2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: A Step In The Right Direction

To view the all-new 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is to view the future of the brand. We all know by now that the vaunted German brand has not been so vaunted over the years. Complex and unreliable electronics have taken some of the luster off of the three-pointed star, as Mercedes loyalists and new purchasers of the brand have faulted Mercedes’ quality and indifferent dealer network.


Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of DaimlerChrysler and Head of the Mercedes Group, has made restoring the legendary quality of Mercedes-Benz his number one priority. Ensuring that purchasers get a first class sales and service experience is also a main priority. Time will tell if dealers have listened to Zetsche’s decree, but after driving the all-new 2008 C-Class, it’s quite clear that everyone on the design, engineering, and manufacturing teams have listened well.

Internally designated as the W 204, this fourth generation C-Class is easily the best C-Class ever, and ranks in build quality with top-of-the-line big brother S-Class. When compared to last year’s W 203 model, the new C-Class is far more rigid, significantly quieter, and more spacious inside.

The rigid body shell can be attributed to the extensive use of high strength and ultra high strength steel, found in 70% of the body structure. The rigid shell, combined with Mercedes’ “Agility Control” suspension, mean road manners are superb. Agility Control uses a hydro-mechanical selective damping system that achieves much of the handling prowess of Mercedes’ Active Body Control system without the system’s huge cost. Agility Control uses an internal strut valving system. When you are cruising along in a straight line, two valves are open within the strut to allow hydraulic shock absorber fluid to flow freely, resulting in a compliant ride. When spirited driving or an evasive maneuver is detected, one of those valves instantly closes to restrict the amount of shock fluid that can pass between the valves. The result is a stiffer suspension just in time to handle the demands of back-road driving. It’s a simple yet elegant solution to the dilemma facing all manufacturers trying to knock the undisputed leader in the entry luxury segment “the BMW 3 Series” off its lofty pedestal.

During the four hours I spent behind the wheel, everything worked as advertised. This car is fun to drive on country roads, but won’t rattle your teeth in the city. And you’ll also have more room to move around inside, as the new C-Class is larger than its predecessor on all dimensions.

The new C-Class comes in two models, Sport and Luxury. The “Luxury” model comes with a 3.5-liter V6 making 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission, first in its class, handles shifting duties. It’s a seamless, world-class transmission with imperceptible up and downshifts. Luxury models also feature the traditional “star” hood ornament, Burl walnut wood interior trim, and a four-spoke steering wheel. The overall look of the car is Benz traditional, which depending on your tastebuds, is either too traditional or just right.

For me, it’s too traditional, especially when compared to the “Sport” model. The Sport features the Coupe-style grille with integrated star, AMG-designed body styling, 17” staggered alloy wheels (18” optional), a lowered sport suspension, a sport braking system with “perforated” front rotors and special calipers, and dual exhausts with a special rear diffuser panel between the exhausts.

It’s a get down funky look that sets the tone of the character of Sport models. All Sport models are powered by a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The big news is the availability of a six-speed manual tranny, should you wish to row the gears on your own. While I did not get a chance to test the manual, again, it draws the C-Class closer to the 3 Series. Aluminum or Birdseye maple wood trim, a three-spoke steering wheel, silver instrument cluster and rubber studded aluminum pedals highlight the Sport interior.

Road power in both models is impressive, particularly in passing situations at the top of the rev band. These cars can move out in a hurry.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the new C-Class is the price. Consider this: The new C-Class offers as additional standard equipment over last year’s already well-equipped model a power sunroof, eight-way power front seats, Bluetooth connectivity, 17” wheels, dual zone automatic climate control, and Mercedes COMAND Central Controller.


Prices for the new baby Benz start at just $31,975 – a real savings when comparing standard equipment to last year’s $29,650 base. And of all the reasonably priced options, you must opt for the Panorama Sunroof ($1,000). It features a full-roof glass panel with a front opening sunroof, and sliding privacy shades for both front and rear-seat passengers. With the panels retracted, the interior shines brightly under natural light. No squeaks or wind noise emanate from this well built option.

Hard drive navigation, a monster sound system and convenience and luxury packages are all reasonably priced. Even a full-tilt luxury model will find it hard to break $40 grand.

The new C-Class is a make or break car for the brand. If it succeeds, Mercedes-Benz will once again rise to the top of the status vehicle pyramid.

