The Search for my next car... 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 test ride review

Let me start this post by saying, Mercedes-Benz has always been one of my favorite auto makers. Mercedes has been a leader in innovation during its entire long history. The 126 chassis 500 series cars are one of my favorites of all time. Mercedes-Benz should be at the top of my list for my next car right? Well.. no. Years ago the 190E Mercedes always had a solid place in the Mercedes line up. It never seemed like an entry level car to me. Seeing a 190E on the road always made me think "oh cool.. check out that 190" not .. that's the cheapest Mercedes you can buy. The old C class became such a lease special car.. I can't seem to drive all but 30 seconds without seeing one. The last generation C class really turned into "the cheapest Mercedes." And if you really optioned one out.. the price was touching the E class range.. so who in their right mind would not just get the benchmark E class? That said, I know 2 people who have the last generation C class. I have driven both cars.. (both are sport models, one has the Kompressor 4 cylinder). They have had no problems with these cars... And no complaints whatsoever. But, that's really not the point I'm trying to make here.

When I heard the totally redesigned Mercedes-Benz C Class was now in showrooms, I had never even really considered looking at this car for the reasons mentioned above. While out car shopping a few weekends ago, I just happened to drive by my local Mercedes-Benz dealership and out of the corner of my eye saw the new C-Class sitting in the showroom. I just couldn't help myself.. I had to see this car up close.

Pulling into the dealership.. you really feel like you are at some Corporate office headquarters in Germany more so than a car dealership. Everything is perfect. The cars are somehow spotless, even though they are sitting outside during the rainy Florida summer. The salesmen aren't hanging outside smoking waiting for their next prey. I swear there wasn't even a fingerprint on the huge contemporary glass doors leading into the showroom. My only thought was "wow.. I'm at a Mercedes dealership."

After speaking with the very professional receptionist, I was introduced to a "Mercedes Sales Specialist." I informed the gentleman I just wanted to take a look at the new C Class and maybe get a booklet. We immediately walked over to a new C300 Sport (Mercedes has two models for the new C class.. the "Sport" and the "Luxury" at the time no Luxury models were in stock) sitting to the right of us and he gracefully opened the driver door and insisted that I have a seat. Right off the bat I noticed how much bigger this car not only looks on the outside.. but feels on the inside. I had plenty of space with room to spare for a rear passenger. It almost felt like I was in a E class. The interior redesign didn't totally strike me as leaps and bounds.. but it is definitely an improvement over the last model. This may sound silly, but the thing I was most excited about was the weight of the doors. The door felt like the commanders hatch on a tank, like a big chunk of solid steel. It felt like what a Mercedes should feel like!

After a quick once over of the cars interior, the salesman insisted I take one for a test ride. Who am I to argue..! Outside the showroom was a beautiful C300 sport in what Mercedes calls "Barolo Red" over black interior. It had an amazing (and very expensive) set of 18 inch AMG staggered wheels. The AMG package really makes this car stand out. I couldn't see myself driving this car without it.

When we pulled out of the dealership, I immediately noticed how much this car feels like a Mercedes. What do I mean? Well, its very stiff (but not uncomfortable).. very point and shoot driving. You always feel like the car is actually being controlled by some engineer on a computer, locked away in a secret room in Stuttgart. This car really is smarter than you. It's like you are simply being allowed to have some control over driving, but it will take care of the really important stuff. The breaks are amazing.. this car can stop so hard you may just end up in a different dimension. Handling is typical Mercedes, its a nice driving experience without being to much on the edge (and of course if you wanted to go to the edge, my operator in Stuttgart would probably push a button that would slap my hands and tell me "Nein!!!"). The 3.0 liter V6 is quite responsive, and its 228 hp and 221 lbs ft torque move this car out quite nicely. I can imagine this car with the 3.5 liter engine would be a screamer.

In summary its hard to even compare this car to the last generation C class. According to Mercedes this car has been 7 years in the making. This is a completely different car. It is, dare I say it, over engineering at its finest. That is what I love about Mercedes! I want my Mercedes to be engineered like one of the seven wonders! The only similarity this new C class has with the old one is once you start to option this car out it can become quite expensive. The C300 sport I drove with the AMG package and a couple more goodies was over 40k!!!!

When its all said and done, if I'm going to spend over $40,000 for a car in this class... I think I'd still pick the BMW 335.. Maybe a drive in the C350 could change my mind... another car for another day!

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