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2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class takes luxury, technology and ability, then puts it all into compact packages. As well as a sedan body style, the C-Class also includes coupe and cabriolet (soft-top) versions. Before crossovers started to rule the world, the C-Class was the company’s best-selling vehicle. It still does well today.

Even the least expensive model, the rear-drive C 300 sedan, is tempting, coming with useful occupant space, luxury features and state-of-the-art safety equipment.

At the priciest end of the 2021 C-Class lineup is a high-performance, soft-top variant with a breathtaking 503 horsepower — the C 63 S Cabriolet. There’s a C-Class to please virtually anyone. Anyone with the funds, at least.

What’s New for 2021?

A 12.3-inch digital driver information display becomes standard throughout the range, along with heated front seats.

A new Night Edition of the C 300 sedan makes its debut, coming with black exterior accent, black-finished 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, plus AMG sport seats and an AMG steering wheel covered in simulated leather/simulated suede. The Night Edition is available in black, white or blue.

The AMG C 63 sedan now comes with a panoramic sunroof. See the 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Styling
  • Technology
  • Quiet, well-constructed cabin
  • Impressive road manners
  • Excellent balance of luxury and power in AMG C 43 models

What We Don’t

  • Pricey options (as usual with German cars)

How Much?

$42,650-$86,650

Fuel Economy

The entry level 2021 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 (RWD) is standard, with the 4Matic all-wheel drive (AWD) 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, 35 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in combined driving. The 4Matic version returns 23 mpg city/33 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

The C 300 coupe is rated at 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (RWD) or 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined (AWD). The C 300 Cabriolet returns 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined regardless of the number of driven wheels.

C 43 cars 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 all-wheel drive is standard.

The EPA reckons fuel consumption will run to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined for both the sedan and coupe, and 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined for the Cabriolet.

A turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 propels both the C 63 and the C 63 S. The former generates 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque; the latter is boosted to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. These cars use an AMG-tuned 9-speed automatic transmission, and rear-wheel drive is the sole configuration.

The C 63 and C 63 S sedans achieve 18 mpg city/27 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/restart feature to save fuel when the car is idling.

These EPA fuel consumption estimates are from 2020, but we don’t anticipate 2021’s figures being much different if they differ at all.

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 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 ($42,650) has 18-in alloy wheels, LED headlights/daytime running lights/taillights, self-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, powered sunroof, simulated leather upholstery (much better than it sounds), keyless entry/ignition, 12.3-inch Digital driver information display, forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking (known as Adaptive Braking technology that also includes brake drying), blind-spot monitoring, 14-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, power-adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, hands-free trunk lid operation, 10.25-in infotainment screen, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, plus a 5-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, sport steering wheel, and various sporty interior flourishes.

The C 300 coupe ($48,250) and C 300 cabriolet ($55,750) come with a sport-tuned suspension, power-folding mirrors, Burmester surround-sound system, satellite radio, multicolored ambient cabin lighting, and illuminated door sills.

The Cabriolet also has a powered fabric roof, semi-automatic trunk separator, the Aircap wind deflector, and the neck-heating Airscarf as standard.

The C 43 sedan ($57,550), coupe ($60,050) and Cabriolet ($66,550) have all-wheel drive as standard.

The C 63 sedan ($69,650 or $77,250 for the S), coupe ($71,700/$79,300), and Cabriolet ($79,050/$86,650) have specific aerodynamic body kits, bigger brakes, sport suspension, sport exhaust, more prominent seat bolsters, and dedicated interior trim.

Exclusive AMG-related options include a limited-slip differential, ceramic composite front brake discs (C63 S), plus dedicated cosmetic and performance upgrades.

Additional C-Class options include leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, wood/leather steering wheel, wireless charging, powered rear sunshade, cabin ventilation system that emits fragranced air, head-up display, illuminated grille star, 590-watt/13-speaker Burmester audio system, and active parking assistance.

The optional Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assistance, active blind-spot monitoring, and active lane-keeping assistance.

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 drivers-side test, four for the front passenger-side and five stars 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. With all the optional collision avoidance technology, the IIHS makes the C-Class a Top Safety Pick+.

The C-Class comes with stability control, anti-lock disc brakes and a comprehensive tally of airbags as standard. Rear side airbags are optional. Cabriolet versions have a special roll-over protection system.

Behind the Wheel

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

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 upfront. 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 class). 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 the bona fide luxury car it is. The standard suspension’s ride is taut but well-damped. The sport-tuned suspension amplifies the occasional thud but 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 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

2021 Audi A4 — Polished, packed with tech, and updated last year. The S4 is a credible alternative to the C 43. The similarly refreshed A5/S5 also goes up against the C-Class coupes and cabriolets.

2021 BMW 3 Series — Supremely capable, engaging, luxurious, and high-quality.

2021 Genesis G70 — Currently, the best car in the Genesis lineup. Plenty of equipment for the money and even some driver involvement.

2021 Jaguar XE — Has a suspension that every other car company could learn from. It’s sinewy, supple, taut, precise, and forgiving. The rest of the car is pretty good too.

2021 Lexus IS — Distinctive styling, smart interior, and a generous equipment list. An all-new generation debuts for 2021.

2021 Volvo S60 — Stylish, safe, well-equipped, and comfortable.

Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class — Going down this route brings more space as well as plenty of luxury and gadgetry that comes with the 3-pointed star. Check out the Mercedes-Benz certified pre-owned (CPO) program.

Questions You May Ask

Which 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class model is best?

It depends on how “best” is defined. The most expensive C-Class is the AMG C 63 S Cabriolet. The best-performing C-Class is the AMG C 63 S Coupe. Neither model is best at accommodating passengers in the back seat, though. Also, any AMG-tuned C-Class is going to ride stiffer, drive louder, and be thirstier than a C 300. Only the buyer can decide.

Which is better, the C-Class or the E-Class?

Larger, more expensive, and with a broader range of equipment, the E-Class is better in many ways. But the C-Class does a better job of saving money and fitting into parking spaces while still delivering the kind of luxury and performance that is classic Mercedes-Benz.

How many people can sit in a 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class?

The sedan has the usual four seats plus that funny little middle seat in the back. The coupe and convertible versions also have two seating rows, but their total posterior count is four. Rear headroom and legroom are naturally more constricted. And their 2-door body styles bring some extra challenges for getting in and out.

Autotrader’s Advice

Since there are so many permutations from three distinct body styles and several drivetrains, the only thing we can really recommend is to select the Driver Assistance package from the options. If it saves just one accident, it could have paid for itself. Find a Mercedes-Benz C-Class for sale

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