The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is an appealing entry-level luxury compact sedan on multiple levels, including its smooth drive, refined cabin, solid construction quality, premium feature availability, impressive high-performance C63 AMG variant and top-of-the-line brand recognition. In fact, the C-Class offers much of the same luxury and performance as its pricier siblings, but in a smaller and more affordable package.
And Mercedes also offers buyers a choice of three quite different versions, depending on their own needs and wishes ... from luxury to sports sedan. As the name implies, the C300 Luxury is more purely luxury-oriented featuring a smooth, plush and quiet ride plus an array of traditional Mercedes design elements. Both the C300 Sport and C350 Sport models, with their firmer suspension, sportier grill (from the Mercedes SL) and LED running lights, is aimed more at driving enthusiasts. And the C63 AMG, with its massive 451-horsepower V8 engine, super sport-tuned suspension and heavily bolstered sport seats is truly a sports car with four doors.
Still, it's always a good idea to check out worthy rivals before making a final buying decision. The turbocharged four-cylinder Audi A4 is impressive, as is the similarly equipped but less expensive Infiniti G37. And the BMW 3 Series perhaps offers a more engaging drive overall.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is available in four trims: C300 Luxury, C300 Sport, C350 Sport and C63 AMG.
The C300 models are equipped with the same engine and are also available with all-wheel drive (4Matic), but have different suspension tunings, standard transmissions, exterior styling cues, cabin trim accents and front seat design.
Standard features on both C300 models include a sunroof, 8-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch wheels (but with different designs), full power accessories, vinyl upholstery, cruise control, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an 8-speaker audio system with a CD player, a pop-up 5-inch display screen and an auxiliary audio jack.
The optional Premium I package for the C300 adds heated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, satellite radio, a 10-way power driver seat with power lumbar support, driver memory settings, a power rear sunshade, automatic wipers and a split-folding rear seat. Also available is a lighting package that adds LED running lights (standard for Sport versions), LED taillights and active xenon headlights with washers.
The C350 Sport is equipped similarly to the C300 Sport, but adds a larger V6 engine, the Premium I package and maple wood trim. And the C63 AMG is outfitted like the C350 Sport, but adds a powerful V8 engine, a firmer suspension, larger brakes, 18-inch wheels, aluminum paddle shifters, leather AMG sport seats and unique exterior and interior styling cues.
The available Multimedia package includes the COMAND electronics interface, a navigation system, a 6-disc CD changer, 6GB of digital music storage, a larger pop-up display and an iPod interface. Also available for the C63 is the AMG Seating package which includes upgraded leather upholstery, front memory seats and a power-adjustable steering wheel, while the AMG Development package includes a track-calibrated suspension, 30 more horsepower, a higher top speed, a limited-slip differential, upgraded brakes and a leather/faux suede steering wheel.
Available stand-alone optional features include leather upholstery, satellite radio, heated front seats, a panorama sunroof (not available on the C63), the iPod interface, keyless entry/ignition, a rearview camera (requires the Multimedia package), 18-inch wheels and a Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo system.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
Powering the 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 is a 3.0-liter V6 engine that generates 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission on the C300 Luxury and either a standard 6-speed manual or the optional 7-speed automatic on the C300 Sport. Rear-wheel drive is standard and 4Matic all-wheel drive is optional.
In performance tests, an automatic C300 Sport was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a quick 7.3 seconds. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for the C300 is 18 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway with rear-wheel drive, and 18 and 25, respectively, with all-wheel drive.
Under the hood of the C350 Sport is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The only drivetrain offered is the 7-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive. The C350 does the 0 - 60 mph dash in just 6.3 seconds and has an EPA-estimated gas mileage of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Powering the C63 AMG is a robust 6.2-liter V8 that's good for 451 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. It's mated with a 7-speed automatic transmission with three different shift modes and rear-wheel drive. The C63 blazes to 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. Although it's likely not much a concern for those interested in the C63, its gas mileage rating comes in at 12 city and 19 highway.
Standard safety features on all 2011 Mercedes C-Class models include traction and stability control, adaptive antilock brakes with brake assist, brake drying and hill-start assist, front side airbags, front-seat-mounted pelvic airbags, active front head restraints, a driver knee airbag and side curtain airbags. In addition, rear side airbags are an available option.
In government crash tests, the C-Class earned five out of five stars for side-impact occupant protection and four stars for frontal-impact protection.
The C-Class's cabin is attractive, refined and excellently crafted ... even moreso for those opting for the wood trim or two-tone color scheme. The instruments and controls are easy to see and fairly user-friendly, including the optional COMAND electronics interface.
Seating is comfortable and supportive both front and rear. But as a compact sedan, space is on the tight side for a growing family. The trunk's cargo capacity is a useful, but on the small side at 12.4 cubic feet. The overall interior experience, however, is pampering, quiet and smooth.
While the 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300 and C350 aren't out to set any straight-line speed records, they can hold their own and match up well with segment competitors. The steering is precise and responsive, while its overall handling dynamics are quite confident and capable ... certainly measuring up to this class's standards.
And even though the Sport models possess additional athleticism, they still easily absorb road imperfections around town and are just fine on long trips. But those seeking the softest and quietest ride would be best served by the C300 Luxury.
The C63 AMG is in a totally different class, however. With its massively powerful engine, ultra-tuned sport suspension and high level of communication and responsiveness, it is unlikely to disappoint true driving enthusiasts and may very well be the best in terms of performance that Mercedes has ever offered to the public.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.
Those of you in the market for a used car may want to check out this article about how to buy a used car at the lowest price. It details a super effective buying method, one that often beats down prices to wholesale levels.
And somewhat related to this, here's another excellent method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.
In addition, you can also try a Wholesale Auto Auction in your own geographic area. While there can be a lot of junk vehicles at these auctions, there are often absolute gems sprinkled in as well. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them at no cost in your own area.
2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class:
C300 Luxury: list price: $33,990, invoice price: $31,611
C300 Sport: list price: $33,990, invoice price: $31,611
C300 Luxury 4MATIC: list price: $37,490, invoice price: $34,866
C300 Sport 4MATIC: list price: $37,490, invoice price: $34,866
C350 Sport: list price: $39,990, invoice price: $37,191
C63 AMG: list price: $58,200, invoice price: $54,126