2000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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2000 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Available in 3 styles:  C-Class 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
$2,036–$8,224
Estimated MPG

18–21 city / 23–29 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 3

By 

Boston.com

AT A RELATIVELY LOW COST, C280 IS STILL, UNMISTAKABLY, A BENZ

I don't know of another make of automobile so uniformly identifiable through its entire model line as Mercedes-Benz.

That's distinctive as in: Put me blindfolded into a C Class, S Class, sedan, wagon, or roadster, take me for a spin, and I'll know I'm in a Mercedes. There's just something so recognizably solid - in sound, suspension, seating, straightforward surge - that gives a Benz away every time.

The 2000 C280, wedged into the class between the supercharged C230 Kompressor and the thundering V8 C430, is no exception. And what is remarkable is that, at less than $40,000, it's got a lot of what you pay for in models at far higher prices.

It may seem a bit of a baby-Benz if you park it beside an S Class sedan, but standing alone it appears, from the outside, full-blown, unmistakable Mercedes. Add the front and side farings that come with the sport model tested and it has a distinct sport-sedan aura about it.

Among standard features are a five-speed, electronically controlled transmission (thankfully with a touch-shift option), 10-way electrically-adjustable front seats, power windows, reading lamps, cruise control, and integrated garage-door opener. For safety, there's an automatic-manual emergency-calling system (needs to be activated with your phone company), dual front air bags, front side airbags, antilock brakes, and a skid-control system.

The sports package, which added $1,600 to the near-$36,000 base price, included two-tone leather seats, a split fold-down rear seat, glass sunroof, telephone, integrated CD changer, and embossed stainless-steel door sills.

The front bucket seats are among the firmest, most supportive to be found with wide seat areas that are very solid at the thighs. The backs of the seats are virtually walled in by bulging lateral supports. Put the car fast and stiff through a tight corner and the seats simply grip you. Even the rear seats' outside positions deliver this effect. The middle of the back seat is more of a hump and would not be a good spot for a long trip.

The gauge/control setup on the dash is classically functional. Climate controls are large and easy to use. The audio portion is a bit more confusing and the buttons somewhat smaller than is the trend toward larger and simpler these days. And I found the placement of the cruise-control and turn-signal levers - side-by-each on the steering column - annoying. It is too easy to "resume speed" when what you mean to do is signal a left-hand turn.

One option that I'd love to see in more sedans is the C280's box-through between the rear seats for skis. Others offer it, but, in the Mercedes, not only can you put your skis through this rectangle that is hidden behind the fold-down rear armrest, you can also keep the skis safe and dry with a long snap-bag.

Storage for personal items is decent up front with a deep center console are a and bins in the doors. Rear passengers, however, are at loss a for any place to put magazines or personal items. No bins, no back-of-the-front-seat pouches. They do get an emergency medical kit built into the rear window ledge, however.

The C280 is powered by a 2.8-liter, 18-valve, V6 aluminum engine. Its best performance is revealed once you are up to speed, passing traffic on the highway, as opposed to quick starts. Its throaty rumble is distinctive and it delivered 20.3 miles per gallon in widely mixed driving.

The five-speed automatic hung onto gears, both shifting up and down, longer than I like and there were distinct transitions from gear to gear. Switched to touch shift, however, it behaved very well, clicking up and down instantly and smoothly.

The ride was smooth, solid and stable. It was stiff weaving in and out of highway traffic, stiff on sharp corners, stiff straight ahead into a winter wind, stiff even on frost heaves. Mercedes stiff.

Merced cut no corners in producing the suspension system that results in this solid ride: Up front is a double wishbone setup with upper and lower control arms, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar, and anti-dive, anti-lift technology.

The rear has a five-link system with most of the above.

Antilock disc brakes bring the Benz to quick, straight stops, and an antiskid system called the Electronic Stability Program helps keep it under control while rolling or braking.

ESP works by braking individual wheels when it senses understeer or oversteer. There's also a winter driving mode that cuts torque - in effect preventing the driver from sending too much juice to the wheels and setting them to spinning. This is a good thing in most cases, though I found it a hindrance on a day when we had a couple of inches of wet, slick snow. I could not get the C280 up a moderate hill near my home and, once stopped, could not swing the tail of the car around to get it facing back downhill so I could descend and make another run.

When I switched off winter mode, it did much better. Sometimes extra juice is a good thing in winter.

Nice Touches:

- The graphite inserts in dash and doors. They tie the driver's compartment together nicely.

- The dual-level, covered console between the front seats. Roomy below, telephone bin above.

Annoyances:

- The clip on the passenger's side seat-belt dangles at midseat when not in use. This seems to be its assigned position. Problem is, on a sunny day, it sends bursts of light darting about the cabin.


    Expert Reviews 3 of 3

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