NEW FOR 2008:

– Completely redesigned model

For 2008, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is completely redesigned and is an all-new model.

The C-Class is available in seven models: as the C230, the C230 4MATIC, the C300, the C300 4MATIC, the C350 and C350 4MATIC, and the C63 AMG. All are four-door sedans. Regular-model engines are carried over from 2007: the C230 uses a 2.5-litre V6, the C300 uses a 3.0-litre V6, and the C350 a 3.5-litre V6. The C230 and C300 models base with a six-speed manual that can be optioned to the seven-speed automatic that’s standard equipment on the other three models. The C63 AMG uses a 6.2-litre V8 with AMG-specific seven-speed automatic transmission.

The new model’s most noticeable feature is its face: the Sport Package includes an AMG-inspired wide grille with large, integrated three-point star, along with sport suspension, body kit, sport steering wheel and 17-inch sport-style wheels. The Sport Package is an integral part of the C350 models; in an unusual move, Mercedes offers the C300 with a traditional grille and upright hood ornament, but the Sport Package is a no-charge option. The C230 is similar, but adding the Sport Package costs an extra $800.

The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system is also completely new, and features a 45/55 torque split; it’s 30 kg lighter than the 2007 system, and offers better fuel mileage.

The C230 models are unique to Canada; their features include 16-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack, Bluetooth hands-free telephone system, fog lamps, heated washers, two-stage rain-sensing wipers, eight-way power seats with Artico man-made leather upholstery, Calyptus wood trim, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, power windows with one-touch express up and down, floor mats, automatic headlamps, cruise control, first-aid kit and tire pressure loss warning system.

The C300 models add 17-inch alloy wheels, bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering lights and washers, power-folding mirrors, heated seats, split-folding rear seats, Burl Walnut wood trim, power sunroof, and auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirror.

The C350 models add three-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, ten-way power seats with memory, Harman/Kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, black bird’s-eye maple trim, garage door opener, power tilt and telescopic wheel and upgraded brake calipers.

The C63 AMG adds 18-inch alloy wheels, AMG-inscribed floor mats, and AMG sport suspension.

Optional features, depending on the model, include a hard-drive-based stereo system that will play videos on the front screen when the vehicle is in Park, a navigation system, an emergency calling system, and keyless start.

The C-Class’ makeover is an exceptional one: the new model offers a stiffer chassis with wider track for improved stability, a more direct steering ratio, more passenger and trunk space, and the cream-smooth seven-speed automatic, which shifts almost imperceptibly. Enthusiasts will probably want the manual, but test-drive it first: the car is designed for an automatic, and some drivers may find the tall console gets in the way when shifting.

The interior redesign is handsome and high quality, save for some thin plastics, especially on the shifter knob. The seats are comfortable and rear-seat passengers enjoy good legroom. The company has retained the traditional front-end look on one model for those who like their cars to look old-school Mercedes, but expect most buyers to opt for the no-charge Sport package, which really updates this model and adds considerably to its appeal. The C230, a late addition, allows buyers to get into the model at a relatively low starting price, and the 4MATIC option is an unexpected bonus on an entry-level machine.

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