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2006 Mercedes-Benz C350 Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Mercedes-Benz


MODEL: Mercedes-Benz C350
ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 268 hp @ 6000 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 2400-5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
WHEELBASE: 106.9 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 178.4 x 68.0 x 55.6 in.
TIRES: 225/45R17F, 245/40R17R
CARGO VOLUME: 12.2 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway/20.0 mpg test
PRICE: $43,295 (includes $775 destination and delivery charge)

It’s hard to imagine a Mercedes-Benz that’s almost too small, but the C350 sedan fits in that category. Dimensionally, it’s about the same size as a BMW 3-series, on a wheelbase that’s 2 inches shorter. It’s also about 120 pounds heavier. Continuing the comparison, the biggest engine you can get in a 3-series is a 255 hp 3.2-liter inline six, so the Mercedes has the advantage in power.

But still, the C350 is a compact car, even if it is classified as a premium compact. Price wise as well, the C350 is premium, with a bottom line sticker price of $43,295 with a couple of options that aren’t necessary, even if they’re nice to have. But 43 grand is a lot for a compact car, even if it’s a Mercedes.

The C350 comes with a 268 horsepower V6 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. AMG has created the C55 sport, with a 5.4-liter V8 that pumps out a healthy 362 horses and a 5-speed automatic. Personally, I felt the 3.5-literV6 offered plenty of power for most normal applications. Sure, if you feel the need for speed and you live in an area where you can use it, the C55 might make sense, but I was perfectly happy with the “smaller” engine.

Performance was excellent under all conditions. We drove the C350 on turnpikes and on our favorite twisting hilly roads. It never disappointed me. The 6-speed gearbox was fun to use and was smooth. There was a time in the past when Mercedes-Benz was chided for building less-than-perfect manual gearboxes, but those days are gone. The 6-speed ion the C350 was great. Of course, withal the torque available (258 lb.-ft.) we could actually run in 6th gear on roads that were other-than-Interstate smooth. And on Interstates, there was enough power to keep up with anybody else on the road.

On one of our longer trips, we took the C350 to New York. We took it to the Interstate, then through the tunnel and into good old NYC traffic. With the manual, I was able to outfox the taxis and a couple of idiot civilian drivers and still not stress the engine or mechanicals in any way. It was a joy.

The suspension was stiff, and made me seriously steer clear of rough roads and potholes. Normally, one would expect a softer ride from a Mercedes-Benz, but not in the C350. Since we had the Sport version, the car was equipped with a sportier suspension than normal. This did help in handling, of course, but on less-than-perfect roads it was jarring.

The instrument panel was clean and neat, with the four basic gauges in white-on-black. They were very readable with no excessive electronic displays or games. In addition, there was a fuel management readout (with a couple of other functions) that indicated fuel economy as well as miles left in the tank. This is a nice function, because when the fuel warning light lights up, it’s always a crap shoot as to just how far you can go before running out. I’ve run out far too often to play games.

The fat steering wheel offered controls on it for the audio system, outside temperature and fuel management readout.

Our tester was equipped with a DVD COMAND navigation system ($2,210) that gave us a screen in the center of the dash. Since the screen also offered readouts for the audio system it was okay, but in general navigation systems, to my mind, aren’t that helpful.

The audio system itself was a standard Mercedes-Benz affair. I still have to remember to check the owner’s manual to figure out how to save the radio stations. But the other asset of the audio is that you can hit * and the frequency numbers to find the station you want.

The HVAC system worked, although with bitter cold weather during our test period, we would have preferred a more efficient unit. Also, the C350 didn’t have heated seats, something we’ve grown to look for in luxury sedans.

The front bucket seats were comfortable and restful on long rides. Between the two front buckets were a center console and a single cup holder. However, a second cup holder would pop up if it was needed.

The rear seats offered good side support as well. There were knee indents in the backs of the front seats to increase comfort for the rear passengers. In the rear, there’s a fold-down center arm rest with two slide-out cup holders.

The trunk was deep, but was rated at only 12.2 cubic feet.

The Mercedes-Benz C350 is a nice package, even if it is somewhat small. And again, even though it is a Mercedes-Benz, $43,295 is a lot of money for a compact sedan.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate