Mercedes-Benz is out to make a bigger splash in the compact car market with its 2015 C300 4MATIC sedan.
While its styling is sleeker, the new C300 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) is not a sports sedan, although it’s athletic with quick variable-ratio steering, sure handling and confidence-inspiring brakes. Rather, it’s for those who want a responsive in-town car and a solid, luxurious interstate cruiser.
My test car had the optional ($1,190) air suspension, which provided an impressively smooth ride. The standard steel suspension setup is all-wheel independent and most likely provides a good ride. After all, this car is luxury oriented.
Mercedes sedans once had rather stark interiors, but the super-quiet interior of the C300 4MATIC has undergone a major upgrade and could belong in a higher-priced Mercedes.
Gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight that tends to “wash out” gauges in many cars. And the steering wheel has a power adjust feature to accommodate drivers of various sizes. Controls are logically laid out. Front seats provide good thigh and lateral support and promise comfort on lengthy journeys.
Standard items range from automatic climate control, a pushbutton starter and power folding side mirrors.
But the base price can escalate if buyers are attracted to enticing options. They include a $2,120 Premium package with a surround sound system, a package with leather upholstery and a power front-passenger seat for $2,300, a $2,690 Multimedia Package with a rearview camera and navigation system with a 8.4-inch screen and a $2,800 Drive Assistance Package with active blindspot assist and active lane-keeping assist.
Large outside door handles and wide-opening doors help allow quick entry, and power driver seat and power window controls are well-placed.
There was a time when Mercedes sedans were boxy, superbly engineered cars. The redesigned 2015 Mercedes C300 4MATIC I tested was far from being boxy, but retains Mercedes’ advanced engineering.
The $40,400 C300 4MATIC has a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is loud under full throttle but provides 241 horsepower. It gives the car quick acceleration in town and on highways, while providing an estimated 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on open roads.
There’s also a $48,590 C400 4MATIC model in Mercedes’ C-Class family with more features than the C300 4Matic and a 329 horsepower twin turbocharged 3-liter V-6 for those who want stronger acceleration. It delivers an estimated 21 city, 29 highway.
Extensive use of aluminum has cut the weight of the new Mercedes C-Class models and thus enhances performance and fuel economy. However, the C300 4MATIC isn’t especially light at 3,594 pounds.
While it’s a compact, the C300 4MATIC has a wheelbase stretched several inches to 111.8 inches and it’s also several inches longer at 184.5 inches. One benefit is improved rear seat room, although those with large-size shoes will want more toeroom.
A large center rear armrest has pop-out cupholders, and front cupholders are placed to avoid spills. All doors have decently-sized storage areas.
Split folding rear seatbacks, with trunk releases, sit flat and significantly increase cargo room of the large trunk, which is wide but has a rather high opening. A fairly large but shallow storage area with a removable cover is beneath the trunk floor and could occasionally come in handy.
Don’t count on the C300 4MATIC’s all-wheel drive to provide much added traction on dry pavement–it’s primarily there to improve stability on slippery roads, especially in snowy states.
Safety features include electronic stability and traction controls.
The C300 4Matic engine works with a versatile, noteworthy 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual operation of the automatic.
While the Mercedes C300 4MATIC sedan offers a lot, expect an upcoming sportier rear-wheel-drive C300 model and a high-performance AMG version in 2005.
For now, though, the C300 4MATIC is the best entry-level compact Mercedes ever offered.
Pros: Sleeker styling. Better engine. Upgraded interior. Quick. Generally roomy. Sure handling. Supple ride.
Cons: Limited rear footroom. Rather high trunk opening. Costly options.
Bottom Line: The redesigned Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC sedan moves closer to higher-line Mercedes models, although it’s an entry-level model.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his news and vintage cars reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.