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2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2015

It's the sophomore year for this luxury compact sedan. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class follows on from 2015's all-new generation. As one of Mercedes' top sellers, successive waves of C-Class vehicles come ever closer to emulating the superb S-Class flagship sedan, only on a smaller scale. But that still means useful rear legroom, an optional air suspension (the only car in its category to offer this feature), exciting tech and state-of-the-art safety equipment, all wrapped up in sophisticated styling.

What's New for 2016?

Three new variants debut this year. The diesel-powered C300d and the C350e plug-in hybrid are joined by the C450 AMG Sport 4MATIC, which succeeds the 2015 C400 with a more powerful turbo V6 and some equipment from the fire-breathing AMG C63 S.

In terms of options, a heated steering wheel is now available. What used to be the Premium bundle is now divided into Premium 1 and Premium 2. A Night package brings 18-inch alloy wheels finished in black and silver, plus black gloss exterior accents. And 2016 marks the introduction of the Parking Assist package with a surround-view camera system.

There's no coupe for 2016, since 2015's version was based on the previous platform; the one derived from this new car will be a 2017 model.

What We Like

Styling; technology; quiet, well-trimmed cabin; impressive handling; available air suspension

What We Don't

Pricy options (as usual with German cars)

How Much?

$38,950-$72,700

Fuel Economy

The C300 moves to the tune of 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Rear-wheel drive is standard, with the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system offered as an option. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rear-drive C300 is good for 25 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. The 4MATIC version returns 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy and 27 mpg combined.

The C300d 4MATIC is the range's diesel drinker. Its 4-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged engine delivers 190 hp and an awesome 369 lb-ft of torque. There are no consumption figures yet because it doesn't arrive until February 2016, but 40 mpg hwy is feasible. As its full name denotes, all-wheel drive is standard.

Zero-emissions-vehicle states (there are 10 of them, mainly on either coast) will see the C350e plug-in hybrid. And only the rear wheels will see the combined system output of 275 hp and 443 lb-ft. This is one more reason to welcome 2016, when further information becomes available on topics such as fuel consumption (around 27 mpg city), range in EV mode (18.6 miles are expected here) and pricing (in the region of $45,000).

The C450 AMG Sport 4MATIC deploys a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 for a meaty 362 hp and 384 lb-ft. EPA reckons consumption will run to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy and 24 mpg combined.

And then there's the turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 in both the C63 AMG and the C63 S. The former kicks out 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque, while the latter ups the ante to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both are EPA-rated at 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy and 20 mpg combined, and both are rear-wheel-drive equipped.

All C-Class models use a 7-speed automatic transmission with an automatic stop/start feature to save fuel when the car is at rest. The AMG cars have their own particular fast-shifting versions, however.

Standard Features & Options

The entry-level C300 ($38,950; $40,950 for the 4MATIC version) includes standard features such as 17-in alloy wheels, auto-dimming mirrors, synthetic leatherette upholstery, a 14-way power driver's seat with memory, a power front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, Mercedes' COMAND infotainment system (with a 7-in central display, touchpad functionality and Wi-Fi), Bluetooth and an 8-speaker audio system with USB connectivity.

A Luxury package adds exterior styling tweaks (including different wheel designs), a comfort-tuned suspension, accent stitching on the dashboard and wood inlays. The Sport 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.

The Premium 1 package consists of keyless entry/start, satellite radio and blind spot assist, while the Premium 2 package has LED lighting at both ends, a 13-speaker Burmester audio system upgrade and heated front seats.

Standard equipment and options for the C300d (price to be announced) will be largely in line with its gasoline counterpart. The C350e (TBA) won't offer the Sport package but does have air suspension and 18-in alloys as standard. The C450 AMG Sport ($50,800) comes from the factory with the Sport and Premium 1 packages' features.

Additional options include leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a 14-way power front passenger seat with memory, LED ambient lighting, a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage and an upgraded 8.4-in display, head-up display, a hands-free power trunk lid and an adaptive air suspension.

The C63 AMG ($65,250; $73,250 for the S) is decked out with an aero body kit, 18-in AMG wheels, huge brakes, a sport suspension, a sport exhaust, more prominent seat bolsters and dedicated interior trim. Exclusive options include a limited-slip differential, plus all the AMG-themed aesthetic and performance upgrades.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2015 model four out of five stars for front-impact protection, five stars in the side-impact test, four out of five 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 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes with stability control, anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain) as standard. Rear-side airbags are optional. A rearview camera, parking sensors and a self-parking system are also available.

Additional electronic safety aids are provided via an optional Driver Assistance package, which includes adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigation system with automatic braking, an active blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic assist and active lane-keeping assist.

Behind the Wheel

The overall upscale look and feel is striking. The dashboard is a major improvement over the unremarkable design of the previous generation, while materials and finishes are uniformly top-notch.

The newest COMAND system keeps its familiar control knob on the center console but puts a touch-sensitive extension on top for smartphonelike swiping gestures. There's certainly a learning curve, but the horizontal menus at the top and bottom of each screen make for a user-friendly interface.

It's hard to fault the front seats of any model, although enthusiasts might find the optional sport seats somewhat lacking in lateral support. In the rear, legroom is still tight if long-legged folks are sitting in front. Trunk capacity is 12.6 cu ft., which is average for the segment. The C350e's trunk space is 11.8 cu ft. because it has to accommodate some of the plug-in hybrid hardware.

The C-Class is remarkably quiet by any measure, cruising at highway speeds like a smaller luxury car. The standard suspension's ride is taut but well damped; the optional air suspension puts you on a cloud. The sport-tuned suspension amplifies the occasional thud, but it also turns the C-Class into a genuine 3 Series fighter. Apart from numb steering in fast corners, there's little room for improvement.

The C450's V6 is supremely capable, but most drivers should be more than satisfied with the appreciably less expensive 4-cylinder engine in the C300, which has enough torque for most situations. However, the C450 straddles that line between regular C-Class cars and the full-on AMG derivations -- kind of AMG Lite. It's a good spot to occupy, as piloting an AMG in usual traffic conditions sometimes feels like taking an alpha wolf for a walk at the local dog park. At the top end of the performance table, the C63 AMG's V8 is one of the world's finest engines and worth every cent.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi A4 -- An all-new generation is due for the 2017 model year. In the meantime, frequent updates have kept this generation fresh. The high-performance S4 variant is a credible alternative to the twin-turbo C450.

2016 BMW 3 Series -- The 3 Series continues to offer an unbeatable mix of athleticism and luxury, and it finally has an adult-sized back seat.

2016 Cadillac ATS -- Cadillac's entry-level model is one of the best-handling compact sport sedans.

2016 Lexus IS -- Often overlooked, the IS enjoys fashion-forward styling, a smartly trimmed interior and a generous equipment list.

Used Cadillac CTS -- The current-generation CTS (2014-present) is an excellent luxury sedan and a blast to drive hard. A certified pre-owned model enables a step up to the midsize segment without spending more money.

Autotrader's Advice

There's nothing wrong with a straight-ahead C300 and a few well-chosen options.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader