2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Review

2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 e

Priced From $61,400Information

Overall Rating

0

4.5 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

5 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

5 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProGreat handling; superb petrol engines; lovely cabin.

  2. ConShort rear seat base.

  3. The Pick: 2017 Mercedes-Benz C250 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Mercedes C-Class is a luxury medium-sized car with a compelling set of abilities. The C-Class is handsome and comfortable, has great road manners, and is built to a high standard. It is also efficient, potent, and safe. Auto braking is standard.

What might bug me?

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Wishing you had a spare wheel and tyre. If you puncture a tyre on a C-Class car, you just keep driving: its tyres will still work when they’re flat. That’s great, provided you can get a new tyre fitted soon. Once it has lost air, a run-flat tyre will last for about 80km.

That near neighbours also drive C-Classes. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has become a very popular luxury car (with good reason).

What body styles are there?

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Four-door sedan and five-door station wagon (called the Estate).

(The C-Class is also available as a coupe, and as a cabriolet with a fold-down roof. This review does not cover those cars.)

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class drives its rear wheels and is classed as a medium car, higher priced.

What features do all C-Class Mercedes have?

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Dual-zone climate control, which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin.

A reversing camera, and parking sensors front and rear. Active parking assist, which can steer the car into a parking spot.

A multimedia system with CD player, AM/FM and digital radio tuning, satellite navigation, touchpad control, and a 7.0-inch colour screen interface. There is also Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and iPod and iPhone integration.

Power-adjusted front seats with electro-pneumatic lumbar (lower back) support. A leather-trimmed steering wheel, with shift paddles.

Very bright, long-lasting LED headlamps that turn on automatically when it’s getting dark. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.

Cruise control.

Agility Control suspension, which automatically makes the car ride more comfortably when you are cruising, and more firmly if you are working it hard. Agility Select, which lets you adjust the ride comfort yourself – and also to choose whether the car accelerates and steers sharply or lazily.

Aluminium alloy wheels fitted with run-flat tyres (there is no spare wheel or tyre inflation kit). A tyre pressure warning system, which tells you if a tyre is going flat.

On Estate (wagon) versions, a power operated tailgate.

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Nine airbags. An active safety suite that includes auto emergency braking and blind spot monitoring. (For airbag placement and more on C-Class safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Mercedes-Benz C-Class carries a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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In a C-Class you can choose from two diesel and two petrol engines, each of them turbocharged four-cylinders. A fifth option is a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, supplied with the C350 e, which you can charge from a household power outlet.

Of the four conventional engines, the two diesels are the most fuel efficient and there is little between them for fuel use, both consuming about 4.7 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined).

The diesel in the C200 d is a 1.6-litre, and it produces about as much thrust as a good diesel in a popular small car such as the Hyundai i30 – plenty for comfortable suburban and highway use, but not enough to be very exciting.

In contrast, the diesel in the C250 d is a bigger 2.1 litre, supplying about 50 per cent more go in all driving conditions. You could expect the C250 d to use more fuel than the C200 d if you took advantage of its much greater performance.

The main reasons not to choose a diesel are aesthetic: you might prefer the generally cleaner environment of petrol pumps at service stations, or the generally smoother and freer feel of petrol propulsion.

The alternative petrol engine in the C200 is a 2.0-litre. It uses 6.5 litres/100km on the test, but provides about 30 per cent more power than the smaller of the diesels when worked hard.

A more powerful version of this 2.0-litre engine is the petrol alternative in the C250. It is about as strong as the bigger diesel, and feels responsive and satisfying. And on the official test, it is no more thirsty than the C200.

In a real-world comparison conducted for the December 2014 issue of Wheels magazine, a C250 sedan with this engine averaged 11.3 litres/100km – about the same as accompanying, and similar, BMW and Audi sedans on sale at that time.