First Drives, Mercedes-Benz, Sedans


  1. I own both brands bmw and now mercedes, and I went out
    looking too buy a new bimmer but BMW just does not have anything to compete with MB in terms of price.I was looking forward to the 5series and disappointed turned to the 3series disappointed,the 335i is nice but it looks as though the design team left early on friday unfinished and turned in what they had on tuesday.BMW owners buy just because and so does Honda owners but my 2003 540i has been reguarded as one of the best cars ever built “WOW” such B.S. ,I’ve modified that car to be the thrasher that it is with upgraded everything short of divorce…so how good is bimmer out of the box? I have test driven the new c300 sport and rated it over the BMW 335i.I am now patiently waited for my c350 sport to come in, I hope MB stays on the path of luxury first,sport last and leave everyone else copying BMW.If I get the urge too do some serious thrashing i’ll get in my bimmer and if i’m headed to the mountains or beaches here in N.C. i’ll be in the Benz.

  2. My positive thoughts are with Dieter in trying to revive the MB brand. It was horrible to see Chrysler get their fingers into such a well respected German icon. I suffered the worse of times with my 2004 C230 Kompressor. It had poor manufacturing, and defects unbecoming of MB quality. I had to toss it back onto the market in disappointment only after a year. It is said but I’m going Japanese to tie me over. Acura, while less known, builds a solid and reliable RL which I like.

    But in my heart of hearts, I hope the new C promises the solid quality that I’ve experienced with MB since the 80’s. This will be MB’s last chance before I go with the up and coming Audi RS series.

  3. I am anxiously waiting on the new C. I have crossed the line owned both BMW and MB. Years ago the BMW was the drivers car hands down over MB, though MB was a great road car. That edge has vastly disappeared as the industry has raised the bar accross the board and MB has blended performance in their models. I continue to hear of problems with MB. Currently have an 05 C230 Compressor. Only complaint is a gremlin tells me I have burned out bulb once in awhile, which isn’t and I thought 30K on the front brakes was a bid soon for replacement. Otherwise, I hope the interior noise levels are improved over the 05. Besides that it is a great driver. Just did 1500 miles on business in FL and got 30 MPG while enjoying spirited driving. I love the new looks of the the larger C. Any chance of a Bluetec Diesel option? Still like the older BMWs with an 88 M6 in the garage. Maybe the styling ship will recover at BMW one day. Till then my money is on MB.

  4. I test drove the new C-350 then came back to the dealer and test drove the C-300, the 300 feels heavy while driving the 350 is in the lighter and quicker feel. I decided to buy it after taking it home for the weekend. I tested it the way I drove my 2003 Nissan 350z and although not as engaging on the performance side, I feel much better with the MB which feel lighter although not over powered. I maxed the speed limit to 130 mph which disapppointed me maybe because I’m use to driving my 350z to 160mph. But with all the ammenities and the feel of driving a MB, I feel more luxurious. I’m use to compliments with the 350z here in Germany but it goes the same for the C-350. I’ll be picking up mine on Friday and with hopes that this car won’t bored me.

  5. I’m glad MB sold Chrysler. Hopefully this is a new beginning and restoring the glory day of Mercedes Benz.

    I picked my up on Dec 1 for the 2008 C300 sport in Markham,Ontario. Straight to independent tires shop and change to snow tires Pirelli sotto zeros with a new set of alloy wheels and straight to highway.

    Awesome handling compared with my 1995 C280. I love it and all the electronic worked!!! so do my bluetooth with blackberry.

    The dealership sales experience is pretty good and better than back in 1995. I hope they emulate sales and services of Lexus (I did owned GS300 in 2001)

    I still love the handling of the German car than the Japanese.

    I will keep everyone posted how it go down the road with the dealer service experience and how it hold up in a few years.

  6. I recently purchase a 2008 C-300 4matic from a mercedes benz dealer in Arlington, Virgina. This is my first Mercedes Benz. I have owned 2 Lexus GS-300 for over 10 years. The difference is remarkable. Lexus used to be a world class organzation. Now a Lexus is nothing more than a Toyota with a wig on it( smile).The C-300 mercedes rides very comfortably the stereo system is awesome. I am looking forward to taking it on a 1000 mile trip this summer. Way to go Mercedes-Benz you did it right!!!!!

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  8. Great car. I’ve had my 09 C300 Sport for about 6 weeks and already driven it almost 6,000 miles. I loved my 05 C230 K, but this car is just in another league in terms of build-quality.

  9. You got the description wrong for the C350.
    The C350 is offered as the “Sports” model only.

    The C300 comes in both Luxury and Sports trim.

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