2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Driving Impressions

Our four-S code applies to most Mercedes-Benz models in the luxury category: safe, stable, sexy sheet metal. The 2015 C-Class sedans tick all those boxes.

A fifth S, for speed, enters the equation in the V6-powered C400 4MATIC model. The bump in power and torque over the base C300 arrives as soon as you step on the throttle. Lagless and boisterous, the boost comes on strong in the C400. On a straight section of two-lane blacktop with no oncoming traffic, and stuck behind four Sunday drivers, we goosed the motor and overtook the quartet without any drama.

Both the C300 and C400 showed admirable dexterity on gentle curves and great passing power. Tighter curves and bends were more of a challenge, as the C-Class models have a propensity to lean. Lack of steering feel, something of a Mercedes-Benz trademark, is a gremlin here as well. It's not that the C-Class steering is numb, but it's not particularly talkative to the driver.

The Airmatic air suspension, standard fit on the C400, keeps the car planted at speed but unnerves it in more demanding corners. Both cars, we found, have a slight tendency to dive on takeoff, surprising in view of all the work put into the suspension's geometry and technology. On a rough stretch on I-90 pavement, there was noticeable jiggle up front.

Under ideal conditions (in the dry weather we had) , the C tracked like a locomotive. Wind and tire noise were sufficiently calmed as well by the Benzes' aerodynamics.

Our C400 had paddle shifters, but the action of the 7-speed is responsive enough so that manual shifting is fun at first, but the novelty wears off. Manual transmissions have been exiled by Mercedes in all but one of their cars for 2015 (the SLK 250 roadster), and their customers don't seem to mind.

The brakes in the C300 were comfortably assured under dry conditions; the C400's grippers use four-piston fixed calipers rather than the single-piston on the lesser model, and brought the speeds down without any kvetching. The C300 is fitted with 17-inch all-season tires, the C400 has 18-inch wheels.

The suspension geometry was a huge part of the car's development. For those of you enamored with initials, Mercedes has its own code: MRA. It stands for Modular Rear-Drive Architecture, makes extensive use of aluminum in the underbody, and allows for a weight savings of about 200 pounds compared to the previous C, the company says. In the front, a four-link setup decouples the suspension from the spring strut, resulting in more comfort for passengers,, improved ride tuning and slightly more agility for the driver. We found some glitches with the ride, as noted above. The C-Class is not a sports car, even though it may look like one.

Fuel efficiency for the all-wheel-drive C400 4MATIC is an EPA-estimated 22/29/24 mpg City/Highway/Combined. The 2015 C300 4MATIC is EPA-rated at 24/31/27 mpg. All C-Class models require Premium gasoline.

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