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Typically, the second largest purchase within a household is an automobile.

The first? A home. Because of this, vehicles have always remained a status symbol whether you live in the city or the suburbs. Let's face it, this is what has become the go-to method to determine an individual's fiscal well being: what do they drive?

If you've been doing your best to keep up with the Joneses in the auto department, you may have noticed something interesting in the past several years. Luxury automakers are starting to comfortably dip their toes into entry-level-priced waters, and non-luxury marques have started to offer standard equipment and options not previously seen in vehicles of their respective caliber.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

We're living in complex times.

These days it's not completely uncommon to see a newly minted college undergraduate starting their career with an equally new Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class. Hey, sometimes you have to reward yourself. But if you find that a bit too plebeian for you, there's good news. The three-pointed star is still building an entire product portfolio of options for you.

In a busy year of all-new product introductions, one of the latest offerings from Benz is the all-new C-Class. Although it was formerly an entry point for many Mercedes buyers, with the all-new CLA the C has been given the chance to move up market. In other words, it's a much nicer product but it will cost you a few more greenbacks.

My specific tester was a C400 4MATIC that featured aggressive, AMG style treatments and a host of other goodies — more on that later. Let's take it from the top.


2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class










The 400 is equipped with an 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine good for 329 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. torque. To say it is quick would sell its capabilities short. The pick up is downright sporty in this model even when you're driving it in its standard Comfort setting. Zero to 60 happens in 5.2 seconds — I think that proves my point quite well. And while the mill is masterful in its own respect, the transmission also deserves a nod of approval. Some autos with seven speeds swap gears too frequently and it gets old real quick if it's not especially smooth. In the Benz though it is remarkably on point with shifts — they happen when you'd want them to — and they're not jarring, not even remotely.

While these are two very critical points for any luxury car, there is just one thing that separates this car from all the others. That would be its ride quality. The tester sent my way was equipped with the AIRMATIC Package, which arms the C with an air suspension. For years automakers have been building vehicles with this technology; however, it wasn't necessarily done right and it was never offered in a vehicle at this price point. This is a BIG first for the luxury space as the C is ushering in change. To say this car rides great on an air suspension is, well, an understatement. It's perfect.

If you leave the driving settings in Comfort, you have an auto that rides nearly as well as the S-Class flagship. It eliminates most of the harshness you encounter with one of the New York Tri-State region's famous craters, and it makes the vehicle feel as though you're gliding along the tarmac. If you'd like the ride to be a bit more stiff at speed then feel free to tap the rocker switch to dial in the sportier settings. The critical differentiator is, unlike other poorly tuned air suspensions I've experienced in much more expensive products, "float" is completely in check. This is a good thing because there's nothing worse than feeling like you're in a 1970s Cadillac that floats, dips and dives in all the wrong ways — it can be nauseating and there's zero hyperbole when I write that. 

One of the things about the C, over the years, is that it's always tried to mimic the big daddy S-Class. The exterior sported similar design cues but it was on the inside that it was clear this was the company's starting point. To be straightforward, the past C-Class interiors weren't particularly nice. In some cases they were downright ungainly and cheap. In the last-gen C, pre refresh, I remember thinking "how Chrysler!"

This can't be further from the truth in the all-new C though. This thing is staggeringly good. In fact, it is undoubtedly the best interior money can buy in this class right now.


2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class










There's a multitude of reasons for this but the two biggies are the selection of materials and its touch points. The smell of the leather seats and the well-trimmed door panels are super high quality — they makes you feel as though this is a much more expensive vehicle. In addition, the center stack's buttons all feel nice to click. This isn't a C-Class that boasts parts that feel as though they were sourced from the Chrysler bin when the two auto manufacturing giants were one, years ago.  It's a proper Mercedes that, in my opinion, eclipses the current E-Class' interior.

Being that it is a C though there is one qualm. Rear seat space can be rather tight if you're traveling with a pack of adults. If you'll be chauffeuring clients or entertaining friends you better make sure to spend time in the back before making a purchase decision. Of course this assumes you like your clients and friends, and want to ensure they have a nice ride too.

Elsewhere inside, the C400 is a technological tour de force. Over the years I've been an advocate of Mercedes-Benz's proprietary infotainment system, COMAND. While some say it is hard to navigate, I don't think they've spent enough time using BMW's iDrive system that relies on a lot of iconography and sub menus. And then there's Audi's MMI unit that has become so annoying with its "four corners" menu set up that I think my blood pressure actually rises when I have to use it. To me, COMAND is the most intuitive and has the smallest learning curve. A new addition to Mercedes' system is the touch-sensitive pad that hovers above the rotating clickwheel. I found it to be a nice complement but, ultimately, unnecessary. Thankfully, when I did use the pad, lag was non existent and it wasn't sloppy as I found in the latest Lexus products that use a touchpad.

The real magic happens though if you option the C with available safety and driver assistance technologies. Called Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive, this technology suite takes yet another page from the S-Class' book. Essentially, the C can be optioned to be as close as possible to autonomous driving in a production vehicle thanks to five systems that use a variety of cameras and radar to ensure your safety at all times. I'd need another 1,000 words to explain it all, but I will confirm it all works completely fine and I was not hesitant about using the systems one bit; however, I turned them off because I actually enjoy driving.

So, what does this all mean at the end of the day? Simply put, the C-Class is the all-new benchmark in its class. I think this is the car to have. Skip the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti Q50, Lexus ES/IS and anything else you may consider. It's not even close, the C400 is that far ahead of the others. As I write this, I am struggling to find negative things to point out. That's how much I liked the all-new C.

Every time I stepped in and out of the C400 I was staggered by the "mix." It was super luxurious when I wanted to waft along, a sports car when I felt like having a laugh and its interior is simply fantastic.

There's one minor problem though. At the time you'll be reading this the C400 will be out of production and you will not be able to order one straight from the factory. What's left in dealer inventories will have to suit. If you're not acting on impulse or completely impatient though, the good news is that an all-new C variant is on the way. Dubbed the C450, it will boast more power and is due to arrive stateside, give or take, in September. Don't make a mistake: wait and order it.


The Good:

- Unquestionably, the all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class has the best-in-class interior
- When equipped with the AIRMATIC air suspension, it rides nearly as good as an S-Class
- Fantastic "mix" of performance, refinement and comfort


The Bad:

- It's still a C-Class, which means the back seat is tight
- If you're looking for a good deal, you will most likely only find cars equipped with MB-Tex WITHOUT the critical AIRMATIC package — this is what makes the car actually worth it
- The C400 is no longer in production, you will have to deal with what's sitting on dealer lots for now — the C450 is expect to launch in September, give or take


The Lowdown:

If it were my money, there's absolutely no question or hesitation that I would want the C400 in my driveway. Forget Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus and anyone else you can think of. To me this fight isn't even close. It's a landslide for the C-Class. In fact, I think that all of the automakers are now BEHIND a generation when it comes to competing with the all-new C. That means the only manufacturer bringing something to market that even has a shot at playing will be the all-new, upcoming A4 that still won't be here for what I am guessing is an estimated 12 months. That said, due to Mercedes ending production of the C400, if you want the peppier C you've only got two options: 1) Take whatever you find on a dealer lot now, which means you'll have to settle for MB-Tex — ugh — OR 2) Order a C450 and get it how you want in September.

If this wasn't an issue a family member of mine would be driving a C400 right now over their recently acquired, all-new BMW 535i xDrive. Frankly, none of us are enthused by the BMW.


2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class















































































































REVIEW: Has The All-New Benchmark Arrived? The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Makes Its Presence KNOWN

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