The Mercedes-Benz C-class, the lowest-end Mercedes-Benz sold in the U.S., underwent an upgrade in 2008 that modernized the car considerably, making it an excellent value in a semi-sporty small luxury sedan. We earlier reviewed, and praised, the C300 Sport and the C63 AMG. This is the first time we've seen the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C350.
But the C350 sent to us turned out to be an example of how not to option up a C-class. First of all, the need for the car's 3.5-liter V-6 seemed questionable, as the 3-liter V-6 in the C300 does a perfectly good job. Second, our car lacked the navigation system option, saddling it with what is probably the worst iPod integration we've seen. The car was equipped with an 18-inch AMG wheel package, money which could have been much better spent making the cabin electronics useful.
C350 versus C300
According to Mercedes-Benz specifications, the C350 gets you to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, exactly 1 second faster than the C300. The 3.5-liter V-6 in the C350 produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque compared with the C300's 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque.
The seven-speed automatic transmission goes from Comfort to Sport mode at the push of a button.
Obviously, the C350 goes faster than the C300, but not by much. The sensation of acceleration is even less different, as the only transmission available for the C350 is a seven-speed automatic. Although Mercedes-Benz has done an excellent job of refining automatic transmissions to give a near-manual transmission feel, it still masks the engine performance behind torque converter softness.
The C300 can be had with that seven-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, the latter being more of a driving enthusiast's choice. In the C350, a button near the shifter toggles the mapping between Comfort and Sport settings, making the gear changes more aggressive. You can also manually change gears by moving the shifter from side-to-side, producing reasonably quick shifts. But we didn't find a huge performance gap between the C300 and C350.
3.5-liters of V-6 offers too little of an advantage over the C300's 3-liters.
Both C-class models use the same suspension, a four-wheel independent setup with stabilizer bars front and rear along with antidive control. In either model, it does a wonderful job of keeping the car composed during hard cornering. The 37 extra pound-feet of torque should make a difference accelerating out of a turn, but we didn't feel the C350 had a substantial edge.
As you would expect, the C350 does take a fuel economy hit for its larger displacement, but it's only 1 mpg, with EPA ratings at 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. We achieved an average of 20.1 mpg during mixed city and freeway driving, and observed trip computer mileage over 24 mpg during long freeway trips.
Strange iPod interface
But we didn't want to drive this car for long amounts of time, because the standard cabin electronics are fairly weak. We were initially intrigued that, in lieu of a large navigation LCD, Mercedes-Benz includes as standard in the C350 a smaller screen under a hatch in the dashboard, along with the familiar Mercedes-Benz COMAND controller on the console.
Lacking the navigation system, the C350 comes with this small LCD standard.
Our car also came with the optional iPod integration kit, with a pigtail connector in the glove box. But getting ready to road-test the car, we were baffled that we couldn't find out how to get music from an iPod playing over the stereo system. After some searching, we found the auxiliary setting, only accessible through the COMAND interface.
But while that did get music playing, there was no interface on the LCD, no capability at all to select music with the COMAND interface. Instead, the current track was shown in the speedometer, which holds displays for the trip computer and audio. It was immediately apparent that directional buttons on the steering wheel moved sequentially through the track list, but we had to consult the manual to figure out how to choose artists and albums, which involves first hitting the phone hang-up button. Bizarre.
The iPod interface feels like a hack, relying on phone controls to navigate through artists and albums.
This optional integration kit feels like a hack, especially when satellite radio and CD displays work perfectly well on the car's LCD. But we wouldn't write off the car because of this, as Mercedes-Benz offers a few ways to get a much better interface. First, you could opt for the navigation option, which gives you a bigger screen along with the Music Register, onboard storage for music. With this option, you do get to view both iPod and Music Register music libraries on the LCD. You can also opt for the less-expensive COMAND package, which includes the bigger screen and better interface, but no navigation system or Music Register.
Another worthwhile option, not included on our test car, is the Harmon Kardon Logic7 stereo system, comprised of a 450-watt amp and 10 speakers. Lacking this upgrade, our car was stuck with the standard eight-speaker system, producing uninspired audio.
Standard on the car is a hands-free Bluetooth phone system. This one is fairly average, with no real stand-out features. It does have an onboard phone book, but you will need to push entries from phone to car.
When equipped with the optional navigation system, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz C350 becomes a capable tech cruiser with some sport driving capability, and we give it a reasonable score in our ratings. Read our review of the C300 to get an idea of the tech package. Lacking cabin tech options, the C350 is a relatively boring semi-luxury sedan with a frustrating iPod interface. Running gear is good, with a reasonably powerful engine getting mileage close to that of a four cylinder. We like the option to switch between Comfort and Sport driving modes.
|Model||2010 Mercedes-Benz C-class|
|Power train||3.5-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/25 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||20.1 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard drive-based|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive (with navigation option), USB port, satellite radio|
|Audio system||8 speaker standard, 5.1 channel Harmon Kardon optional|
|Driver aids||Rear view camera|
|Price as tested||$42,020|