There’s a hidden treasure in the automotive world right now. No, it’s not some tall-riding sport-ute or fancy pick-up. It’s not the latest high value offering from Kia or Hyundai. It’s a Mercedes.
The 2022 C 300 sedan to be precise. New pretty much from the ground up, with more space inside, more luxury, and some very clever hybrid technology. Oh, and it has a price tag that starts at a positively blue-light-special $44,600.
Sadly, its arrival in Mercedes showrooms didn’t have luxe-car lovers lining up with their noses pressed-up to the windows and checkbooks in hand.
Alas, this quite gorgeous, immensely appealing new C-Class landed in the U.S. a few months back with all the razzmatazz of a new addition to the breakfast cereal shelf at Publix.
Of course, there’s a reason. First and foremost is our growing love-affair with sport-utes. Mercedes’ best-selling model in the U.S. these days is the C-Class-based GLC compact SUV.
And it’s easy to understand why. The GLC sits you up high, has more flexibility and versatility with its tall roof and high-lifting tailgate, and it’s priced pretty much the same as the C-Class sedan. No contest then.
But for lovers of style, sophistication, and a little elegance, the C 300 four-door I’ve been driving has plenty of appeal. Plus, it’s sportier and way more fun to drive, and is a lot like a scaled-down version of Mercedes’ flagship S-Class sedan.
It’s also a hybrid. Well, at least a hybrid-lite. Its 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder comes with an integrated starter-generator mounted to the back of the engine coupled to a meaty, 48-volt battery pack. Mercedes calls it EQ Boost.
This clever little system can provide an additional 20 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque to the mix, delivering extra oomph in off-the-line acceleration and smoothing-out the automatic stop-start system.
Mercedes has been offering the EQ Boost set-up on its six-cylinder engines for a while, but this is the first time it’s been offered with four-cylinder models.
So now, when red light turns green, there’s immediate response and instant thrust. Click the stopwatch, and you’ll see 0-to-60mph sprinting in under six seconds. That’s quick, and the C feels quick all through the rev range.
Part of this instant-on responsiveness is also down to the Merc’s always-terrific 9-speed automatic, which shifts gears with the speed of flicking on a light switch. Nice, too, that there are paddles on the steering column in case you want to do D-I-Y shifting.
And this EQ Boost not only boosts performance. Its electric assistance gives 23mpg economy around town, 33mpg on the highway, and a combined 27mpg.
But for me, what really sets this new C 300 apart from, say the GLC SUV, is the way it handles itself. It feels like a four-door sports coupe, with its lovely, laser-precise, full-of-feel steering and planted feel.
Our $46,600 C 300 Pinnacle test car came with Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel drive for extra poise, balance, and traction. It adds around $2,000 to the sticker, but it’s worth every cent for the peace of mind it gives, especially when the weather turns yucky.
Inside, this new C has all the quality and class you expect of a Mercedes. There’s space for five, and no shortage of knee room in the back, or space for stuff in the trunk.
I’m a big fan of the new 12.3-inch digital instrument screen in front of the driver, and the “floating” 11.9-inch central touchscreen, both with crystal-clear graphics and intuitive functionality. Don’t want to touch anything? Just say “Hey Mercedes” and your wish is her command.
Less impressive was our tester’s somewhat bland, Silver Diamond Pattern trim on the dash and center console, and the “it’s-leather-but-looks-like-vinyl” upholstery. Any of the latest Genesis models looks way more luxurious inside.
But this latest C 300 is a true hidden gem, a reminder of how cool sedans have always been. And a reminder that they shouldn’t disappear off your shopping list just yet.