|✓ Refined, traditional Mercedes styling||☓ Definitely a firm ride|
|✓ S-Class-like interior||☓ Finicky (read: frustrating) touch-sensitive controls|
|✓ Solid power and handling||☓ Can get pricey with options|
|✓ Relatively affordable price tag|
Overview: The new C 300 is as much Mercedes as most people will want (and the C-Class they’ll probably buy).
In a world where electric cars absolutely dominate the news cycle, some folks need a comfortable fallback — something familiar. That’s the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 in a nutshell. It’s a luxury car that’s familiar and (more importantly) accessible, and this new “W206” generation takes the accepted formula and tweaks nearly every detail. It’s not a huge departure from the old car, but the changes do help bring this new C-Class even closer into line with its larger, more expensive siblings.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 lineup comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $44,600, though top-end models bring that figure around $60,000 mark. 4Matic all-wheel drive is available across the range for an extra $2,000. Three trims are available: the base Premium, followed by the Exclusive and the Pinnacle trims.
Overall, this new fifth-generation C-Class sees a more substantial footprint to its predecessor. It’s 2.5 inches longer with a greater rear overhang, and slightly wider than the old car. Hardly surprising, given all cars tend to grow with each new iteration. I think it works here, though, as this “compact” executive car offers a lot of presence for a fairly affordable price tag…so long as you’re mindful about options.
Performance: Do you really need an AMG?
Look, I love a rip-snorting sports sedan as much as the next person. But let’s kick things off with a surprising note for the “base model” C-Class: It’s actually pretty lively. I wouldn’t expect that for a 2.0-liter turbo with only 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. That’s the same level of power as before, but you do get 22 more lb-ft than before.
One key update that makes this engine feel a lot punchier, though, is the 48-volt starter-generator. That enables Mercedes’ “EQ Boost” functionality, which offers up 20 additional horsepower and 148 lb-ft more torque in short bursts, like when you’re just getting off the line. You still get a 9-speed automatic here, and that transmission is still admirably smooth working its way through each ratio. 0-60 acceleration isn’t terrible, either: At sea level, it should manage the sprint in the mid-5-second range. Naturally, it was a bit slower up at around 6,000 feet, but I still felt I had every bit of grunt that I feasibly needed to get around slower-moving traffic.
Mercedes-Benz offers its Dynamic Select drive mode system here, as well as adaptive shocks.
You don’t get the “Airmatic” air suspension that you would on an S-Class, so you do have a fixed ride height and a narrower band to work with in terms of ride quality. Even in Comfort, the ride is on the firmer side (as is the way with most German cars), but that tends to lend well to secure and even unexpectedly fun handling. The standard 18-inch wheels can help a tiny bit with more sidewall, but this car has the larger 19-inch, 5-spoke wheels (that cost an extra $600 — more on that in a bit).
Beyond the standard Comfort setting, you get Eco, Sport and Individual settings. If you spring for the $3,050 AMG Line package, you get an extra Sport+ setting. That package also brings in beefier brakes, a 0.6-inch lower ride height, tighter suspension and steering settings, AMG styling elements and sportier interior bits including a flat-bottom steering wheel and more heavily bolstered seats.
The fuel economy is also better than before
Driving the new C 300 on back roads, you’ll find the steering well-weighted, if a bit lackluster on feedback. Keep the four-pot motor in the middle and upper end of the rev range, and there’s still plenty of satisfaction to be had in the driving experience. As smooth as the experience is on the move, though, does emit a diesel-like clatter and vibration at idle. It may be a minor gripe, granted, but something to keep in mind if you’re considering this against, say, the BMW 330i xDrive or the Audi A4 45 TFSI.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 does get better fuel economy by way of its new engine, as well. It does 1-2 mpg better than before, according to EPA estimates. With 4Matic all-wheel drive, you should see around 23 City / 33 Highway / 27 Combined mpg. Going for the rear-wheel drive version bumps that up by 2 mpg across the board, and puts it ever so slightly behind the equivalent BMW 3 Series.
Interior: It really is a mini S-Class
Stepping into the new C-Class and looking around the cabin, I had to double check the car’s window sticker. Now, $57,150 all-in (for this specific car) is still a decent chunk of change. There’s no doubt about that, but that’s more or less the top end of the C 300’s range. For that, you get the Pinnacle trim, as well as a Burmester 3D surround sound system, Active Parking Assist, a panoramic roof, augmented video navigation like you’d get in the S-Class, and a sharp-looking 11.9-inch central touchscreen display.
Mind you, it looks sharp, but is it easy to use? We generally complain when there’s a lack of top-level, quickly discernable buttons to get at critical controls — especially on the move — and I’m going to do it again here. Seriously, try adjusting the temperature or changing the radio station. You either have to use touch-sensitive buttons or on-screen controls to handle your climate settings, audio preferences, drive modes or to actually use the park assist system or surround view camera.
A counter argument for Mercedes’ decision could be that you’re really supposed to tell the car what you want through the “Hey Mercedes” feature of the MBUX infotainment system. That’s still a hang up for me and I’d rather just adjust everything myself, but your mileage may vary. For what it’s worth, you do get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, or you can tether through USB-C. Wireless charging, should want to have it, is a $200 option.
If you’re not a fan of touch-sensitive controls, you’ll probably curse the steering wheel too, as I did. A four-wheel menu button on the left side controls the gauge cluster, while the right side controls the infotainment screen. You swipe to change menus, you swipe to adjust the volume, you swipe to adjust your following distance for the cruise control…only to double tap an option if you swipe and press the button with a bit too much force. Again, it looks cool, but it will definitely take some getting used to.
Verdict: Give the Mercedes-Benz C 300 a try
Despite the touch control craziness, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 is a remarkably good car. It’s not a radical shift from its forebear, but that means you get classy styling with an elegant, comfortable interior. Every little piece is a bit better this time around, and I walked away from the experience thinking this is all the Mercedes I really need.
Can you go farther? Sure. Beyond your entry-level C 300, you can go for the mid-range 408-horsepower C 43 or, in time, the bonkers-looking, 671-horsepower C 63 S E Performance. This version, though, gives you everyday usability, decent fuel economy, and a lower price tag for what is, at the end of the day, a bona fide Mercedes experience.