Mercedes C-Class saloon - Engines, drive & performance
The Mercedes C-Class is good to drive, even if the 3 Series is a bit more focused
The outgoing C-Class was good to drive but traded some of the focus of the BMW 3 Series for comfort and a more relaxed feel. The same is true for the latest model; on our first encounter with the C-Class, it felt more luxurious than the 3 Series or Audi A4 in Comfort mode.
The good news for keen drivers is that in Sport mode, the C-Class also feels poised and has well-weighted steering with more feel than before. While a 3 Series still feels sportier, the C-Class is now closer than before – especially in high-performance C 43 AMG guise. The even-faster C 63 S E-Performance has shunned a V8 for a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid powertrain, and while it’s a better all-rounder than ever, we don’t think it’s as fun to drive as past models.
Mercedes C-Class diesel engines
Both the C 220 d and C 300 d are expected to remain a key part of the C-Class range, based around the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine but tuned to produce 197bhp and 261bhp respectively. Both get rear-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox as standard and take either 7.3 or 5.7 seconds to accelerate from 0-62mph.
On the road, the C 220 d feels smooth and has impressive pulling power from around 1,600rpm, easily pushing the car to motorway speeds or allowing you to pass slower traffic. There's little need to go beyond 3,000rpm and the nine-speed automatic does a good job of keeping the engine in its sweet spot. In its highest gear, the engine is only just above idle at 70mph, making it feel like a very effortless and refined way to travel long distances.
The entry-level C 180 and the C 200 both use a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine, with 168bhp and 204bhp respectively. With rear-wheel drive and the same automatic gearbox as the diesels, these take 8.6 and 7.3 seconds to get from 0-62mph. The C 200 is also offered with four-wheel drive, knocking two tenths off the 0-62mph time.
Moving up the range, there's the C 300 with a 2.0-litre petrol engine providing 255bhp and, again, with the option of rear or four-wheel drive. Both get to 62mph from rest in six seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph.
Finally, there’s the sporty C 43 with its AMG-tuned 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. This produces a monstrous 402bhp and can propel the family saloon from 0-62mph in a rapid 4.6 seconds, onto a top speed of 155mph. C-Class owners can also choose to specify the AMG Driver’s Package which increases the top speed to 164mph; although the C 43 is faster than the old model, it still can’t quite beat the character of that car's tuneful six-cylinder powertrain.
Badged C 300 e, the plug-in hybrid C-Class is based around a 198bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine that’s bolstered by a 126bhp electric motor, for a combined output of 304bhp. It can run in electric mode at speeds of up to 87mph and features a route-planning mode in the sat nav to tell the powertrain when best to use its stored electricity for optimum efficiency.
The C 300 e will start and pull away electrically and silently when there’s charge in the battery, and even when it's empty, the Mercedes acts like a regular hybrid. Deceleration harnesses energy for the battery and the engine switches off any time the electric motor is sufficient on its own.
The feel from the brakes could be better, however, and the steering doesn't feel as precise as you'll find in the BMW 3 Series. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact the C 300 e never feels especially sporty, although it has an undeniable turn of speed in a straight line, getting from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds.
At the other extreme, there’s the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S E-Performance, which uses an even more highly-tuned version of the four-cylinder petrol engine found in the C 43. It allies this with an electric motor that normally produces 94bhp, but can output up to 201bhp in 10-second bursts. A combined 670bhp makes it a missile in a straight line, getting from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 174mph if you own a private runway. It’s a radical departure from the snorty V8s of previous C 63 models, sounding a bit more like a hot hatchback under acceleration – a bit of a disappointment at this price.
While the electric components have been placed at the rear of the C-Class for optimum weight distribution, there’s no denying the C 63 S E-Performance is heavy, weighing in at 2,165kg. You can feel its mass under braking, and in some ways it feels more like a high-performance S-Class from behind the wheel than the brand’s fastest compact executive saloon. It’s an impressive car that’s easy to drive quickly, but it’s not as precise or dynamically rewarding as a BMW M3 Competition.
Which Is Best?
- NameC200 Sport 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameC300e AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameC300d AMG Line 4dr 9G-Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto