Review: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The redesigned, fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan is better able to compete with small luxury sedans from automakers such as BMW, Infiniti and Lexus.
And the new model will surely trump some rivals just because it has the Mercedes nameplate.
The 2008 C-Class has Mercedes' new corporate look, an edgy interplay of taut lines and wide, rounded surfaces. It's larger than the last generation model, being nearly 4 inches longer, about 2 inches wider, with a wheelbase lengthened nearly 2 inches.
The new car is heavier and thus a bit slower with its holdover engines, but is still fast. All versions were introduced with rear-wheel drive, but a new all-wheel-drive system soon becomes available for the C300 Sport and C300 Luxury automatic transmission trim levels.
A central controller works with a 7-inch display screen that can be read quickly and stows out of sight in the upper dashboard when not used.
Revised steering and suspension make the car more agile, although the precise steering's general heaviness and the suspension's firmness give the impression that this is mainly a secure high-speed cruiser, although it's easy to maneuver in the city.
Handling is secure at all speeds, and the supple ride smoothes out roads. However the brake pedal in my early-production test car was touchy. Stopping distances were short in normal driving.
Three Trim Levels
The rock-solid construction and impressive stance of the new C-Class reminds me of the big, vault-like Mercedes S-Class flagship models of the 1990s, which were a picture of extravagance and luxury.
Old Engineering Dominance
But that S-Class was criticized for being too large, heavy and "socially irresponsible" for the modern world. It was replaced for 2000 by a more efficient S-Class, and yet another redesigned—and more complicated—S-Class, which arrived for the 2007 model year.
Perhaps the new C-Class shows that Mercedes engineers have gotten more influence again. That would be a welcome development, as long as Mercedes doesn't go over-the-top with complicated gizmos that have led to lower customer satisfaction ratings.
Mercedes says the new C-Class interior is roomier, but there's still no surplus of rear legroom for a 6-footer behind a driver who has moved his seat only halfway back.
However, most controls are OK, although I missed Mercedes' traditional, handy door-mounted power seat controls, which have been replaced by controls at the bottom side of the seats.
An electronic controller on the console acts like a computer mouse to provide operation of functions that once required lots of buttons and switches. Cupholders are nicely placed on the console, and rear windows roll all the way down.
Mercedes says the new C-Class puts more emphasis on agility, comfort, safety and sport, although it's not as sporty as the rival BMW 3-Series.
The two C300 versions have a smooth 3.0-liter 228-horsepower engine, while the C350 Sport's V6 generates 268 horsepower and more torque. The 3.0-liter versions do 0-60 in 7.1 seconds, while the 3.5-liter C-Class hits 60 in 6.3 seconds.
The automatic transmission has seven speeds and shifts smoothly, although it exhibits some indecisiveness under light throttle at lower speeds.
A 6-speed manual transmission is offered for the C300 Sport, but isn't offered for the higher-horsepower C350. That may seem curious until one realizes that most C350s will be bought by those who want the most luxurious new C-Class—and that an AMG version is surely coming.
Unique Sport Version Appearance
Moreover, the Sport versions sit a little lower and have twin-spoke 17-inch wheels of staggered width, sport shocks, springs and stabilizer bars that deliver crisper handling.
The Luxury trim level has a traditional thee-pointed-star emblem on the hood, four-spoke steering wheel and burl walnut trim. Sport versions have three-spoke wheels and either aluminum (C300) or black Birdseye maple (C350) trim. The Luxury trim level has a richer looking interior.
It's doubtful that Mercedes will ever bring back another mass-market car like that 1990s S-Class, but new models such as the 2008 C-Class make up for it in a much-changed world.