Very expensive and still not very large, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class nonetheless leads its luxury niche with fabulous style and fantastic power and grip.
The 2018 Mercedes C-Class reminds us that while a pretty face and lots of grip can grab our attention, beautiful cars with great all-around performance and utility are the cars we want to drive, and to keep.
The C-Class remains among our favorite cars in its pricey segment, whether it’s a convertible, a coupe, or a sedan. There’s no C-Class we wouldn’t own, which is why it still earns a 7.5 out of 10, three years since it launched. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With a striking profile in any body style, the 2018 C-Class drops some S-Class references on its way to a distinctive profile. It swings the taste scale wildly from illuminated logos to discrete LED running lights to its abbreviated tail. It’s unabashedly gorgeous inside, with its waterfall console slathered in wood or aluminum, its big round vents—even with the misstep of a tacked-on digital display.
Power for the basic C300 comes from a 241-horsepower turbo-4, combined with a new 9-speed automatic and rear- or all-wheel drive. It can run to 60 mph in about 5.8 seconds, and when fitted with an available air suspension, can round off the worst road rash while locking down firmly in corners, maybe a bit too firmly.
A low-volume plug-in hybrid version adds a small battery pack and a plug in the rear bumper, but its green credentials are muted: it only delivers 8 miles of EPA-rated continuous electric range and combined fuel economy that’s only about 10 percent higher.
The Mercedes-AMG C43 antes up with a 362-hp twin-turbo V-6 with the push to hit 60 mph in under five seconds. With its 9-speed automatic, AMG-tuned suspension and driver-selectable settings, it’s an everyday thriller to drive, with just enough suspension compliance to keep it from track-only use. That’s the job of the bonkers, twin-turbo V-8-powered C63. With up to 503 hp, the C63 cars hammer to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds or less, can hit 180 mph depending on the body style, and can precisely carve through challenging roads with hardly a pause.
The C-Class cabin is lush but not particularly spacious. Even base non-leather seats have ample padding, though the AMG-induced buckets cup us better. In the sedans the Benz C-Class doesn’t have the rear seat knee or leg room of larger rivals like the 3-Series, and the trunk is on the small end.
Crash-test ratings have been mixed, too. The five-star NHTSA ratings have some four-star tests in their transcripts. The C-Class does have the latest safety tech on the options list, and a rearview camera comes standard.
Other standard features can be upgraded to include the futzy COMAND interface, a lovely Burmester sound system, various grades of leather, navigation, LED headlights, even an in-car fragrance dispenser (think No. 5, not Renuzit). In AMG-land, the C-Class can add performance sport seats, fancy wheels, and LED headlights.