Second Place: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic

2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic
2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic
2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic. Click image to enlarge

The Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic entered this test as the value option. It arrived nearly $6,000 cheaper than the Audi A4 and more than $7,000 cheaper than the BMW 328i. This is an aggressive pricing strategy by Mercedes, but it also meant the C 300 was missing some features that the other two had. The C 300 had to make do with halogen lights (as opposed to HIDs), flat white paint, no satellite radio, a seven-speed automatic and no reverse parking sensors or camera.

Conversely, the Mercedes-Benz was the only vehicle to feature a V6 engine, a newly introduced detuned version of the 3.5L V6 from the C 350. It produces 248 hp, which puts it basically on par with the BMW, and ahead of the Audi’s claimed output. The V6 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission work well together and provide smooth, effortless propulsion down the road. The car really wafts on the highway yet handles surprisingly well thanks to the Sport package; it felt more planted than the 328i, but not up to the levels of the A4.

Thanks to the V6 engine, Mercedes-Benz’ start-stop function is far more transparent than that of the BMW and the C 300 does not get caught out on quick starts. The downside, as can be expected from a far larger engine, is poorer fuel efficiency. The BMW and Audi nearly tied each other in fuel consumption while the Mercedes was 11 percent more thirsty than its German counterparts.

2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic
2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic. Click image to enlarge

Although the Mercedes-Benz looks elegant on the outside, it is still missing some of the visual oomph the other two vehicles had, but again, it is a price to pay for being by far the cheapest vehicle in the test. If more style is what you are looking for, Mercedes-Benz will gladly sell you various option packages to dress up the C-Class.

So what kept the bargain C-Class out of first place? Well, besides lacking the driving dynamics of the A4, it was let down by its interior. Inside the C 300 features a mix of good and bad interior materials. Fit and finish was back of the pack, but still decent enough; this is a Mercedes-Benz after all. The front seats were not that comfortable and two out of three testers rated them lowest of the group.

The interior did have some upsides: the controls were found to be very easy to use and it had the most spacious rear seat for either two or three passengers. But, despite being a very pleasant car overall, the Mercedes-Benz C 300 just could not match the Audi’s blend of luxury, performance, and style, and managed to only succeed in being the runner-up. –MS

Pricing: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4Matic
Base price: $39,990
Options: $1,200 (Sport Package), $2,250 (Comand Navigation Package), $2,350 (Premium Package)
Freight & PDI: $1,895
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $47,785

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