Autos

Review: The Mercedes C300 is smarter, safer and more luxurious than anything in its price class

Key Points
  • The Mercedes C300 offers a ton of technology for the class
  • It's comfortable and has an amazing interior
  • It isn't the cheapest and the gizmos can be overwhelming
The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

Mercedes has a long history of offering class-leading technology. It was an early adopter of direct fuel injection, crumple zones, seatbelt pre-tensioners, traction control, massaging seats, radar-guided cruise control, LED lighting and more.

These groundbreaking advancements — which all improved safety, comfort or performance — typically existed at the top end of the Mercedes lineup.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

That's not really how it works anymore. As the C300 proves, Mercedes now offers insane levels of technology and luxury from the baby A-Class to the exclusive S-Class. For this 2019 C300, the result is simple. It's more luxurious and smarter than anything else in the class.

The good

At $63,525, the C300 isn't the cheap entry-level option it once was. The arrival of the CLA-Class and A-Class has allowed Mercedes to push the C-Class upmarket, but it's a better vehicle as a result. It certainly doesn't feel entry-level inside.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

The cabin is blanketed in lovely brown leather, accented by gorgeous open-pore wood and metal accents. The floating infotainment screen has gotten even bigger, complimenting the digital gauge cluster. The C-Class now also has the touchpads to control everything from the steering wheel, a trick it borrows from the E-Class and S-Class.

Between the massive center screen, the gauge cluster and the head-up display projected on the windshield, we found that any and all information you want while driving can be shown within your field of view. In many cases, we had more screen real estate than things we needed to know about.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

Mercedes also doesn't skimp on the powertrain. The C300 is the least-potent C-Class, but it still offers 255 horsepower from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The shift logic of the Mercedes 9-speed automatic is also fantastic, making the most of the engines low-end grunt. It's not the sports car of the segment — leave that to Alfa Romeo and Cadillac — but it's still quick.

What it gives up in sportiness it certainly gains is composure and luxury. The C-Class is remarkably quiet and well damped. We'd probably skip the AMG sports suspension that our tester had, but even in its most aggressive guise, the C300 is a comfortable highway cruiser. It's not floaty or bouncy, but it's smooth and handles itself well over bumps.

Finally, the C300 leads the pack in tech. You can adjust the ambient LED lighting between 64 different colors, use a 360-degree camera to park or have the Benz park itself. It not only automatically brakes to avoid a rear-end collision, but can also detect cross traffic and stop you from T-boning another car. If it senses that you're about to be hit, it can tense the seatbelts. If it thinks your brakes can't stop you from hitting a pedestrian, it will steer around it.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

It also offers semi-autonomous driving that will assist drivers by holding the car in its lane and adjust speed based on traffic and speed limits. If you signal and there is no car in the way, it will carry out a lane change under your supervision. If you signal in a zone where passing isn't allowed — like a construction zone with solid white lines — the C300 will wait to change lanes until it is in a passing zone.

This thing is seriously smart.

The bad

Sometimes, that can be overwhelming. If you want to control something on the main screen you can use the steering wheel touchpad, the regular touchpad in the center, the rotary knob below the touchpad, the touch screen or voice commands. That's a lot of ways to change the radio station.

It's a good thing you can avoid input methods you don't like — we never used the central touchpad — but it can be a lot to manage. We didn't like the touchpads on the steering wheel either, finding them a bit finicky and hard to operate. If you want to skip a song using the steering wheel controls, you have to swipe down on the right pad and hope you've used exactly the right speed and force of swipe.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

We should also note that this is a decidedly different approach to technology than the Tesla Model 3, the other tech-focused option in this class. While the Tesla is focused on minimalism, the C300 is more traditional in its approach to luxury.

There are a lot of buttons to control core functionality, a lot of ways to customize your screen and more options that you can't get on a Tesla. We prefer the lavish interior and configurable tech of the Benz, but if you want a simpler approach to technology the Model 3 may be better.

How we'd option it

A C300 starts at $41,400, but we'd recommend the $43,400 4Matic all-wheel-drive model for all-weather performance and better resale value. Unless you want flat black or flat white, budget $720 for premium paint.

Skip the AMG packages, as you aren't going to make this a sports car and you are going to ruin the ride. We'd add the $900 exterior lighting package to get intelligent high beams and active bending lights.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

This necessitates the premium package, which we'd recommend anyway. It brings passive entry, keyless start, a power trunk and blind-spot monitoring. We'd also spend $1,950 on genuine leather seats.

Heated and ventilated front seats, 64-color ambient lighting and a heated steering wheel total up to $1,590. You definitely want the $2,600 multimedia package to bring the bigger screen and better voice control. Another $750 gets you the digital gauge cluster, $850 gets you the awesome Burmester sound system, $990 gets you a head-up display and $1,000 gets you the panoramic glass roof.

The $2,250 driver assistance package is a necessity, bringing a massive list of active safety features that make your life easier and driving safer. Finally, we'd opt for the $1,090 parking assistance package. While we don't need self-parking, a 360-degree camera is extremely helpful.

Our total is $58,600 with destination charges.

The 2019 Mercedes C300
CNBC | Mack Hogan

Final thoughts

It takes a lot of optioning to get there, but a decked-out C-Class is a technological wonder. It's smarter, safer and nicer inside than just about anything else in this price range.

The C300 isn't the cheapest option, but it feels even more expensive than it is. We highly recommend it.

Rating:

Exterior: 4

Interior: 4.5

Driving Experience: 4

Value: 3.5

Overall: 4

Price as tested: $63,525

*Ratings out of 5

WATCH: Mercedes' newest models designed for millennials

VIDEO1:0701:07
Mercedes' latest models made for millennials