There are a number of excellent choices if you’re in the market for a small luxury car, but the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is one of the most polished entries in the segment. Three body styles and a variety of powertrains help the C-Class appeal to a wide audience, and composed driving dynamics and an opulent interior reinforce its standing as a full-fledged luxury car.
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a compact luxury car that’s available in sedan, coupe and convertible (Cabriolet) body styles. All versions are available in C 300, AMG C 43, AMG C 63 and AMG C 63 S trims. The C-Class sedan also is offered in as a plug-in hybrid C 350e model.
The base C 300 sedan seats five and comes with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional. AMG C 43 models come with a twin-turbo V6, while the AMG C 63 and AMG C 63 S both come with a twin-turbo V8 engine.
The C-Class sees minor changes for 2018, including the addition of a new nine-speed transmission on the C 300.
The 2018 C-Class impresses with styling that is at once muscular and elegant. Mercedes’ large, three-pointed star dominates the front fascia, where sweptback headlights and large lower air intakes contribute to an athletic persona. A long hood and short rear deck give the C-Class sedan’s profile a sporty look, which is complemented by standard 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. A sunroof, rain-sensing windshield wipers and LED daytime running lights also are among the base C300 sedan’s standard exterior features.
Available options include a rear spoiler, a panoramic roof, adaptive headlights, automatic high beams, LED headlights, LED taillights and 18- and 19-inch wheel options.
The C-Class Coupe and Cabriolet bring in many of these features as standard equipment, including larger wheels, a panoramic roof (C300 Coupe) and LED headlights and taillights.
Interior design is a highlight for the 2018 C-Class, where modern and attractive styling creates more visual interest than you’ll find with key competitors such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. A prominent center stack serves as the focal point of the cabin, and the materials used throughout are beyond reproach. Our test C 350e came with an optional Designo package that brought in soft Nappa leather and elegant diamond stitching on the door panels and seats. Standard wood trim contributes to the C-Class sedan’s premium surroundings, while additional wood and aluminum trim options allow further customization.
Dual-zone automatic climate control and power-adjustable front seats with driver memory settings are standard. Ambient lighting, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, rear side-window sunshades and a power rear sunshade are among the C-Class’ available interior features.
The C-Class sedan has 12.6 cubic feet of cargo space and comes with a standard 40/20/40-split folding rear seat. Coupe and convertible models offer 10.5 and 8.8 cubic feet of trunk space, respectively.
While competitors such as the BMW 3 Series may offer a slightly more rewarding driving experience, the 2018 C-Class still offers pleasing on-road performance. Its controlled handling ensures enjoyable driving dynamics on a winding road, and the C-Class sedan offers the comfortable ride quality that you’d expect in the luxury segment.
The base C 300 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard, and Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available. The base model’s fuel economy is competitive for the class, at an EPA-estimated 24/33 mpg city/highway.
The plug-in hybrid C 350e adds an electric motor to the standard turbo-four, and the combination delivers a total of 275 horsepower and an impressive 443 pound-feet of torque. That powertrain is mated with a seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive.
All AMG C 43 models come standard with all-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission. A twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 is used here, delivering 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque.
Finally, the high-performance AMG C 63 and AMG C 63 S both feature a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. A twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 is used in both applications, delivering 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque in AMG C 63 models. Opt for the top AMG C 63 S and output increases to 503 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque.
A standard 7-inch display and a console-mounted control knob provide access to most of the C-Class’ infotainment settings, though redundant buttons for some primary functions also are present on the center stack. There was a bit of a learning curve to effectively navigate through our test C 350e’s on-screen menus. The system became intuitive after a few days, but we found the technology in cars such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series a little bit easier to use.
The C-Class sedan comes standard with two USB ports, Bluetooth, HD Radio and keyless entry/ignition. The options list includes features such as a head-up display, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration, a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, an in-car Wi-Fi hot spot and navigation system with a larger 8.4-inch screen.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class earned a top five-star rating for its overall performance in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Standard equipment includes a rearview camera and Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist Plus system, which warns the driver if it detects a crash risk. A surround-view camera system, parallel park assist, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are available.
The 2018 Mercedes C 300 sedan starts at $40,250, plus a $995 destination charge, with all-wheel drive available as a $2,000 option. The C 350e is priced from $47,900, and pricing for the Mercedes-AMG C 43 begins at $53,400. High-performance C 63 and C 63 S models start at $66,100 and $73,700, respectively. Prices for Coupe and Cabriolet models are slightly higher, with the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Cabriolet carrying the highest starting price in the lineup at $81,500.
We believe that the C 300 sedan represents the best value for most buyers. We would add to the list of standard equipment with features such as heated front seats ($580), a heated steering wheel ($250), Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration ($350) and a Premium package that brings in blind-spot monitoring and satellite radio ($1,250). Select those options, and you can expect the C300 sedan to carry a suggested price of $43,675, including destination.
The compact luxury segment is full of worthy competitors, including the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS. Some of these cars may offer better performance, but the 2018 C-Class arguably is the most polished choice within the class. We’d like to see a slightly longer list of standard features, but the C-Class sets itself apart with a striking exterior, balanced performance and an interior fit and finish that none of its competitors can match.