The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is the heart of the luxury automaker’s passenger-car lineup, and for 2021, as in most recent years, it was the brand’s best-selling model in the United States after the sales-leading GLE and GLC SUVs. According to Mercedes-Benz data, the C-Class is a key entry for buyers moving up from a mainstream brand to a luxury one. It also attracts a high percentage of female buyers, says the automaker.
For 2022, Mercedes builds the C-Class Sedan on a new W206 platform, which among other changes, incorporates 48-volt mild-hybrid electrification for increased energy efficiency. Mercedes assembles U.S.-bound examples in Bremen, Germany.
Recently, I spent two half-days driving a 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic Sedan in Southern California over a route that spanned more than 150 miles of freeway, residential, and twisty 2-lane back-country and mountain roads.
Mercedes C 300 competitors include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac CT5, Genesis G70, Lexus IS, and Volvo S60.
The new W206-based 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 Sedan arrives at U.S. dealerships in spring 2022. Coupe and Cabriolet versions of the C-Class built on the previous W205 platform continue as 2022 models. A performance-enhanced Mercedes-AMG C 43 will arrive for the 2023 model year.
In “base” Premium trim, MSRP for the 2022 C 300 Sedan is $44,600, including the $1,050 destination charge. That price includes standard features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, heated, power-operated front seats, and an 11.9-inch infotainment touchscreen. With destination, the C 300 Sedan in mid-level Exclusive trim is $46,850. It adds a Burmester surround-sound audio system, a surround-view camera, self-parking assist, ambient interior lighting, and a wireless charger. The top C 300 Sedan Pinnacle trim rings in at $48,550 with destination and brings a head-up display and navigation with augmented reality. Upgrading from rear-wheel drive (RWD) to optional 4Matic all-wheel drive is a $2,000 upcharge, regardless of the trim level.
I drove a 2022 C 300 4Matic Sedan in Premium trim equipped with a long list of optional features for my evaluation. Appearance-related options included Selenite Gray Metallic paint, Natural Grain Black Wood interior trim with Aluminum Lines, and Enhanced Ambient Lighting. Comfort and convenience options included a Panorama roof, illuminated door sills, a heated steering wheel, and acoustic glass. Infotainment-related items included SiriusXM satellite radio; Advanced USB package; wireless charger; Sound package with a Burmester 3D surround-sound audio system, online music streaming, and sound personalization; and a Multimedia package with navigation, augmented reality, and a head-up display. Suspension-related options included 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels and Pirelli PZero summer performance tires.
In addition to the above, the test car had a number of safety-related options and packages, including a Digital Light package with projector-beam headlamps; Driver Assistance package with Active Distronic adaptive cruise control, Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, lane-keeping assistance, Pre-Safe Plus automatic emergency braking, active blind-spot warning, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic function, evasive steering assistance, automatic emergency stop assistance, Active Speed Limit Assist, and Route-Based Speed Adaptation. Lastly, the test car also had a Parking Pilot and Surround View system with Active Parking Assist. Including the $1,050 destination charge, the total came to $57,150.
Photo: Ron Sessions
You don’t just sit in this Mercedes-Benz; you soak in it. The interior design, rich colors, and upscale materials of the new C-Class ooze luxury. Particularly fetching in the C 300 test car was the natural-grain black wood trim on the dash accented with vertical aluminum strakes, giving the cabin a handsome pin-striped-suit vibe. It provides a nice contrast to the car’s free-standing, high-resolution 12.3-inch driver-configurable digital gauge display.
The power-adjustable front bucket seats hug your torso to keep you in place in the twisty bits but offer top-level comfort as well for long stints on the highway. On the lower cushions, lateral bolsters keep your hips planted, but there are no hard wires to slide your butt over getting in and out, and the lower bolsters are relieved at the forward end to facilitate posterior passage. Also, the lower cushions have a soft waterfall front edge that supports the thighs of longer-legged patrons.
These are comfy seats. They look and feel so good in MB Tex synthetic material that there’s no need to opt for the extra-cost Nappa leather coverings unless you want seat cooling.
As with all Mercedes-Benz products, power seat adjustments are door-mounted pictograms. In the new C-Class, these are capacitive-touch controls, so there is no movement or feedback when you push on them. It takes a few seconds, perhaps, but eventually, you notice that with a simple touch, the seat cushion is moving in the direction you intended (however slowly).
All major contact points are either soft-touch or wrapped, with nicely padded door armrests to comfort bony elbows on long trips. The armrest on the center console, also padded, has a small storage bin underneath, accessed via thoughtful bomb-bay doors that inconvenience neither the driver nor the front passenger.
Mercedes-Benz switchgear remains one of the best in the business with a well-executed digital column shifter for the 9-speed automatic transmission. Cruise controls, however, have migrated to the left steering-wheel spoke and offer haptic feedback when you push a “button.”
