- Comprehensive selection of petrol and diesel models
- Hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions also available
- All offer enough performance for most drivers
Making up the C-Class’s engine range is a selection of petrol and diesel motors, while hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions were also available pre-facelift. It’s expected these will rejoin the range at a later date.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class diesel engines
There are two diesel options – a C 200 d and a C 220 d – the latter of which is also available with 4Matic all-wheel drive. In standard guise, the C-Class is rear-wheel drive.
The C 200 d uses a 1.6-litre turbodiesel motor producing 160hp and 360Nm of torque, and will complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.5 seconds. This version is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, missing out on the nine-speed automatic available across the rest of the range.
If you want more power (and the option of 4Matic all-wheel drive), the 2.0-litre C 220 d offers 194hp and 400Nm of torque, making it a much more flexible option for many drivers. It’s capable of running from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds, both with or without 4Matic.
The nine-speed automatic transmission – badged 9G-Tronic Plus – is a smooth gearbox that shifts through the ratios impressively. It’s also responsive when you put your foot down and demand an extra turn of pace from the engine, for example when overtaking on the motorway.
The 4Matic version of this offers drivers an extra degree of security in slippery conditions with added traction, but it’ll take a lot of effort to get a C-Class diesel to get out of shape. Its benefits will come in the winter months more than anything.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class petrol engines
The entry-level petrol C-Class C 200 uses a 1.5-litre turbocharged unit producing a total output of 184hp. It also makes use of a 48-volt mild hybrid system, which Mercedes calls EQ Boost. In short, it provides an extra boost for acceleration, as well as energy recuperation for the battery and a coasting function, too.
This engine comes with the nine-speed auto gearbox as standard, and also comes with the option of 4Matic all-wheel drive. In rear-wheel drive form, the C 200 will go from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, while the 4Matic-equipped car takes a little longer at 8.1 seconds.
Next is the C 300, a 2.0-litre turbo petrol producing 258hp and 370Nm of torque, channelling power to the rear wheels only. This version will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds.
Driven: Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Saloon
Sitting above the C 300 is the Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic, powered by a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol capable of propelling the C-Class from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds thanks to 390hp and a hefty 520Nm of torque.
It’s not a full-fat AMG, just looking like a regular AMG Line but with stealthy performance and an engaging engine and exhaust note that isn’t too boisterous (if you’re not in Sport+ mode), so it’s the kind of performance saloon you can enjoy and make use of every day.
Driven: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Saloon
The C 63 represents the best a C-Class can be. It's powered by a 4.0-litre V8 with huge performance, offered in two levels: the more popular entry-level C 63 gets 476hp and 650Nm of torque, while the hardcore S gets 510hp and 700Nm.
At launch it used a seven-speed automatic gearbox but this was swapped during the 2018 facelift for a nine-speed twin-clutch auto, and both versions are controlled via paddleshifters behind the steering wheel.There was no change to power or torque figures during the update.
The 2018 C 63 will cover 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, while the S will do it in 4.0sec flat, all the while making a noise like thunder in typical AMG fashion.
Engines no longer available
Before the car’s facelift in 2018, there was also a more powerful C 250 d using an older 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine producing 205hp and 500Nm of torque, capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds. This was available with rear- and all-wheel drive.
To keep things confusing, the C 220 d used to be powered by the same 2.1-litre diesel (as opposed to the new 2.0-litre), producing 170hp and 400Nm of torque. The 0-62mph time was 7.5 seconds.
The C 200 d was previously a 1.6-litre diesel producing 136hp and 320Nm of torque, capable of running from 0-62mph in 10.2 seconds.
For the petrols, the C 200 used to be a 2.0-litre turbo unit with 184hp and 300Nm of torque, with a 7.5-second 0-62mph time.
Mercedes-Benz C-Class hybrid and plug-in hybrid
Two eco versions of the C-Class were available before it was facelifted – the C 300 h hybrid and the C 350 e plug-in hybrid, both of which are of particular appeal to company car drivers.
The C 300 h is a diesel-electric hybrid using the 2.1-litre diesel found in other C-Class diesel models in combination with an electric motor. It produces a combined output of 231hp and 500Nm of torque, switching between hybrid driving modes on its own.
The plug-in C 350 e is a petrol-electric motor with a 2.0-litre petrol and battery pack, producing a total of 293hp and 350Nm of torque, but with tax-pleasingly low CO2 emissions of just 48g/km.
- C-Class feels agile, but not like a 3 Series
- Steering isn’t especially communicative
- Safe and stable, but not as rounded as an A4
Where the adaptive air suspension is installed, selecting Sport or Sport+ in the drive mode selection will alter the car’s handling characteristics for optimum performance driving. We’d choose the air suspension if it was our car – it works serious magic on the C-Class when it comes to comfort.
Unfortunately, most UK buyers won’t tick that box, but that does mean they’re left with the excellent standard steel suspension.
In its most comfortable configuration, it’s great for everyday motoring. There’s a fair bit more bodyroll evident but the pay-off is a ride that’s as comfortable as any car in this class, although models with larger alloy wheels can thump into bigger bumps in the road.
The steering system we tested wasn’t without fault either. While it’s fairly nicely balanced in terms of weighting, and it’s very light at low speeds, there’s a disappointing lack of feedback.
