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2009 Mercedes-Benz C-Class ReviewThe Good
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class compact sedan expands its list of safety features for 2009 with the addition of pelvic airbags and continues to deliver a smooth ride, agile handling, and good performance, as well as a choice of luxury or sport features, depending on the trim.The Bad
Not as spacious as its larger siblings in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the C-Class has a compact cabin that can seem cramped when fully loaded with five adults, and some owners have expressed disappointment with the quality of materials throughout the interior.
The CarGurus View
Overall, Mercedes delivers a stylish, comfortable, and competent car in the 2009 C-Class. While some still consider it the Baby Benz, it has indeed grown up, offering drivers a range of engine choices and finish features, as well as optional all-wheel drive and the performance-oriented V8-powered C63. Some will find the cabin tight, but for the most part Mercedes delivers all the elements drivers expect from the German automaker.
At a Glance
Following a major redesign of the C-Class in 2008, Mercedes-Benz continues to refine and define its entry-level luxury sedan for 2009, making small but notable tweaks to the C-Class's design and safety features. For starters, Mercedes adds two pelvic airbags to all C-Class trims. The pelvic airbags, which mount in the front seat-bottom cushions, join an extensive array of airbags in the C-Class. In addition, C-Class Sport sedans receive a new instrument cluster, which helps to further differentiate the Sport sedan trims from the Luxury trims and builds on design changes initiated in 2008.
Mercedes also added a larger hard drive to the C-Class's optional navigation system, and upgraded standard features on some trims, such as the C350, which receives driver's side memory for the steering column and exterior mirror as well as the seat. Driver's side memory for the steering column and mirror remains an optional feature for the C300 trims.
As in previous years, the C-Class consists of three basic trims - the V6-powered C300 and C350, as well as the V8-powered C63 AMG, which was introduced mid-year in 2008. The C300 comes in Sport and Luxury versions, both of which are available as either rear-wheel-drive sedans or with Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive. The C300 Luxury sedan comes equipped with luxury seating, Burl Walnut trim, and a power glass roof, while the C300 Sport trim features a lowered sport
suspension, sport body styling, and a power sunroof.
The C350, available only as a Sport sedan, features a more powerful V6 powerplant, while the top-of-the-line C63 AMG boasts a beefy V8 engine and performance-oriented systems designed by AMG, the in-house sport tuner for Mercedes. Features include an AMG-designed grille, headlights, rear spoiler, and wheels, as well as a sport exhaust system and sport suspension.
The base 3.0-liter V6 engine, which powers the C300 trims, generates 228 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, driving the C300 from 0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds. The V6 links to a seven-speed automatic transmission in the C300 Luxury sedan and to a six-speed manual transmission with a short-throw shifter and aluminum shift knob in the Sport trim. The automatic transmission features Touch Shift, which enables drivers to shift manually. Drivers of the C300 Sport sedan can add the seven-speed automatic transmission as an option.
The C350 Sport sedan comes equipped with a 3.5-liter, double-overhead-cam V6 powerplant, which produces 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, propelling the C350 from 0 to 60 in 6.1 seconds. The V6 incorporates continually variable timing, which ensures a quick response and peak torque from 2,400 to 5,000 RPM. The engine links to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
At the top of the heap power-wise, the C63 AMG boasts a hunky 451-hp, 6.3-liter V8 engine, which delivers a whopping 443 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 RPM and drives the C63 from 0 to 60 in just 4.3 seconds.
While the C300 trims with the 3.0-liter V6 engine post fairly decent fuel economy numbers of 18/25 mpg and the C350, with its larger V6, posts similar numbers of 17/25, the C63, with its big V8, manages only 12/19. All engines run on premium unleaded fuel or a mixture of E85/premium unleaded fuel.
Ride & Handling
The C-Class sedans continue to provide a smooth ride and agile handling, thanks to specially tuned suspensions and systems designed to ensure optimal responsiveness. The C300 and C350 trims, for instance, come equipped with agility control, which improves handling, stability, and ride comfort by automatically adjusting damping at each wheel as needed. The system also reduces vibration in the cabin, ensuring a smooth ride. The C350 rides on firmer coil springs and shock absorbers, compared to the C300 trims, which provide more precise handling and a more aggressive stance. The C350 also comes equipped with wider 17-inch wheels in the rear (8.5 inches wide vs. 7.5 inches in the front) to improve control when accelerating and negotiating tight turns.
The C63 features an AMG sports suspension with AMG shock absorbers and stabilizers, which automatically adjust the air spring tuning, depending on the driving situation, to ensure dynamic handling, according to Mercedes.
Instruments and controls are well-located and easy for the driver to access, including controls in the center console for the radio, interior temperature, and optional navigation system. However, the C-Class's interior space remains a problem, especially the back seat, which can feel cramped for adults during long trips. On the positive side, the seats are firm and comfortable enough for most passengers. Overall, ride quality remains good, and the V6 engines provide adequate power for a compact sedan.
Cabin & Comfort
The C-Class's interior reflects its status as an entry-level Benz. While some drivers and reviewers find the interior upscale and and well-organized, others feel it doesn't quite live up to the high level set by competitive sedans from BMW, Lexus, Audi, and even Hyundai. The C300 Luxury trim, with its burl walnut accents on the console, door, and shift gate, does a better job of conveying an upscale feel, while the aluminum trim in the C300 Sport sedan provides a more performance-oriented feel. The two-tone interior, with a contrasting upper dash, also helps create an elegant feel, but many drivers find too many hard plastic surfaces inside the C-Class cabins that affect overall comfort.
In addition, as a compact sedan, the C-Class will feel tight inside when fully loaded with five adults, many drivers point out. Some drivers believe leather seating should be a standard feature for all trims, while others would like to see a better-quality leather for the optional leather upholstery.
Feature-wise, the C-Class does a better job. Eight-way power-adjustable front seats, a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and shift knob, dual-zone automatic climate control, electronic cruise control, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and an eight-speaker audio system with an in-dash CD player and 5-inch color display with flip-up cover all come standard in C300 trims. Mercedes uses MB-Tex, a vinyl-like synthetic material, as its standard upholstery material.
The C350 adds a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory, an eight-way power-adjustable passenger seat, heated front seats, and Black Bird's-eye Maple wood trim. The C63 comes equipped with such standard features as an ergonomic three-spoke performance steering wheel, an AMG instrument cluster, sport seats with Nappa leather and side bolsters, and AMG-designed headrests.
The C-Class offers 12.4 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk, which should prove adequate for most around-town driving.
In addition to the new pelvic airbags added for 2009, the C-Class comes equipped with dual-stage front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, and full-length window-curtain airbags. Other standard safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, which aids drivers when stopping in emergency situations, and an Electronic Stability Program, which automatically applies brakes on individual wheels during extreme maneuvering to prevent the car from fishtailing or skidding out of control.
The C300 achieved a top five-star rating for passenger safety during side-impact crashes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a four-star rating for front-impact crashes.
Drivers can add an optional Quickpark parking assist system, which uses ultrasound sensors to detect obstacles behind the vehicle and audibly alerts drivers to ensure safety when backing up.
What Owners Think
Overall, owners give the Mercedes-Benz C-Class high marks. They especially like the exterior styling of the C-Class, as well as its smooth ride, engineering quality, quiet interior, stability on all types of road surfaces, and spirited performance. However, many owners are less than enthusiastic about the interior of the C-Class, citing a cramped cabin, tight back seat, and lack of materials many owners equate with a Mercedes-Benz automobile. Some find the interior achieves its goal of delivering a luxury driving experience, but others are disappointed by the overall fit and finish.
CarGurus drivers echo those sentiments. Many would like to see a more plush interior, but give the C-Class high marks for its handling, braking, acceleration, and overall German engineering. CarGurus drivers also find the C-Class fun to drive, and some consider it the best car in its class.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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