The new C-Class is ever-so-slightly wider than the previous model, benefitting shoulder room and elbow space. And the new sedan is 2.5 inches longer than its predecessor, with an inch-longer wheelbase that translates into nearly an inch greater legroom for rear-seat passengers. This six-footer had no problem getting comfortable back there with the driver’s seat adjusted for the same.
Photo: Ron Sessions
Mercedes equips all U.S.-bound C 300s with a new portrait-format 11.9-inch high-resolution MBUX infotainment system. The bones of it trickle down from the S-Class flagship, complete with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, advanced plain-speech-capable voice control, a dash-mounted fingerprint sensor to access memory settings and driver profiles, and optional navigation with augmented reality that combines a front camera view with real-time map data. The screen also incorporates climate control functions.
Pairing my Samsung Android phone was quick and easy, giving me immediate access to Android Auto. Also quick and easy was getting prompt and accurate responses to searches for points of interest with the keyword phrase “Hey Mercedes” to such requests as “find the nearest El Pollo Loco.”
There are no physical volume or tuning knobs, but once you get the hang of it, interacting with the system via screen tiles, steering-wheel buttons, or voice control becomes second nature.
One interesting bit of technology is the Parking Damage Detection system. If it detects an impact that could result in damage while the car is parked, your smartphone will get a message (from your car!) via an active MercedesMe account.
The new C-Class is available with the latest safety and advanced driving assistance systems technology that has trickled down from the S-Class. However, most of it is optional, in a $1,950 Driver Assistance package—something without which I can’t imagine anyone buying a new C-Class.
In the C 300 test car, the Distronic adaptive speed control did a nice job of maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. In light traffic, I tried out the Active Lane Change Assist feature, which executed clean and safe lane changes with a turn-signal-lever application when clear of traffic. The package also includes Active Blind Spot Assist, which will warn of a vehicle in the car’s blind spot and intervene with single-side braking if the alert goes unheeded by the driver and attempt a lane change anyway. Also using the blind-spot sensor, the system provides an Exit Warning feature that will flash red interior ambient lighting and an audible alert if an interior occupant tries to open a door in the path of an approaching vehicle or bicycle.
Photo: Ron Sessions
As it did in 2021, Mercedes equips the 2022 C-Class with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine pumping 255 horsepower. But the new W206 C-Class uses an all-new M254 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine derived from the carmaker’s new inline-6 engine that brings an integrated starter/generator and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The electric boost can add another 20 horsepower and a whopping 148 pound-feet of torque to the 255-hp/295 pound-feet 4-cylinder for short bursts.
You don’t really feel the new powertrain’s added power and torque (and the company’s 6-second zero-to-60 mph estimates for the new powertrain don’t reveal it to be quicker than last year’s model). However, the car uses the electric boost to positive effect under transitions, smoothing such things as initial throttle application and restarts after the engine shuts off in gear to save fuel when stopped in traffic. The new 4-cylinder turbo is both refined and eager to the extent one might think there’s a larger 6-cylinder under that twin power-domed hood, if only with occasional, slight graininess under certain high-load, low-rpm conditions when climbing a slight grade.
Fuel-saving capabilities of the mild-hybrid system are modest. The system can shut off the engine and switch to electric power when coasting and feed electrons back into the battery via regenerative braking. Compared to the 2021 model, the 2022 C300 with RWD gets a 2-mpg boost in combined city/highway EPA estimates. However, the C 300’s W206 platform has the bones for more aggressive electrification in future models that will undoubtedly net higher fuel efficiency.
On the road, the new C-Class embodies the well-equipped kit and luxury feel of the larger Mercedes-Benz E-Class and S-Class sedans but in a more personal, fun-to-drive size. The longer wheelbase of the new C-Class pushes the wheels further to the corners. A wider track, particularly at the rear, gives the sedan a road-ready stance. The car wore optional 225/40R19 front/255/35R19 rear Pirelli PZero summer performance tires, which were up to the task with plenty of stick for the 150-mile test trek over 150 miles of California residential, freeway, and twisty 2-lane back roads.
The C 300 is calm and stable at speed. Although U.S. versions don’t get the 4-wheel steering included in some overseas markets, the C 300 responds quickly and precisely on turn-in to driver inputs, offering good road feedback. Equipped with standard Agility Control continuously adjustable damping, the C 300 Sedan delivers a segment-appropriate balance of smooth ride motions and good vertical body control. There’s just a hint of float when in the Comfort drive mode, which drivers can tidy up without making the ride choppy by selecting Sport mode.
Offering a more efficient, electrified mild-hybrid powertrain for the first time, plus trickle-down infotainment and driver-assistive tech from the S-Class flagship, the all-new, shapely 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is fun to drive and right-sized for entry-luxury, compact-sedan buyers.
I’m particularly smitten with the deliciously rich cabin of the new C 300, which takes personal luxury and craftsmanship to new compact-luxury sedan heights while delivering an engaging driving experience and making the latest and greatest technology so accessible.
Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.
The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.
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