There are reasons why you might bypass all of the conventional engines and instead choose the plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain that propels the most expensive Mercedes C-Class, the C350e. High among them could be that you do a lot of driving in town, you have a secure garage where you can charge the car overnight, and that you value its low-emissions, near-silent, form of progress in traffic.

You can drive a fully charged C350 e about 31km on its battery alone, Mercedes says – although our experience suggests 20-25km is a more accurate estimate.

Teamed with the electric motor in a C350 e is a turbo-petrol engine much like that in the C250. The combination of electric and strong petrol power makes the C350 e the quickest Mercedes C-Class.

If you want to drive only on the battery, the car helps you out. Resistance from its accelerator pedal gets stiffer as you push it down – it feels almost as though there’s a squash ball stuck underneath it. While you can push through that point easily and accelerate harder, you are reminded that to do so is to engage the petrol engine.

The C350 e returns the extraordinary low fuel-use figure of 2.4 litres/100km on the official test. Obviously, if you drive just on a charged battery it will use no petrol at all (but you will still have to pay for the electricity used when charging). On long country trips, where the petrol engine will be doing most of the work, you can expect fuel use near that of the C250.

Every Mercedes-Benz C-Class has an automatic transmission. The C200 d and C350 e use seven-speed units, and all others have nine ratios.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class cars, the C200 and C200 d, have Artico fake-leather seat-trim, 18-inch wheels, and the features on every C-Class.

Spending more for a C250, C250 d or C350 e brings you one of the more powerful engines described above (or a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain), and some extra equipment.

That begins with real leather upholstery, and tinted glass protecting the rear compartment. Keyless entry lets you unlock the car by merely grabbing a door handle – provided your key is nearby, say in a bag or pocket. Sedans gain a power-opening boot like the wagons, and you can operate either hands-free with a sweeping foot gesture below the rear bumper.

The wheel diameter rises to 19 inches and the tyre profile is correspondingly lower, which sharpens steering response slightly.

And you gain a big suite of active driving aids under the title Driver Assistance Package Plus. This includes a sophisticated adaptive cruise control, which not only adjusts your speed to match vehicles in front on the highway but also holds your place in stop-start traffic. The auto braking becomes more powerful, and further features include lane-keeping assistance and a frontal cross-traffic alert (for more on these systems, please open the Safety section below).

The C350 e (only) adds to this Airmatic Agility suspension, which gives you more comfort. And it has pre-entry climate control, which lets you pre-set an interior temperature for when you expect to return to the car – a feature permitted by the hybrid drivetrain’s big batteries.

The Airmatic suspension is available on other C-Class cars as an extra-cost option. There are numerous other options, some of which come in packs.

A Vision package brings a panoramic glass sunroof, adaptive high beam assist (which automatically dips the headlights when it detects other cars), and a head-up display (which puts a speedometer in your line of sight).

A Comand package upgrades the multimedia system with a better screen, voice activation, internet access, and better sound. Alternatively, you can forgo the Comand pack and instead add support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.

A Seat Comfort package brings a memory function for the driver’s seat and side mirrors, more powered adjustments for the headrest, seat cushion and steering wheel, and heaters for the front seats.

And an AMG line package dresses up a Mercedes-Benz C-Class so that it looks and feels a bit like its higher-performing cousin the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, with sports seats, front and rear aprons on the body, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The car rides lower, on firmer suspension, and variable-ratio steering allows relaxed response at straight-ahead but sharper response in bends.

Alternative wheels and interior trims are offered for any C-Class car.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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Some of the AMG-line options reduce practicality and comfort in small ways. The sports suspension rides less comfortably, and its lower ride height and the AMG front apron makes it harder to negotiate steep driveways or speed humps without scraping the lower body.

The big suite of active driving aids in the optional Driver Assistance package might feel overwhelming at first. After you get used to how they operate (which takes time), they are certainly worth having.

The C350 e has a smaller boot than other C-Class cars, because it needs to devote space to its hybrid system. In the sedan, for example, the luggage space is reduced by about 30 per cent, from 480 litres to 335 litres.

Metallic paint comes at an additional cost of about $1500. Of 10 colours available, two of them – Black and Polar White – are non-metallic and come at no extra cost.

How comfortable is the Mercedes C-Class?

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The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a very comfortable car on its standard suspension, and it feels even better on the optional Airmatic suspension (standard on a C350 e).

As standard the coil-sprung C-Class smooths out surface imperfections and larger bumps and stays composed. The optional air-sprung suspension smothers the impact of those same big bumps, while rounding off smaller intrusions.

The C-Class cabin is beautifully built and appointed, and provides a lot of comfort and luxury. The quality of the plastics, fabrics and carpets is high, and minor controls operate with pleasing precision.

The position of the driver is easily tailored, and support from the seats and upholstery is high-grade. The real leather trim, not surprisingly, is nicer than the synthetic Artico.

Around town, the C350 e feels even smoother than other C-Class cars because it prioritises its electric motor, and so much of the time you do not even hear a hum from the petrol engine – unless you engage it by pushing the accelerator harder.

Otherwise, the C350e drives almost identically to the other cars, albeit with a plusher ride as standard when the Airmatic suspension is in its Comfort mode.

What about safety in a Mercedes C-Class?

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The C-Class offers a lot of safety technology, and much of it is fitted even to the least costly models. You have stability control, nine airbags, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and auto headlights and wipers. The run-flat tyres help you maintain control should you get a puncture. And standard active safety includes a driver fatigue monitor, blind-spot assistance and auto-braking.

Two of the nine airbags are placed directly in front of the driver and front passenger, and there is also a knee airbag for the driver. Outer front and rear occupants also have a side-airbag each, protecting the pelvis and chest from side impacts. And side-curtain airbags protect front and rear occupants at head level from side impacts.

Of the active safety systems, the fatigue monitor – Mercedes calls it Attention Assist – warns you if you show signs of falling asleep at the wheel, and Blind Spot Assist warns you when changing lanes if a vehicle is adjacent but not showing up in your external mirrors.

The standard automatic braking works at low and high speeds. It warns of an obstacle in front of the car – typically a slower vehicle – and will apply the brakes if you do not react. (On C200 models, it will not apply maximum braking, however.) A related system tells you if you are tailgating – or simply failing to leave enough room ahead for the speed you are going.

Spending more to step from the C200 or C200 d into the C250, C250 d or C350 e brings you more active safety equipment, under the description Driver Assistance Package Plus.

Among its many features are active lane-keeping assistance, which seeks gently to correct you if you are drifting out of your lane on the highway (perhaps from distraction), and blind-spot assistance, which adds corrective steering action to the passive blind-spot alert on C200s. There is a more sophisticated auto-braking system, which recognises pedestrians and can apply maximum braking at suburban speeds. And a frontal cross-traffic assist checks at intersections for crossing cars that you may not have noticed.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Mercedes-Benz C-Class its maximum five stars for safety, in July 2014. The rating applies to cars currently on sale, even though the diesel engines have since been updated. It does not apply to the C350 e, however.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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You will enjoy driving the Mercedes-Benz C-Class – it strikes a compelling balance between handling capability and overall comfort.

A traditional rival for the Mercedes C-Class is the BMW 3 Series, which is a bit more involving to drive quickly through corners, thanks to crisp steering and more tautly controlled suspension. Compared with the BMW, the Mercedes’ suspension is a bit softer and its steering feels a bit lighter, not quite matching the 3 Series’ intimate sense of connection with the road.

The Jaguar XE also achieves a fantastic blend of comfort and enjoyment, with more agility than the C.

The C-Class’s strength is that it offers much of the fun of the BMW and Jaguar when hustled along a twisty road, while feeling smoother and more comfortable – qualities which bring their own kind of driving pleasure.

The C200 d is a modest performer, but the other versions range from swift (the turbo-petrol C200) to very swift (the C250 and C250 d, and the C350 e).

The C350 e is particularly punchy, using both its electric motor and petrol engine for very brisk overtaking when required.

All C-Class cars have paddle shifters, which give you manual control over gear selection for sporty driving.

There’s also an Agility Select switch, which allows you to adjust various parameters, including the weight of the steering, the sensitivity of the throttle and how aggressively the gearbox shifts. The additional steering weight of the Sport modes works nicely on twisty roads.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The rear seat area in the C-Class is spacious and as richly trimmed as the front compartment. However it is let down by a short seat-base that compromises comfort.

In other ways, the rear compartment is as thoughtfully designed as the rest of the car. There is a centre armrest with twin cupholders, rear air-conditioning outlets, and handy 40-20-40 folding backrests.

Leg room is up 45mm compared with the previous generation C-Class, because the current model (the W205) is longer between its front and rear axles. Shoulder, head and foot room in the back are very generous.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The C-Class sedan has a 480-litre boot – about as much space as you will find in key alternatives.

C-Class wagons offer 490 litres of luggage capacity, but that can expand to 1510 litres if the rear seatbacks are folded flat.

The wagons’ power-operated tailgate seals it as the utilitarian pick (you have to pay for a C250 to get a powered boot lid in a sedan).

The C350 e loses a chunk of boot space due to the placement of the hybrid batteries, which result in a stepped floor in the boot. That reduces capacity of the hybrid’s boot to 335 litres.

Where does Mercedes make the C-Class?

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Most Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans are made in South Africa. The C350 e sedan, and all C-Class Estates, are made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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All-wheel drive, which provides better traction in the wet and is handy when travelling to the ski fields. This is available with an Audi A4.

A manual gearbox option, which is available with the BMW 3 Series. But it’s not likely many C-Class buyers would choose a manual.

Perhaps a longer warranty, which you get with a Lexus IS sedan (four years).

Among other cars worth considering are the Jaguar XE, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Volvo S60.

If you like the sound of a Mercedes-Benz C-Class but want more performance, consider a Mercedes-AMG C variant. Alternatively, if you are attracted to a more sporty body style, or think you would enjoy roof-down motoring, you might look at a C-Class Coupe or Cabriolet.

Are there plans to update the C-Class soon?

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The current W205 Mercedes-Benz C-Class arrived in the middle of 2014. About September 2015 Mercedes ceased using the term ‘Bluetec’ to designate C-Class diesels , replacing it with the letter ‘d’. Mid-way through 2016 the diesel hybrid model, known as C300 h, was replaced with the C350 e petrol hybrid.

Mercedes announced a small but significant revision to the C-Class range in July 2017, with cars expected to arrive in August. It brings a big power boost for the less costly diesel: the 1.6-litre C200 d will grow to 2.1 litres and become the C220 d, also gaining a nine-speed transmission. The stronger of the C-Class petrols, the C250, will get a 15 per cent power increase and a name change to the C300. A new trim option will become available, but in other respects the cars will not change.

A mid-life update for the C-Class is due in 2018. Expect styling tweaks inside and out, and more active safety equipment – including some semi-autonomous drive systems. (The C-Class will likely get most of the safety gear from the larger and more expensive E-Class.)

An all-new C-Class is due about 2020 or 2021.

I like this car, but I can’t choose which version. Can you help?

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We would recommend the C250 Estate as the best all-round version. The high-output 2.0-litre turbo petrol is the most rewarding of the engines, striking a brilliant balance of power and fuel economy. And the C250 adds some nice equipment to the feature set of the C200s.

That said, the petrol C200 is very well equipped and performs very well – we prefer it to the slightly more expensive, relatively low-powered diesel C200 d.

An Estate is always more versatile than a sedan, but the sedan is a fine choice, too.

If you can handle the extra cost of the Airmatic suspension option – about $2000 – it is well worth it for its superior ride.