Fashionable to fearsome. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes in a variety of forms, but all of them are pretty. Though most buyers will opt for a sedan, the coupe and convertible are just as alluring.
The C-Class sits below the businesslike Mercedes E-Class and opulent Mercedes S-Class, but the latest generation has established an identity all its own. The design marries classic Benz lines with a prominent modern grille, and it’s lovely from every angle.
There’s grunt underneath the finery, with the AMG C 43, AMG C 63, and AMG C 63 S trims hiding powerful engines. AMG models get wider intakes and aerodynamic accents that lend some aggression to the curves. Every model looks just as good inside, with a nicely integrated central touchscreen and glossy wood trim.
The biggest shame about the C-Class is that one of our favorite body styles – the wagon – won’t be making it to North American shores.
Quick in every form. Even in non-AMG form, the C-Class is far from slow. The base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sends the C 300 from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, which just about equals its eternal rival, the BMW 330i. The C 300 even manages a respectable EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon combined, though it can’t quite match the 3-Series' 30 mpg combined.
The MW has historically had the edge in the corners, but the latest C-Class gives it a run for its money. The optional air suspension of the past is sadly no longer available, but the C-Class is blessed with agile handling and a responsive suspension.
If you do explore the upper trims, you’ll be rewarded by some of the brand’s best powertrains. The AMG C 63 S breaks the 500-hp mark for a healthy dose of insanity, flying from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds.
Our biggest complaint is the lack of a manual transmission. The stock nine-speed automatic is willing and quick, so we’re not too broken up.
Proper luxury. The C-Class sits in the shadow of its larger siblings, but it’s no longer the bottom of the Mercedes range. That role is occupied by the Mercedes A-Class and Mercedes CLA-Class, which now offer a more affordable entry point into the brand.
That means that the C-Class is positioned as more of a luxury vehicle, and it gets standard features to match. A power moonroof, seat memory settings, and a strong suite of safety tech all come standard. The seats themselves are supportive and draped in convincing synthetic leather, though buyers can, of course, add real hides for a price.
The options list is long and comprehensive, offering plenty of flexibility for different buyers. We don’t see much need to go too far beyond what’s included, although most buyers will want some basic upgrades like heated seats.
The 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen looks nice on the dash, but Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system has yet to make its way into the C-Class. This means the car is stuck with software that feels slightly outdated, though it’s far from the worst we’ve used.
Cost per square foot. Especially if you dip into the options list, the C-Class gets expensive in a hurry. With all-wheel drive and a few packages, even a C 300 will easily push past $50,000.
That price is made harder to swallow by underwhelming interior space. The front row is comfortable enough, but the 3-Series has more head room in both rows. The second row in both the convertible and the coupe is uncomfortable for anyone besides children.
The story is even worse in the trunk, where the C-Class has only 12.6 cubic feet of space. That pales in comparison to the 3-Series' 17 cubes. The coupe has even less space at 10 cubic feet, and the convertible is worst of all at 8.8 – and that’s with the top up.
The BMW also benefits from the hatchback-esque Gran Turismo, which adds still more practicality. Once again, Mercedes: where’s the wagon?
Final thoughts. The 2020 Mercedes C-Class gives buyers fewer reasons than ever to look elsewhere. Trunk space is disappointing, but the model’s classic looks and engaging drive make it hard to hold a grudge.
The price of entry remains discouraging, but buyers have the option of stepping down to the A-Class for more affordability. A bigger issue is the BMW 3-Series, which could trade blows with the C-Class until the cows come home.
This rivalry continues to define the kingdom of sport sedans, but when the results are this good, we can’t say we’re mad about it.
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