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2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 Review

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 (select to view enlarged photo)
2009 Mercedes-Benz C300

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The entry level luxury/sport sedan segment is populated by some of the most sophisticated and fun cars out there. Think of the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35. Most start a tad north of 30-grand. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, redesigned for 2009, fits right into the center of this genre.

We’re testing the rear-wheel drive 2009 Mercedes C300 this week. Price of entry is $32,100. It comes mighty well-equipped at that level with V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power front seats, 8-speaker sound system with auxiliary input and Bluetooth capability, leather multi-function steering wheel with tilt and telescoping functions, automatic halogen headlight, trip computer and all the ambiance you expect from a Mercedes.

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300  (select to view enlarged photo)

Our tester has enough options to bring the price up to $45,590. Both the Steel Grey paint and black leather upholstery are extra cost items at $720 and $1,570 respectively. The iPod integration kit costs $375. TeleAid adds $650. The dramatic panoramic sunroof over the rear seat goes for $1,050. A package called Premium II includes Sirius Satellite Radio, heated front seats, Bi-Xenon headlamps with washers, cornering fog lamps, split folding rear seats, garage door opener, automatically dimming mirrors, rain sensing wipers, power rear window sun shade, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat with memory and power adjustable steering column and adds $3,500. Our $2,980 Multimedia Package includes a power retractable 7-inch color display with hard drive based navigation, 6-disc CD/DVD changer with premium surround sound system, voice activation, music register and PCMCIA slot. The Sport Package comes at no extra charge and includes sport suspension, sport trim inside and out and 17-inch wheels and tires. Finally, the 7-speed automatic transmission adds $1,460 to the tag.

This standard 3-liter, 24-valve, 228-horsepower V6 with 221 lb-ft of torque is plenty. Acceleration is smooth, brisk and gratifying with zero-to-60mph time of 7.1 seconds. I thought it an amazing performance for an engine with such modest numbers. Winding it to red line is musical. There is an AMG version of the C-Class, by the way, that pumps out well over 400 horsepower if you need that level of adrenalin.

The optional 7-speed automatic with manual mode shifts decisively without calling attention to itself. We don’t even notice shifts in normal, easy driving. On hard acceleration shifts are more evident but still smooth. All this excellent performance includes EPA mileage ratings of 18-city and 25-highway. In our mixed experience this week we saw an average of 23.5-mpg. Premium fuel is recommended and this Benz is E85 compatible. With a 19.5-gallon fuel tank (including the 2.1-gallon reserve) we can expect a cruising range of nearly 400 miles.

This new 2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class follows the styling language of its larger siblings, that is, a squat stance with arched lines implying an athletic, feline character. In darker colors like this one the image is subtle but pervasive. Extremely short front overhang with a slightly bulging wheel arch and squinty headlights add to the aggressive fully modern look.

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300  (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside, we find a beautifully updated environment. We first notice the quality materials – plastics, wood, and leather along with just enough aluminum trim to punctuate the entire visual statement. Seats are firm and generous. Sporty metal pedals announce themselves on the floor. The dedicated German engineers obviously paid great attention to ergonomics as well. The shifter slides through its various positions as smoothly as a warm knife through butter. A slick system for hiding the navigation/audio control screen has it tuck into the upper center of the dash like a shy turtle slipping into its shell each time we turn off the car. I found the navigation system not too bad but there were a few functions that stymied me as I fumbled through the set up.

The rear seat is not so generous. This is a small sedan, after all. Getting through the door and into the seat was a challenge for this admittedly portly reporter. Average-sized people will find it adequate but certainly not the equal of bigger sedans. An optional power rear window shade will cut out the glare back there. Trunk space is respectable at 12.4 cubic-feet.

Suspension is a sophisticated fully independent design all around with a 3-link strut system in front using an anti-dive geometry and a 5-arm system in the rear with substantial stabilizer bar. Our 3,500-pound test car has the sport suspension calibration and we found it pleasantly firm. Drivers more used to domestic sedan suspension tuning might find it disconcerting but it certainly offers a feeling of control and precision.

Safety features on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 are extensive. Lots of airbags, chassis dynamics, designed-in crumple zones, seat belt pre-tensioners, and all the usual stuff make this car as safe as anything in its class. Government safety ratings are maxed out for side crash and rollover protection and one star short on frontal crash protection.

Mercedes’ new car warranty is good for 4 years or 50,000 miles.

It was hard to find anything to criticize with the C300 but one annoyance was the lack of visible cues on the key fob. Raised lines on the fob indicate the functions but especially in the dark it was difficult to find the right button. You must keep tilting it until the light catches the ridges just right to see anything.

When shopping for a classy small sedan in this category I recommend you include the 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 in your search.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved