What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the world’s simplest comparison test review. Given how busy everyone is, and the average attention span lasting about as long as a sneeze, we’re just going to cut to the chase here:
Both of these cars are magnificent. They’re each decadently finished inside and out, and they are capable of creating ear-to-ear grins on the faces of enthusiastic drivers, just as much as they can coddle passengers for long highway cruises.
Which car is better? Whichever one appeals to your fashion sense more. Never have we encountered two so closely matched – and over-achieving – machines as these two. They both win.
Unfortunately, that answer is unlikely to suffice for those of you looking for the nitty-gritties on these two cars, so let’s get out the dissection tools and a microscope and see if we can eke out a winner by some sliver of margin.
The biggest news for each of these cars is that they have new model number badges on their trunk lids. This means the poor saps that bought BMW 335is or Mercedes-Benz C400s this past year are now horribly out of fashion. As we all know, the larger the number, the bigger the bragging rights when it comes to German sedans.
The respective manufacturers figured these 2016 models deserved bigger digits because their cars’ engines are now better and more powerful than before. BMW’s delightful N55-series 3.0L inline six-cylinder engine with twin-scroll turbo has been retired. Instead, this new engine, dubbed B58, ups the power from last year’s 300, to 320 horsies. And for fans of the N55 (or earlier N54, twin-turbo) thanks to their remarkable smoothness and effortless torque, fear not, this new engine is every bit as buttery smooth as before, along with being more powerful
(torque is now rated at 330 lb-ft from only 1,380 rpms)
The ZF eight-speed automatic (a manual is miraculously still available) continues to be a sensational gearbox for this car with blazingly-quick gear changes when in its sportiest setting, or imperceptibly smooth ones when in Comfort mode. It’s a winning combination that reminds drivers that BMW does still place a lot of importance on making fun-to-drive sporty cars.
Getting a little long-in-the-tooth after one whole model year on the market, the C400 is no more, thanks largely to Mercedes having pumped up the 3.0L twin-turbo V6 from last year’s 329 horsepower, to the C450’s impressive 362 horsepower. Similarly, torque figures have also muscled up from 354 lb-ft to 384 lb-ft now.
When compared to the excellent eight-speed automatic that BMW has employed these past few years, the Benz seven-speed unit has always felt a little clunky and dim-witted. No more. The tuning of this 7G-Tronic Plus automatic is excellent, rifling off rapid-fire shifts when called on, or quietly going about its business when less aggression is required. It may not be quite as good as the Bimmer’s box in Sport mode, but it’s very close. Unsurprisingly, no manual transmission is available with the C450.
Each of these sport sedans delivers its power through all four wheels. The BMW is also available in rear wheel drive while the Mercedes is only brought to Canada with 4Matic. Both systems help deliver the abundance of torque each engine offers to the ground, aiding in fierce acceleration. BMW claims the 340i will achieve 100 km/h from a rest in 5.1 seconds; Mercedes boasts its more powerful C450 will do it in 4.9. If anything, those figures sound conservative by the seat-of-the-pants.
On the road, both the 340 and the C450 accelerate ferociously and the Benz’s horsepower advantage appears much larger on paper than it feels in actuality. To be sure, one would need to run them at a drag strip to actually pick a winner unless you have an incredibly accurate butt-dyno that our evaluators apparently lack.