-Class comes with stability control, antilock 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 rollover-protection system.

Behind the Wheel

The overall look and feel is strikingly upscale. Materials and finishes are uniformly top-notch.

The Comand system has 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 in any model, though the sedan's rear legroom is a tad tight if tall folks are sitting up front. Naturally, rear passenger space is a little tighter in the coupe and cabriolet versions, but still bearable for an adult of average size.

Trunk capacity in the sedan is 12.6 cu ft. (average for the segment). The C 350e's trunk space is 11.8 cubes, because it has to accommodate some of the plug-in hybrid hardware. The coupe runs to 10.5 cu ft., and the cabriolet has 8.8 cu ft. -- like the sedans, their rear seats will also split and fold.

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 insufficient steering feel 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 C 43 straddles the area between regular C-Class cars and the higher-performance C63 derivations. That's a sweet 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 C 63's V8 is one of the world's finest engines.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Audi A4 -- One year into a new generation. Polished and packed with tech. The S4 is a credible alternative to the C 43. The new A5/S5 also goes up against the C-Class coupes and cabriolets.

2018 BMW 3 Series -- An unbeatable mix of athleticism and luxury, and it has an adult-size back seat. A new generation is expected for 2019. A buyer might well be torn between an M3 (or M4) and a C 63 sedan or coupe.

2018 Cadillac ATS -- One of the best-handling compact sport sedans.

2018 Lexus IS -- Distinctive styling, smart 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.

Autotrader's Advice

With several 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. We do have a fondness for each of the C 43 variants, however.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader