Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, or the "Baby Benz" as it is affectionately known, has been a favorite of entry-level luxury/sport sedan buyers for years. More than just a small sedan with a few three-pointed stars thrown on it, the C-Class provides the core strengths of the brand, such as cutting-edge safety features, lively performance and a feeling of solidity. Fans of ultra-high performance have been thrilled by the AMG versions, which boast blistering acceleration and tenacious handling along with tastefully sporty styling accents.

Style plays into the equation of the small Benz's appeal as well, with the C-Class drawing inspiration from bigger Benzes. The front and rear fascias are instantly recognizable as part of the Mercedes family. In the recent past, the cabin of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class wasn't up to the car's traditional standards in terms of quality, but Mercedes has largely rectified the situation on the latest generation of the car.

Invariably, the C-Class is cross-shopped with its German rivals, the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. While the 3 Series is traditionally the most sporting of the trio and the A4 the more luxury-themed, the Benz offers a little of both personalities, along with superior technology features and more prestige for those concerned about such things.

Current Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan is available in four trim levels: C300 Luxury, C300 Sport, C350 and C63 AMG. The C300 Luxury and C300 Sport share the same engine (a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque), but differ in exterior styling elements, interior trim, front seat design and standard transmission. A seven-speed automatic is standard on the C300 Luxury and optional on the C300 Sport, which comes with a six-speed manual. Both C300s can be had with an all-wheel-drive system known as 4Matic. The C350 comes only in Sport guise and powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed auto is the only transmission choice.

The ultimate C-Class is known as the C63 AMG, a high-performance sports edition with a 6.2-liter V8 shoehorned under the hood. Sending 451 hp and 443 lb-ft to the rear-wheels via a seven-speed automatic, the C63 is a wild machine that accelerates to 60 mph in a lightning-quick 4.4 seconds. Other performance upgrades include a wider front track, revised steering and suspension, meaty 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes and aggressively bolstered seats. There are also noticeable exterior styling differences.

In reviews, we've welcomed the current Mercedes-Benz C-Class as a significant improvement over its forebears. The Luxury and Sport flavors of the base model should help attract a wider array of new and traditional buyers, and the interior is mostly up to date in terms of features and design, though it's still not a standout. The C63 AMG is a feather in the company's cap, a ridiculously powerful small sedan that can keep up with the vaunted M3 and sounds better to boot. While the C-Class may be a tad too expensive given its size, power and equipment level, there's no denying the attraction of this refined, luxurious Baby Benz.

Used Mercedes-Benz C-Class Models

The current third-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted for the 2008 model year. Changes since then include a redesigned instrument cluster on Sport models for 2009, and the 2010 addition of a Dynamic Handling package (RWD Sport models only) that adds an active suspension, quicker steering, shift paddles and 18-inch AMG wheels. A back-up camera and keyless ignition/entry were not available prior to 2010.

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 2001, and there were a variety of changes made to the numerous different models and body styles during the car's lifespan. The initial models were the C240 (168-hp V6) and C320 (215-hp V6) sedans. These were joined the following year by a C320 wagon and the C230 Kompressor two-door hatchback coupe (192-hp supercharged four-cylinder). The C32 AMG also showed up for 2002 saddled to a 3.2-liter supercharged V6 producing 349 hp. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system became available for 2003 on sedan and wagon body styles, while the C320 two-door hatchback, C240 wagon and supercharged C230 sedan arrived. A variety of Sport upgrades debuted for particular models for 2004, while the following year saw freshened exterior styling and a revised interior. The C32 AMG was also replaced for 2005 with the C55 AMG, which featured a 362-hp V8.

The biggest changes occurred for 2006, when the hatchback coupe and wagon were discontinued and a new selection of models and engines debuted that would remain with the car until it was replaced by the current C-Class. This was also the first year for the Sport and Luxury trim designations, which differed in wheel size, transmission choice, suspension tuning, styling elements and interior trim. The C230 Sport (201-hp V6) and C350 Sport (268-hp V6) were joined by the C350 Luxury (same engine as Sport) and the C280 Luxury (228-hp V6). 4Matic all-wheel drive was available on Luxury models.

Those considering this generation Mercedes C-Class probably won't regret their purchase, as there should be more than enough performance and luxury to satisfy them. As with the current model, savvy shoppers should know that other automakers, particularly those from Japan, offered roomier, less costly alternatives that equal or better this C-Class in performance and features, although certainly not status. This C-Class didn't exactly hold its value well, so there are certainly deals to be found. However, given the staggering amount of model designations, body styles, engines and feature content, it's important to make sure you know exactly what you're getting in a used C-Class.

The original Mercedes-Benz C-Class debuted in 1994 as a replacement for the small 190-Class sedan. With more room, a more luxurious cabin and styling that mimicked the larger E-Class, the first C-Class could be had with four-cylinder (C220) or six-cylinder (C280) power, with output ranging from 148 to 194 hp. There was no wagon offered at all during this generation's run (1994-2000). Safety has always been a priority with Mercedes, and as such the C-Class benefited from the early adoption of such technologies as stability control, emergency brake assist and side airbags. Performance of the base C rose through the years, as the 2.2-liter four gave way to a 2.3-liter, which was then replaced by a 2.3-liter supercharged unit.

The hot-rod AMG versions started in 1995 with the C36 that featured a 268-hp inline-6. Serious firepower arrived in 1998 with the debut of the C43, whose 4.3-liter V8 pumped out 302 hp. Die-hard enthusiasts should know that only automatic transmissions came with the AMGs, though this hardly hurt the performance of these fast little sedans.

Either way, used-car shoppers should know that the Mercedes C-Class historically scores high in crash tests, and ownership satisfaction is generally quite high, with consumers praising handling, ride and reliability. However, maintenance is typically costly.

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