BMW 340 vs. Mercedes-Benz C300

By

Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.


, Contributing Editor - March 3, 2016

Not many sport-luxury auto companies have a more illustrious heritage than BMW, with its heritage of German engineering excellence. Even in milder-mannered versions, BMW’s 3 Series promises an invigorating experience, emanating from the model’s well-known handling capabilities and overall dynamic characteristics. Subtly tasteful in design, the 3 Series is based upon classic sport-sedan proportions. For 2016, the 335i got a model-designation change to 340i.

Redesigning for 2015 made the midsize Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan a tad larger and a lot more luxurious. Charming and attractive inside and out, the sedan has a significantly improved interior, which suggests the high-end S-Class. The C300 is the entry-level model in the C-Class lineup: the only available with rear-wheel drive, and the only one with a conventional suspension rather than an adaptive setup.

See a side-by-side comparison of the 340 & C300 »

What the BMW 340 Gets Right

Whether they’re dawdling along in rush-hour traffic or sailing along curvy mountain roads, BMW 3 Series owners expect—and receive—satisfying nimbleness and an athletic nature. Performance matters, too. In the 340i, a six-cylinder engine develops 320 horsepower, working with either an eight-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. Rear-drive is standard, but xDrive all-wheel drive system can be substituted.

A number of active safety features are available, but only as part of Driver Assistance packages. Fuel economy has improved. With automatic, a rear-drive 340i is EPA-estimated at 22 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway. Manual shift (rear-drive only) sinks the figures to 20/30 mpg. Among the few flaws is a somewhat tight back seat. Otherwise, the elegant cabin provides splendid comfort.

What the Mercedes-Benz C300 Gets Right

Superior steering makes for a fine-handling sedan. Naturally, ride comfort is another plus, since this is a Mercedes-Benz, and performance is sufficiently spirited even when passing. Beneath the hood, the C300 contains a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower, mated with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Stop/start technology allows the engine to shut off at stoplights.

Fuel economy is estimated at 25-mpg city and 34-mpg highway. With 4Matic all-wheel drive, the estimate dips to 24/33 mpg. Though modified for 2015, the COMAND infotainment setup still isn’t the easiest to use. Last year’s redesign didn’t improve back-seat space by much, and the low roofline restricts ease of entry into the rear compartment. Front seats are spacious, though the wide console takes up quite a bit of room.

Which German-brand turbo-four sedan takes the prize?

At least, we’re comparing apples to apples in this instance. These German-made premium sedans are closely matched, providing many of the same benefits.

Our Verdict: Mercedes-Benz C300

Despite the sportier nature of the BMW 3 Series, we’re voting for the C300 because of its mix of mannerly road behavior with a growing level of luxury. But it’s a mighty close call.

Take a closer look at the BMW 340 »

Take a closer look at the Mercedes-Benz C300 »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Contributing Editor

A veteran auto journalist and editor of Tirekicking Today, Jim has contributed countless reviews and articles to such publications as autoMedia, New Car Test Drive, and Kelley Blue Book, as well as J.D. Power, cars.com, Consumer Guide, and the Chicago Tribune. He began by writing about antique/classic cars and how-to tasks, before turning to new and used vehicles. Most of his 30 published books have dealt with auto history, along with six children’s titles. His most recent book is the Tirekicking Used Car Buyer’s Guide.