Mercedes' C300 Sport grows up

The redesigned C-class offers car nuts some fresh twists on an old favorite.

By Alex Taylor III, FSB Contributor

(FSB Magazine) -- It's fair to describe Mike Lawless as a Mercedes-Benz fanatic. The 29-year-old bachelor, who runs a technology consulting business in New Jersey, has been a Mercedes customer almost his entire adult life. Three of his Benzes have been C-classes. Lawless says he finds the German engineering comforting. "You can feel the quality just by closing the door," he says. "It has a mix of luxury and performance."

He could have added "value." The C-class is the entry-level car for Mercedes in North America. It has been Mercedes' U.S. bestseller since 2001. Now the automaker has released its first thoroughly redesigned C-class in seven years.

Lawless in the new C300 Sport

Lawless had always thought that the boxy old C-class was a bit stodgy; the two new 2008 models are a vast improvement. The Luxury version has a traditional Mercedes ribbed grille with a standup hood ornament and wood trim in the interior. The racier Sport features a coupe-style grille with an integrated tristar emblem, a lowered sport suspension, dual exhausts, and lower body work.

"I really liked the look," said Lawless of the C300 Sport that a Mercedes engineer brought him for a test drive. Lawless, who races cars on weekends, spent four hours navigating it over hilly, winding roads. He found the steering responsive and praised the suspension's stability and the steady weight transfer during tight maneuvers.

I liked the C300 Sport too. Compared with other cars in its class (the BMW 3-series and the Lexus IS-300, notably), it feels grownup. Its base price is competitive at $31,300. With a panorama sunroof, seven-speed automatic transmission, and 18-inch wheels, our car cost $41,825. Next time, though, I'd prefer to try the C350 Luxury; its 268 horses get to 60 mph a full second faster than the C300 Sport. Lawless is holding out for the AMG version, known as the C63 and coming out next spring. Its V-8 puts out 457 hp, catapulting it to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. "I'm a car nut," he says, "I can't wait."

Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport quick facts:

$31,300 (base price)

0--60: 7.1 seconds

18 mpg city

25 mpg highway  Top of page

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