Mercedes-Benz redesigned its entry-level C-Class for 2008, offering new styling reminiscent of the automaker's latest S-Class flagship. Engine choices remain the same as last year: The C300 has a 228-horsepower V-6, while the C350 offers a larger, 268-hp V-6. All-wheel drive is available.
The C300 comes with a manual or automatic transmission, but the C350 only comes with an automatic — a shame, as last year's stick-shift C350 was an engaging driver's car.
Measuring 3.7 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider than its predecessor, the new C-Class ditches its old scalloped headlights for a cleaner, more jagged appearance. It looks much like the redesigned S-Class, something that was said of its predecessor and that car's contemporary S-Class.
The C300 is available in Luxury or Sport trims, the latter differentiated by a large grille-mounted star (think the SL-Class roadster) as well as some subtle ground effects and a sport-tuned suspension. The C350 comes only in Sport trim. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard across the line, and Sport models get slightly wider rear tires. Eighteen-inch wheels are optional.
The dashboard sports a new three-spoke steering wheel, integrated center controls and a more uniform appearance than before. Standard equipment includes eight-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and a moonroof. Leather upholstery, xenon headlights and a navigation system governed by Mercedes' Comand interface are among the options.
Mercedes says the five-seat interior offers more legroom for rear passengers, and those up front have slightly more hip and shoulder room. Trunk capacity is 12.4 cubic feet.
Under the Hood
Both the C300 and C350 pack V-6 power. The C300 gets a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, while the C350 has a 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 hp. The C300 is available with a six-speed manual or Mercedes' seven-speed automatic transmission, while the C350 comes only with the automatic. Both cars' automatic version includes a manual shift mode.
Standard side-impact airbags are now integrated into the front seats to offer protection regardless of seat position; in the last C-Class, the airbags were stashed in the doors. Standard dual front airbags and side curtain airbags bring the total count to six. Other standard safety equipment includes four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system.