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2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2015

If you're interested in a new Mercedes, you've probably discovered that the C-Class seems to be growing up, offering more features, more room and a higher price tag. It's undergoing so many changes that you might be wondering exactly what separates it from the larger E-Class, so we've created a close comparison of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class to find out exactly what's different between the two cars -- and what isn't.

Exterior

On the outside, it's easy to tell apart the E-Class and the C-Class. The E-Class uses boxier styling, which stems from its slightly older design; though the C-Class was fully redesigned this year, the E-Class hasn't been completely reworked since 2010. Thus, the C-Class offers a more modern, curvy look, in keeping with other contemporary Mercedes models such as the S-Class and the CLA-Class, while the E-Class looks a little more traditional. Expect the E-Class to take on the C-Class' design language with its next redesign in a few more years.

Interior

There are also some major differences between the C-Class and E-Class on the inside. The C-Class is far more modern, offering a much simpler center control stack, more of a flowing dashboard and more futuristic styling touches, such as circular air vents and a "stick-on" infotainment screen. By comparison, the E-Class has a far more conventional interior, with an integrated infotainment screen, traditional rectangular air vents and a center control stack that's filled with a lot more buttons. Of course, another difference between the C-Class and E-Class is size: The E-Class offers a bigger interior with more front and rear passenger room than its C-Class sibling.

Mechanicals

The C-Class sedan offers three engine choices. Base-level C300 models use a 241-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which touts up to 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway and comes with rear- or all-wheel drive. Drivers who want more power can opt for the C400, which offers a 329-hp turbocharged V6, standard all-wheel drive and fuel economy ratings that reach as high as 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. Finally, shoppers especially interested in performance can choose the new C63 AMG, which boasts a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 that boasts 469 or 503 hp depending on which version you choose.

Meanwhile, the E-Class offers an impressive five powertrains. Most drivers will opt for the E350, which uses a 302-hp V6 and returns up to 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. But shoppers can also go for the E250 BlueTEC, which uses a 195-hp 2.1-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder (28 mpg city/42 mpg hwy); the more powerful E400, which uses the C400's 329-hp turbocharged V6 (20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy); the miserly E400 Hybrid, which uses a hybrid version of the E350's V6 (24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy); and the high-performance E63 AMG, which offers up to 577 hp thanks to a turbocharged V8.

That's a lot of numbers, but here's the gist: In general, the C-Class offers slightly smaller engines with slightly better fuel economy than its E-Class stablemate. But it also offers fewer choices, as there's no diesel, no hybrid and no V8, all of which you can get in the E-Class.

Features & Technology

In terms of equipment, it may surprise some drivers to learn that the latest C-Class actually offers a few more bells and whistles than its larger (and more expensive) E-Class stablemate. There aren't too many more bells and whistles, mind you, but a few, which is a function of its newer design.

For example, only the C-Class comes standard with a forward-collision braking system, which is still an option in the E-Class. The C-Class' 8.4-inch display screen easily trumps the E-Class' older 7-in screen. Only the C-Class offers an ultra-high-end Burmester sound system. And only the C-Class offers Mercedes' new filtered cabin-scent feature.

That isn't to say that the E-Class doesn't impress with its wide range of high-end technology and equipment, because it does. But it's hard to trump a brand-new model -- even if the C-Class is technically the E-Class' baby brother.

Driving Experience

On the road, both sedans feel surprisingly sporty -- especially when you consider Mercedes' typically staid image. The automaker has been trying to change that image lately, and it seems to be working, at least if the C-Class and E-Class are any indication. Both feel athletic, quick and fun to drive, from the base-level C300 and E250 BlueTEC all the way up to the high-performance C63 and E63 models from Mercedes' high-performance AMG division.

With that said, there's no doubt that the C-Class is a little more enjoyable than its E-Class stablemate. Not only can you feel the C-Class' smaller size when you turn the wheel, its suspension seems to have been tuned a little more for performance, while the E-Class instead favors comfort. Otherwise, these two cars share a lot, from excellent visibility to strong, sure-footed braking. From a driving perspective, we suspect you won't regret either choice -- but you might have more fun in a C-Class.

Safety

In testing carried out by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, both the C-Class and E-Class earned only four stars overall out of a possible five. The E-Class fared better in testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning the firm's excellent Top Safety Pick+ score, though the C-Class has not yet been subjected to the IIHS's full battery of tests.

As for safety features, both the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class offer a wide range of some of the most high-tech safety features around. Specifically, they include an impressive array of standard features -- a backup camera, side-curtain airbags, traction control and anti-lock brakes -- along with an almost endless list of safety options such as a partially autonomous steering system, an automated parking system, a 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control and more.

Conclusions

In their current form, the C-Class and the E-Class are in an odd place in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. With the introduction of the smaller CLA-Class, the larger C-Class is now almost as big as the E-Class -- and thanks to its latest redesign, it offers some additional features, too. We also prefer the C-Class' driving experience to the larger E-Class', and of course, the C-Class is cheaper. Does that mean we recommend avoiding the E-Class? Not quite, as it still offers a larger interior, more body styles and more engine options. But we think the C-Class has earned such an excellent, thorough redesign that it deserves a second look from even the most loyal E-Class buyer.

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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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class vs. 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: What's the Difference? - Autotrader