In-depth Reviews

Mercedes C-Class saloon - Engines, drive & performance

The Mercedes C-Class can be quick, but it also prioritises comfort

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Clever design means the current Mercedes C-Class is 100kg lighter than the previous version. As a result, it now feels more agile in corners and more enjoyable to drive in general. You can choose between four modes: Comfort, Eco, Sport and Sport+. They can make the car more comfortable or sportier to drive, depending on your mood.

Ride quality depends on which type of suspension your model has, but even the standard SE does a good job of absorbing bumps on the road and it's more comfort-orientated than the BMW 3 Series or Jaguar XE. Mercedes is the first manufacturer to offer optional air-suspension in this class and it works extremely well. It can be adjusted to offer more comfort or increased poise as required, although at slow town speeds you’ll still notice when you drive over bad surfaces. Sport and AMG Line cars have larger alloy wheels and stiffer suspension, so it makes sense to try out all three options to find out which is best for you.

No matter which specification you choose, though, you’ll find that the C-Class can’t quite match the sharpness of response and agility of the BMW 3 Series. Although the Sport and AMG Line models feel stiffer and more engaging, the underlying handling is little improved over the SE model. It takes really spirited driving to highlight the advantage that the BMW has over the Mercedes, though.

The C-Class is better regarded as a very accomplished motorway cruiser that won’t feel out of its depth when you’re in the mood to take the rural route home. In early 2020, the entry-level C 180 equipped with a manual gearbox was discontinued, with every C-Class now getting a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike the latest automatics from BMW and Audi, it can be a little slow to shift gears, even if it is very smooth.

Mercedes C-Class petrol engines

The C-Class range kicks off with the C 200 that’s equipped with Mercedes' EQ Boost mild-hybrid technology, which adds bursts of 14bhp to the 1.5-litre petrol engine's 181bhp output. It's available with rear-wheel drive and takes 7.7 seconds to get from 0-62mph.

If you're looking for more performance, the C 300 has a 2.0-litre turbo engine with 255bhp, cutting the 0-62mph dash to 5.9 seconds. Then there are the AMG versions, with power ranging from 385bhp in the C 43 to 503bhp in the BMW M3-rivalling C 63 S.

Diesel engines

The C 220 d uses a 2.0-litre diesel that was first launched in the larger Mercedes E-Class. It’s smoother and quieter than Mercedes' old 2.1-litre diesel, produces 191bhp and gets the C-Class from 0-62mph in a brisk 6.9 seconds. In our testing, it was quicker off the mark than the equivalent 3 Series or XE, despite appearing less sporty.

The quickest diesel C-Class is the C 300 d, which can get from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, thanks to its 242bhp power output and impressive 500Nm of torque, making overtaking a breeze.

Hybrid engines

Unlike rivals, Mercedes is currently offering both petrol and diesel plug-in hybrids. The first is based around a 2.0-litre petrol engine with 208bhp, paired with a 120bhp electric motor for a maximum of up to 316bhp sent to the rear wheels. This is enough to get the C 300 e from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds and on to a limited 155mph top speed.

The diesel version uses the same 120bhp electric motor, but this time alongside a 2.0-litre diesel offering 191bhp, for a combined 302bhp. Getting from 0-62mph takes just 0.2 seconds longer.

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