The 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets things right. Some premium compact cars don’t appeal to enthusiasts, others don’t appeal to luxury seekers, some have questionable styling, others don’t offer such a broad range of models, such as coupes and convertibles and breathtakingly powerful versions. There’s a C-Class to please virtually anyone. Anyone with the funds, at least.
Even the least expensive model is a tempting sedan. 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 first car in its category to offer this feature), exciting technology and state-of-the-art safety equipment, all wrapped in sophisticated styling.
At the priciest end of the 2019 C-Class spectrum is a high-performance, soft-top variant with a mighty 503 horsepower.
What’s New for 2019?
The C-Class receives a minor styling update, with subtly redesigned front and rear bumpers, revised LED headlamps and taillights — which are now standard throughout — and a dedicated grille for the C 63. The standard 17-in alloy wheels are also of a new design, while the 18-in wheels in the AMG models are made more aerodynamic. Smartphone integration becomes standard. Advanced driver aids have migrated over from the midsize E-Class. A new multi-function steering wheel has Touch Control buttons. The C 300 engine gains 14 hp, and the C 43 gains 23 hp.
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).
$42,395 to $84,795
The entry level 2019 C 300 moves to the tune of 255 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, linked to a 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 23 miles per gallon in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving. The 4Matic version returns 22 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
The C 300 coupe is rated at 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined, while the C 300 cabriolet returns 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined. That’s in RWD guise or with the 4Matic system.
C 43 models have a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 for a meaty 385 hp and 384 lb-ft. This engine is paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and AWD is standard. The EPA reckons consumption will run to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined in the sedan and coupe versions, and 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 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, the latter is boosted to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. These cars use AMG-tuned 9-speed automatic transmissions and are RWD.
The C 63 and C 63 S sedans achieve 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined. Both C 63 coupes return 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined, and the cabriolets manage 17 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/20 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 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in sedan, coupe and cabriolet (4-seater soft-top) body styles, with choices of drivetrains and features. AWD (4Matic) costs $2,000 extra where applicable.
The C 300 sedan ($42,395) has 17-in 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, a rearview camera, a 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, 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 C 300 coupe ($44,795) and the C 300 cabriolet ($52,845) come with keyless entry/start, satellite radio, blind spot assistance 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 power trunk lid, adaptive air suspension and active parking.
The C 43 sedan ($56,245), coupe ($58,445) and cabriolet ($64,645) have AWD as standard.
The C 63 sedan ($67,995 or $75,595 for the S), coupe ($69,745/$77,445) and cabriolet ($77,095/$84,795) have an aero body kit, 18-in alloys, huge brakes, sport suspension, 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.
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 for its rollover test and five out of five overall. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 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, a 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 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 of any model. The sedan’s rear legroom is a tad tight if tall folks are sitting up front. Naturally, rear passenger space is 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 coupe’s luggage space runs to 10.5 cu ft. and the cabriolet has 8.8 cu ft. — like the sedan, 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, and 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 BMW 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 C 63 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
2019 BMW 3 Series — An all-new generation debuts for 2019. At the time of writing this review, it was still waiting in the wings. But it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that it will be yet another high point of this vehicle class.
2019 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.
So many choices and not a bad one among them. We particularly like the C 43 versions, though.