2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class / C300 First Drive: Baby S-Class

mercedes-benz c-class Full Overview


  • Interior design and quality from the S-Class
  • Quiet ride
  • Smart safety technology



  • Soft steering
  • Reduced headroom
  • $44,600 starting price

The last time the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was all new, there was no Tesla Model 3, Genesis G70, or Alfa Romeo Giulia, three of its main competitors. (The latter two were named MotorTrend‘s Car of the Year.) Since 2014, when the fourth generation was launched, basically every luxury compact sedan has received a complete makeover except the C-Class (and the Lexus IS), leaving the Mercedes to face stiff competition amid a growing field of players. The result was lower sales, dropping from 86,000 annual units in 2015 to 30,000 last year. The popularity of crossovers is also to blame, but the fact Mercedes left one of its best-sellers unattended didn’t help.

Thankfully, that stops now.

Feeling Special Inside

Although the previous C-Class still managed to look sharp, the new model brings an enhanced exterior with a more modern aesthetic. A new grille with a single horizontal bar and a diamond pattern is highlighted by mini three-pointed chrome stars. The wheelbase has increased by about an inch, and the proportions, clean lines, and integrated taillights stand out. However, the biggest changes are inside.

Enter the cabin, and the C300 will make you feel special. Most of the interior’s attributes trickled down from the S-Class, which was recently redesigned and became fancier than ever. The new split-screen style looks better than before and allowed designers to make the cabin more stylish. An 11.9-inch touchscreen houses the new MBUX infotainment system, which has pristine graphics and works similarly to an Apple iPad. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and the new navigation system comes with graphics that seem to be lifted from Google Maps. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster sits in front of the driver, and although it doesn’t have 3-D graphics like the S-Class does, its functionality is just as good. Adding to that tech, an optional color head-up display will show turn-by-turn navigation and important info from the vehicle.

If technology isn’t your thing, maybe the fit and finish is. The attention to detail is superb. Our vehicle’s red leather seats and carbon-fiber-like trim popped, and the jet-engine-inspired air vents have been replaced by ovoid vents that still look plush. The Burmester 3-D speaker grilles blend in nicely with the rest of the aluminum trim across the cabin—from the air vents to the seat controls to the dashboard. And once the sun goes down, the ambient lighting pops like an Ibiza night club, with 64 colors to choose from.

With the new design changes, Mercedes fitted a bunch of capacitive buttons across the interior. For instance, you must slide your finger across the small volume tab under the screen to adjust the volume. The task is the same to open or close the sunroof and sunshade from the overhead controls or change the speed of the adaptive cruise control from the steering controls. While the look of these buttons is elegant, they are frustrating to use.

With the 2023 Mercedes-Benz C-Class being wider, lower, and longer than the outgoing model, its interior is more ample, especially in the rear seats. Legroom has improved for those seated next to the doors, but headroom is a bit limited. Adults 6 feet and over will rub the headliner in the back seat, and because of the big drivetrain hump, those seated in the middle will have to fight for legroom.

The Drive

Employing a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 engine mated to a 48-volt electrical system, the Mercedes-Benz C300 unleashes 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque to the rear or all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. The mild hybrid setup allows the C-Class to glide with the engine turned off or boost power depending on the driving conditions, and its integrated starter-generator adds 20 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque.

The result is a comfortable and decently powered sedan. Taking into consideration that this is no Mercedes-AMG C43, the C300 gets up to speed quickly. It should take about 6.0 seconds to get to 60 mph, according to Mercedes’ estimates. Although those numbers are not eye-popping, they fall in line with the competition. A 2020 BMW 330i got to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds in our testing, and a 2018 Audi A4 did it in 7.0 seconds. The 2019 Genesis G70 split the difference at 6.2 seconds.

Speed aside, the C300 rides smoothly and quietly through city streets and highways. Our test drive consisted of a round trip from Los Angeles to Encinitas, California, and the suspension tackled most of the pavement imperfections gracefully. Its four-link axle suspension setup at the front and multilink at the rear allows the C300 to handle with confidence, though this is no sports car. In general, the ride is comfortable and quiet, a level below what we’d call sporty.

The steering is similarly sub-sporty. We praised the way it felt on the European model during our drive last year, but the steering on the U.S. model feels too soft. Even with Sport+ mode on, the steering lacks the snazziness we expected. The transmission and throttle mapping, however, feel more responsive when switching between Comfort and Sport+ modes.

Perhaps the most important additions behind the wheel are the new safety technologies Mercedes put in the C300. Our model was equipped with the Driver Assistance package, which includes a long list of active safety features that are meant to reduce driver stress. On the interstate between North San Diego and Los Angeles, we only had to softly hold the wheel while the systems worked together to follow the car in front at a safe distance, all while the car was centered in its lane. Touch the turn signal, and the car will automatically change lanes when there’s no car next to you. Our only complaint is the sudden reduction of speed when the speed limit changes, even when you have the adaptive cruise control set over the speed limit. It feels like the car slams on the brakes, a dangerous maneuver at higher speeds.

How Much?

Starting at $44,600, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is—simply put—expensive. Our test car, with its multimedia, sound, AMG Line, and driver assistance packages checked out at $62,270. Although the C300 is well equipped from the start, the fact that you can’t get a C-Class for less than $40,000 is daunting. In comparison, the 2022 Genesis G70 starts at $38,570, and the 2022 Audi A4 starts at $40,995.

After years of being unattended, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C-Class returns with strong intentions. Its classy interior will definitely attract buyers looking into compact luxury sedans, and its onboard and safety technologies will impress. Although its driving dynamics aren’t as impressive as other players (read: Alfa Romeo Giulia or Genesis G70), the C-Class brings a wealth of other attributes to keep it firmly in the competitive mix.

Looks good! More details?

2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 Specifications
BASE PRICE $44,600
LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/255-hp/295-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16V I-4 plus 21-hp/147-lb-ft electric motor
TRANSMISSION 9-speed auto
CURB WEIGHT 3,600 lb (MT est)
WHEELBASE 112.8 in
L x W x H 187.0 x 71.7 x 56.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.0 sec (mfr est)
EPA FUEL ECON 23/33/27 mpg (est)

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