The Mercedes-Benz C-Class brings the three-pointed star to the rest of us, with sedans starting at less than $30,000. The C-Class brings more than the three-pointed star to the table, however.
The C320 sedan, for example, is a delight to drive with its sporty engine, responsive transmission, and perfect balance of ride quality and handling. Inside, it looks and feels like a Mercedes with high-quality materials and firm, supportive seats. Meanwhile, the price-leading C230 sport coupe continues to attract first-time Mercedes buyers with its combination of style, space, and features.
For 2003, the C-Class has been expanded to nine models, which includes sedans, wagons, and sport coupes. Two new sports sedans join the 2003 line, along with a new high-powered sport coupe, and a value-priced wagon. 2003 C240 and C320 sedans and wagons are available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Also, the supercharged four-cylinder engine that powers the C230 sport coupe has been redesigned for better efficiency and lower emissions.
C-Class has good bones, with exterior styling inspired by the big, luxurious S-Class sedan, technology shared with the latest E-Class, and an interior design all its own. Redesigned for model year 2002, the C-Class has been enjoying strong sales, particularly in the United States.
For 2003, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class comprises five four-door sedans, two station wagons, and two hatchback coupes. All (except C32 AMG) come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The five-speed automatic is optional ($1325).
C240 sedan ($29,900) is powered by a 168-horsepower 2.6-liter V6 with three valves per cylinder. C240 is well-equipped, with leather seat inserts, eight-way power seats with power adjustable head rests, manual tilt and telescope steering column, power windows, cruise control, a seven-speaker audio system with weatherband, Tele-aid communications, hand-polished laurel-wood trim and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
C320 sedan ($35,200) is powered by a 215-horsepower 3.2-liter version of the same V6. C320 comes standard with the five-speed automatic and a higher level of luxury amenities, including automatic climate control, Bose 10-speaker stereo, reading lamps, 10-way power seats, and a power-adjustable steering column. But most important, with more power on tap, the C320 is more satisfying to drive.
C-Class wagons are available in C320 ($36,700) and the new C240 ($31,400) trim. These are the smallest station wagons Mercedes has ever imported to the United States, yet they successfully combine sporty styling and good cargo room, perfect for that big dog (though we recommend a dog fence for safety). A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the wagons.
For 2003, C-Class sedans and wagons are available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive ($1800), a big benefit in slippery conditions.
C230 sport coupe is a hatchback, the first such design in Mercedes history. C230 sport coupe ($24,950) shares the 106.9-inch wheelbase of the C-Class sedans and wagons, but is substantially shorter overall. The sport coupe features a radical roofline, aggressive front end and sassy styling all its own. A glass panel between the tail lights contributes to rearward visibility and gives it a distinctive appearance. Inside, the sport coupe features aluminum trim instead of traditional wood. C230 is available with an optional Panoramic roof, nearly all glass from windshield to rear spoiler. Press a button, and the forward part of the roof retracts back over the rearward part, for open-air motoring. Powering this little rocket is a 1.8-liter twin-overhead-cam 16-valve inline-4 pumped up to 189 horsepower by a supercharger and intercooler.
Two new sports sedans are available for 2003, distinguished by more aggressive suspension tuning, body cladding, aluminum interior trim, seven-spoke 17-inch wheels with high performance tires, the six-speed manual transmission, and thickly bolstered front sport seats. The C320 sports sedan ($35,200) uses the same 3.2-liter V6 engine as the C320 sedan. The C230 Kompressor sedan ($27,990) is powered by the same supercharged 1.8-liter inline-4 as the C230 coupe.
For 2003, there's a new C320 sport coupe ($27,300) packing the 3.2-liter V6 engine and similar sports equipment to the new sports sedans.
C32 AMG is the hot rod of the C-Class family. Offered only as a sedan, the C32 AMG adds a Lysholm positive-displacement supercharger to the 3.2-liter V6, boosting output to 349 horsepower and 332 pounds-feet of torque. C32 AMG boasts its own SpeedShift version of the five-speed automatic gearbox, plus unique exterior decor and interior trim, special suspension and brakes, and larger tires and wheels. In fact, the C32 AMG is one of the quickest and fastest four-door cars in the world. It is also priced substantially out of the entry-luxury segment ($50,400).