2001 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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2001 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Available in 2 styles:  2001 Mercedes-Benz C240 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18–19 city / 26–27 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 11
2001 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4.0 12
$ 2,228-8,840
September 22, 2001

Mercedes-Benz has transformed its smallest sedan, changing it from a practical but not terribly exciting midsize car into a sporting and rakishly attractive vehicle ready to do battle with Audis and BMWs.

The C-Class sedans returned for 2001 with new engines, upgraded suspension system, aggressive new styling, a boatload of standard features and a price tag starting at less than $30,000. The mission is to attract drivers who previously bypassed the baby Benzes for sportier European sedans.

The C240 tested is a fine craft, quick and maneuverable, with all the strength and precision we've come to expect of Mercedes. Styled like a mini-S-Class, the C240 is tighter and sportier than before, enjoyable to toss around curves while enthroned in the rich leather-and-wood interior. Powered by a 2.6-liter V-6, the C240 comes in under the C320 with its bigger V-6.

The test car was enhanced by a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission. The six- speed is just the ticket for wringing power and response from the small V-6, which is probably a mite sluggish when linked with an automatic.

I first sampled this new tranny in the SLK320 sports car and felt that it improved the SLK quite a bit. In the C240, shifting was smooth and precise, although the shift between fifth and sixth was awkward. That's something I did not encounter in the SLK.

The C-Class sedans carry over for 2002 but with the addition of a model that should attract those who desire an uptown car without the uptown price: the C230 Kompressor hatchback coupe, with a base price of $26,000, bargain basement territory for Mercedes.

The just under-$30,000 base price of the C240 is quickly eclipsed as options are added on, such as the test car's $1,375 leather interior and the $1,340 sunroof package, which includes rain-sensing intermittent wipers and a power rear-window sun shade. This car can soar into the high $30,000s as the goodies pile up.

On the road, the C240 proves competitive against such sport-sedan stars as BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Lexus IS300 and Volvo S60 T5. The nimble responsiveness of the Benz's upgraded multilink suspension and rack-and-pinion steering inspires confidence and provokes grins. Cornering is flat and balanced. The four-wheel disc brakes, enhanced with a system that boosts braking pressure when it senses panic stops, are absolutely awesome.

Acceleration is good, but the car is geared pretty low, and the 6,000 red line sneaks up quickly. The V-6 is very smooth and tractable, but midrange response could be better. If you want more power than the 168 horses available from the 2.6 liter, swim upstream to the C320, which has a 3.2-liter V-6 that delivers 215 horsepower but costs almost $7,000 more.

Interior comfort is first-rate for front-seat passengers, a bit less for those in the rear seat who may find legroom in short supply. Seats are very firm an d supportive. Fit and finish throughout are excellent, with an overall feel of sturdiness. The trunk is surprisingly huge.

The dashboard is well organized, more so than in the higher-end Mercedes that have been cluttered up with a difficult video-display stereo/climate-control/ navigation system. The C240's stereo and climate control are simple and straightforward.

One piece of Mercedes engineering that continues to grate is the cruise control, which is actuated by a wand poking out of the left side of the steering column and easily confused with the turn-signal stalk.

Even at its base price, the C240 is loaded with features, such as traction control; electronic stability control, which helps control skids; an advanced audio system that incorporates the phone and emergency road service; and a full assembly of safety airbags, including adaptive front airbags, plus side airbags and side-window air curtains.

All in all, the C240 i fine little sports sedan that I hated to give back. Look out, BMW.

    Expert Reviews 3 of 11

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