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2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport
The Bottom Line
I first tested the new-for-2008 Mercedes-Benz C Class at the cars press introduction in Portland, Oregon. I came away from my day of driving thinking that the C was a decent effort, though I was put off by its less-than-luxurious interior. So when I found out that Mercedes had a C300 with a manual transmission in their Los Angeles press fleet, I asked if I could give the car another try. Stick-shift Mercedes are few and far between, and I wanted to see if a week of living with the C and driving it on the roads I know best would change my opinion. Did it? Read on.
* Good looking
* Great to drive on a curvy road
* Practical for day-to-day family duty
* Plasticky interior is unbecoming of a luxury car
* All-new version of Mercedes entry-level sedan
* Price range: 32,475 - 47,360
* Price as tested: 37,410
* EPA fuel economy estimates: 17-18 MPG city, 25-26 MPG highway
* Observed fuel economy: 22.5 MPG
Guide Review - 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport
Its taken me a while to get used to the Cs baby-S-class styling, but I really have come to like it. When it comes to the interior, however, Im still not a fan -- theres just too much plastic. Granted, its very nice plastic, soft and smoothly textured, and Im sure it won fade or crack for at least a century. But this is supposed to be a luxury car, yet the cabin looks like it belongs in a used Mazda. For 32,500, youd think Mercedes could scare up a little of the elegance found in their bigger cars. (Mercedes makes a "Luxury" version of the C, but its cabin isn much more luxurious.)
Driving the C on the roads I know best was a real eye-opener. Its a relaxed car during relaxed driving, almost antiseptic in a Camryish sort of way.
But show it some serious curves and it suddenly turns into a pseudo-sports car, with excellent steering and an electronic stability control system that won stop you from having a little rear-wheel-drive tail-out fun. The 6-speed manual transmission really let me get the most out of the C300s 3-liter V6 engines 228 horsepower. For those who prefer an automatic, the C350, with its 268 hp 3.5 liter engine, is the way to go.
As a family car, theres little to fault: The C is comfy and offers decent back seat and trunk space, though I wish Mercedes would put a higher priority on silencing wind and tire noise. Overall, I really enjoyed the C300. I could actually see myself living one, though at the prices Mercedes is asking, I don know if I could see myself buying one -- lovely as the C is, the BMW 328i is more functional, the Infiniti G35 is more fun, and the Lexus ES350 is more luxurious, and all are priced in the same range as the Mercedes. That said, if Mercedes ever sees fit to dress up the interior to proper Mercedes standards, the C will rise a lot higher on my list of recommended cars. -- Aaron Gold