Ultimately, it means you don’t have the confidence to drive this car as fast as you might otherwise. Mercedes does deserve credit for judging the weighting through faster corners very well indeed, though, and the car always feels balanced, if not particularly engaging.
The Dynamic Select system (drive mode selection) can be used to vary the handling of the car if adaptive suspension is fitted. You can flick between five settings. The system adds weight to the steering in Sport, and makes the throttle response sharper too, while other modes are either more comfortable and relaxing or more focused and sporty.
An Individual mode can be selected and configured to tweak particular aspects of the car’s driving characteristics, but most drivers will leave the car in the standard Comfort mode for the best all-round balance.
The C 200 and C 300 petrols both have tidy handling, with no real vices on the road. The steering is a little aloof, so you never particularly feel on top of it, and it’s never particularly inspiring to drive on a twisting road. But high-speed stability and motorway cruising and excellent.
Handling: Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic
The C 43 is an altogether more interesting car for keen drivers. Its steering is still as inert as the standard C-Class, but it’s sharper and is perfectly-weighted for whichever driving mode you have it in.
The best handling compromise comes in Sport mode, as it allows the driver to enjoy the sharper steering and firmed-up damping without the excessively lairy exhaust note Sport+ delivers.
Handling: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Saloon
The C 63 Saloon's handling has always been impressive, though slightly less capable on the circuit than the BMW M3 - but with better road manners as a result. The front engine, rear-wheel drive layout helps keep things balanced, while a suite of electrical systems allow it to switch character at the touch of the drive mode switch.
A facelift in 2018 ushered in a number of new systems that affect the handling quite considerably. The first is a torque-vectoring feature called AMG Dynamics that can tighten your line into a corner depending on the mode you've set it to: Basic, Advanced, Pro and Master. These adjust the drive between a setup for slippery surfaces to a hardcore, track-only setting suitable only for race tracks (and only available on S models with Race mode).
Another neat introduction on S models is the nine-step adjustable traction control, which allows the driver to pre-select the amount they're happy the tail can slide. Left to its own devices with everything off, the C 63 is an absolute animal, so we can see why this was installed to help out.
All of this new tech can be controlled via the (somewhat cluttered) new steering wheel that has been designed for the purpose.
- Interior design looks attractive
- Build quality not quite as good as an A4’s
- Lots of kit and upmarket feel overall, though
Inside, the C-Class looks great, with an upmarket dashboard with plenty of appealing materials and neat design details.
The quality on the whole is very good, but once you start poking some parts of the cabin, some plastics can creak – an Audi A4 feels much more solid and plush compared with the Merc. Although the Benz is by no means cheap feeling.
The infotainment screen is clear and well placed on the dashboard, with a choice of screen sizes dependent on the infotainment system you opt for. It’s controlled via a rotary controller and touchpad sitting above it which, while intuitive enough, it isn’t quite as easy to use as Audi’s MMI or BMW’s iDrive systems on first encounter.
You sit nice and low in the C-Class, and the way the dashboard and centre console surround the driver make for a pleasant interior.
Behind the wheel: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Saloon
The C 63 is a far sportier proposition than the rest of the line-up, with performance front seats and steering wheel an immediate reminder that you've driving something quicker and more expensive than your regular C.
That steering wheel was swapped for a new design in 2018, which featured controls for the new torque-vectoring and traction control systems.
- Impressive ride comfort on most models
- Air suspension really improves things
- Refined and quiet drive, engine note disappointing
Mercedes-Benz is known for building exceptionally comfortable cars, and the C-Class delivered as it’s one of the most comfortable compact executive cars in the class, as long as you spec the car in a particular way.
Even in standard set-up with steel spring suspension, it deals with bumps in the road well, although versions fitted with larger alloy wheels can become upset over the worst imperfections on the road. It’s never too jarring or uncomfortable, though.
If you want the option of tweaking the comfort, adaptive suspension can be specified from the options list, and is an effective way of boosting the overall refinement of the car.
Air suspension is a worthwhile option
Similarly, air suspension – badged Airmatic – can be added at extra cost, which turns the C-Class into the supplest of executive saloons. Compounding this comfort are very suportive seats all-round with plenty of adjustment, meaning long-distance comfort is very good indeed.
It doesn’t have it all sewn up, though, as the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are equally as impressive while being a little sharper to drive. Some diesel engines can be a little clattery, though, while there’s a little wind noise around the door mirrors.
The new EQ-boost engine in the C 200 is certainly capable of delivering performance and impressive economy for gentle drivers. But it’s lacking in refinement, both in terms of levels of noise and the quality of the engine note.
The same can also be said for the big four-cylinder petrol engine in the C 300. It’s a comfortable car all told and the engine noise levels are low, but it also lacks refinement, and compared with its rivals, sounds very disappointing.
Comfort: Mercedes-AMG C 63 Saloon
While admittedly a car that's capable of supercar performance, the C 63 isn't too uncomfortable either. It uses a steel adaptive suspension setup and as such isn't anywhere near as wallowy as the E 63 - which uses air springs - can feel.
The drive modes help here, because you can soften the engine ferocity, exhaust volume, gear change speed, steering weight and suspension damping separately or at the same time using the Comfort drive mode.