2022 Mercedes C-Class

PHOENIX — Seemingly with all the talk these days about all-electric cars dominating the new car automotive spotlight it isn’t surprising that Mercedes could launch one of the most important and best-selling cars in the German automakers lineup and it seems no one knows about it. Is a new C Class sedan a significant car for Mercedes? You bet it is, not the least because it’s sold 2.5 million of them since the fourth-generation C-Class sold over 2.5 million of them since it was launched in 2014.

Originally launched in 1982 and then known as the 190E or as the “Baby Benz,” that positioning has been handed down to the A-Class and CLA Mercedes while the C-Class has grown larger and more significant by challenging worthy competitors like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Genesis G70.

Then again, with droves of new car buyers moving away from sedans in favor of utility vehicles, sedans have taken a back seat in popularity. But after seven years without a major redo, Mercedes has given the 2022 C-Class an extensive revamp with a nod to those traditionalists who still prefer driving a sedan rather than an SUV.

But even with the major redo it isn’t surprising one can hardly tell the difference from the outgoing C-Class since it looks nearly identical to the old C and almost every other Mercedes sedan in the lineup. However up close and in person the visual differences are more apparent beginning with the “cab-rearward” design with its long and sharply angled shark nose front end treatment, are worked rear end enough to render a “Look honey, they’ve shrunk the S-Class."  That look also includes the new, A-shaped grille with a star-shaped pattern along with power bulges on the hood.

Like the new S-Class the C-Class gets a thoroughly new upscale interior that features a 11.9-inch horizontally oriented touchscreen infotainment system smack in the middle of the instrument panel. The appearance isn’t unlike the screen found in Tesla models but feels much less intimidating given its default “Zero Layer” menu system with a permanent navigation map display with shortcut controls for media, phone and other vehicle settings. Climate controls are along the bottom of the screen. There’s also a 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster.

Mercedes engineers have attempted to ease high-tech confusion via the use of touchpads (there are four on the steering wheel alone, a touchpad for all controls below the infotainment system, another one for seat memory, heating and cooling and even a touchpad for the sunroof). Over my week of testing the C-300, touchpad control learning came rather quickly but still more fussy than individual than individual knob controls.  

It comes as no surprise that the inside of the C-Class design mimics the new S-Class and Mercedes all-new EQS electric vehicle sedan including the latest version of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system where everything is done by touch or voice control where the system comes awake by saying “Hey, Mercedes,” much in the way you would say “Hey Siri,” with an iPhone.

Mercedes has simplified the C-Class line-up with just two versions of the sedan, the C 300 driven here and the C 300 4Matic. Mercedes has already gone on record announcing an AMG C43 starting next year.

Power in our C 300 came via a new, 2.0-liter engine with an integrated mild hybrid system — the first time that technology Mercedes has paired a 48-volt integrated starter/generator with a 4-cylinder engine. The package punches out a nominal 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The mild hybrid powertrain is paired with a silky smooth 9-speed automatic.

In addition to better fuel economy with the hybrid system, it features a boost mode that kicks in an additional 20-hp for welcoming power during highway passing and when entering and getting up to speed on the interstate. Mercedes claims it can reach a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 130 mph.

The most surprising thing about the new C 300 is the way it drives. This is one of the most engaging to drive vehicles we have tested this year with a ride that’s satisfyingly firm yet not harsh with a solid feel and even the worst potholes and uneven pavement returns a solid feel with zero hint of shudder or vibration through the vehicle. This is a beautiful driving car that’s smooth, controlled and quiet in part thanks to the optional double-pane window glass. The optional BurmeisterÆ 3D sound system is concert hall quality.

As for safety, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C 300 boasts a large array of advanced driver assistance systems. That now includes Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist and Active Lane Change Assist. The new C-Class can maintain its speed, keep a safe distance from other cars, and hold and stay in its own lane on multi-lane roadways. The system stops just short of full-on hands-free driving. Still, it eases the strain on longer drive trips or when crawling along in heavy traffic.

But not all is perfect with the new C 300. While the steering was a decided strong point particularly in the “Dynamic” Sport mode setting, we found the brakes a bit odd and continually inconsistent. Braking too hard at times, other times a feel of a long brake pedal before engaging and a soft or mushy feel at times. There was also a noticeable “turbo lag” or a time lapse from the engine start/stop function when accelerating after a stop.

Further, while we found the seats comfortable with ample adjustments, the cabin itself is quite small and comfortable driving positions for especially taller drivers is difficult. Adjusting the seat for maximum legroom results in leaving the steering wheel too far from the driver even though there is power steering wheel adjustment. I was practically looking out the rear door window with the B pillar nearly blocking all my side visibility. And while the interior is physically larger than the old C-Class, leg and headroom for those in the back seat is small and smaller than a Mercedes CLA sedan.

Overall, the new C-Class is an attractive and capable sedan with remarkable driving dynamics and road handling. While sedans might not be in vogue given the popularity of utility vehicles, the C 300 is an excellent luxury sport sedan easily out shining competitors in its class.

Vital Stats
2022 Mercedes C300 Sedan

Base Price: $43,550
Price as Tested: $49,000
Engine/Transmission: 2.0-liter 255-horsepower turbocharged inline 4 cylinder with mild hybrid system
EPA Fuel Economy: 23/35/27 MPG – City/Highway/Combined
Seating: 5

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2022 Mercedes C-Class.

Where Built: Bremen, Germany

Competes With:
Acura TLX
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A4
BMW 3 Series/4 Series
Cadillac CT5
Genesis G70
Infiniti Q50
Lexus IS
Volvo S60

Luxurious interior
Excellent, sports sedan driving dynamics
Loaded with advanced technology and safety features

Odd brake feel
Quirky driver seat positioning
Annoying turbo lag

— Jim Prueter