Long regarded one of the premier luxury marques in the United States, Mercedes-Benz has seen something of a product rebirth over the last several years, raising the bar for quality and style. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class largely exemplifies this improvement, though like all of the entry-level luxury sedans, presents a few compromises. MotorAuthority thoroughly enjoys the C-Class and gives it an overall rating of 8.
Just one body style--sedan--and just two engines, both V-6s, leave the 2011 C-Class with what looks at first glance with not many options. But dig a little deeper and it offers a wealth of choice, plus an AMG variant that adds a monster 6.2-liter V-8 to the mix.
The base 3.0-liter V-6 in the C300 is considerably more docile, however, rating 228-horsepower, about on par with most other entry-level luxury sedans, and capable of 7.1-second 0-60 mph runs. The C350 offers an upgrade to a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 268 horsepower and 6.1 seconds to 60 mph. We strongly prefer the larger V-6, but would opt for the C63 AMG in a perfect world.
The C63 AMG's 451 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque is wickedly fun. The V-8 snarl is muted at cruising speed but quickly turns to a baritone bark when the pace is lifted. It's capable of 4.3-second 0-60 mph runs, 155 mph top speed (or 186 mph with an optional upgrade) and snicks off slick, precise shifts with a seven-speed transmission. It also gets a unique, much more aggressive look with reworked front, rear, and side body work and larger 18-inch wheels. Big 14.2-inch front and 13-inch rear brakes offer impeccable and implacable stopping power.
As you'd expect of any Mercedes, even the ostensible low man on the hierarchy, materials and styling inside the cabin are top-notch. As you might not expect, however, there are a few exceptions: some of the plastics barely deserve luxury status, much less employment in a Mercedes-Benz. The rear seat is tight, but that's a commonality to just about every entry in the class, and there's a bit more engine noise than you might like. But by and large, the C-Class's interior is comfortable, quiet, and well-designed.
A plethora of optional add-ons are available, including voice-activated navigation, satellite radio, a hard-drive based infotainment system, MP3/iPod interface, DVD entertainment system, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, keyless ignition, and a tremendous array of interior and exterior cosmetic options.
For an authoritative look at all of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz C-Class's strengths and weaknesses, read the full review at TheCarConnection.