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2006 Mercedes-Benz C-Class reviews

November 6, 2005 02:21 PM EST | Coupes , Mercedes-Benz , Sedans , Wagons | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageWith three engines to choose from, most buyers are bound to find a C-Class sedan to their liking, but none can match the Audi A4 for interior style or the BMW 3 Series for athleticism.

Pros
State-of-the-art safety and luxury features, pleasing power from top V6 engine.

Cons
More expensive than competitors, ordinary cabin furnishings, small backseat, only available as a sedan.

What's New for 2006
For 2006, both the wagon and the slow-selling C-Class coupe are history, leaving only the sedan. A V6 engine is now standard on every sedan model. The C230 gets a new 201-hp, 2.5-liter V6, while the C240 is renamed the C280 and has a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V6. The C320 is now the C350, boasting a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6. 4Matic-equipped vehicles get an improved five-speed automatic, and rear-wheel-drive models get a new seven-speed automatic.

Introduction:
The latest generation of the C-Class, introduced in 2001, replaced the more traditionally styled version (1994-2000), which had in turn succeeded the small, boxy and rather drab 190 Series (1984-1993). Aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series, the C-Class lineup touts the typical Benz virtues of solidity, safety and comfort. With styling cues (such as a low hoodline, arced roofline and triangular taillights) evocative of the flagship S-Class, the baby Benz sedan has no trouble drawing admiring glances. Mercedes has eliminated the wagon and coupe body styles from the lineup for 2006, but three V6 engine choices and the availability of Sport and Luxury trims give you plenty of options to consider when equipping a C-Class sedan.

Never one to keep the best safety equipment just for its most expensive models, Mercedes-Benz provides the C-Class buyer with a reassuring roster of the latest advances in safety technology. Stability control, BrakeAssist and side curtain airbags are all at the ready to help avoid an accident or protect the occupants in case said accident is imminent.

High pricing is the main disadvantage to buying a C-Class sedan. The entry-level Benz generally costs more than every other car in its class, including sought after models like the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series. This fact, alongside the Benz's small backseat, rather ordinary interior accommodations (compared to the A4) and modest athleticism (compared to the 3 Series), makes us less enthusiastic about giving it a full recommendation, particularly to people on a budget. What's more, competition is increasing in this price range, and value leaders like the Acura TSX and Infiniti G35 offer a high level of performance and luxury for the price paid. Ultimately, though, we do recognize the appeal of the C-Class: Whether you're a young and active single, a weekend driving enthusiast or a family chauffeur, the C-Class can get you around in relative comfort while providing more than a dash of style, prestige and fun.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
For 2006, the compact C-Class is available only as a sedan in a handful of flavors -- the C230 and C350 Sport Sedans, and the C280 and C350 Luxury Sedans. Sporty and affordable, the C230 Sport Sedan comes with 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, cloth sport seats, dual-zone climate control and a CD stereo. The C280 Luxury Sedan version offers a bigger engine but is more mild-mannered in personality, offering 16-inch wheels, softer suspension tuning, leather/cloth seating and genuine wood trim. Step up to the C350 Luxury Sedan to enjoy the top-line V6 and 10-way power seats with memory. The C350 Sport Sedan comes with all of this, plus 17-inch wheels, a firmer suspension and sport seats. On the options list you'll find features like full leather upholstery, HID headlights, a DVD-based navigation system, a 12-speaker Harman-Kardon Logic 7 sound system and satellite radio.

Powertrains and Performance:
Three engines see duty in the C-Class lineup. The C230 has a 201-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6. The C280 has a 3.0-liter V6 with 228 hp. And the C350 employs a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 hp. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual, five-speed automatic and seven-speed automatic. Sport models get the manual standard, while Luxury models come with an automatic only. All Sport models are rear-wheel drive, but Luxury models are available with either rear-drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive. The seven-speed automatic is available on rear-drive models only, while the five-speed unit is found only on 4Matics.

Safety:
In addition to expected safety features, such as four-wheel antilock disc brakes and three-point seatbelts with tension limiters for all occupants, every C-Class boasts stability control and six airbags that include front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional. In government crash tests, the C-Class scored four out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts and five stars for front and rear side-impact protection. The IIHS gave the C-Class a "Good" rating (its highest) for its performance in the 40-mph frontal offset crash test, and named it a "Best Pick" overall. The C-Class earned an "Acceptable" rating (second-highest) in IIHS side-impact testing.

Interior Design and Special Features:
In the past, C-Class interiors were nothing special, but last year's upgrades included new gauges, controls and seats, finally giving the entry-level Benz the slick look it should have always had. As the sedan is compact in size, there isn't a lot of legroom in the backseat, and adult occupants are apt to complain on anything more than short trips.

Driving Impressions:
As you would expect, the C-Class is a comfortable car that excels at pampering its occupants. It's also more sporting than previous small Benzes, and the Sport sedans, in particular, are fun to drive, though don't expect the razor-sharp manners of a BMW 3 Series. Each of the V6 engines delivers solid, refined performance.

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