2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class first drive review Page 2

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Power & Performance

The U.S. will receive two versions of the 2015 C-Class at launch, both equipped with standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive. In the C300, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder provides 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The C400 upgrades to a 329-horsepower, 354-pound-foot 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6.

During our stints behind the wheel in and around Marseilles, we found the C400’s turbo V-6  a fun and willing companion in hustling the C-Class at a brisk pace. The seven-speed automatic transmission, with or without use of the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, handles the shifts with precision and quickness, though when the pace slackened a bit, we did notice a few rough shifts—perhaps issues for the software still to work out before the car’s retail sales launch this fall.

The U.S.-market C300 wasn’t available during the first drive event, though the same engine, detuned to about 35 fewer horses and pound-feet in the European-spec C250, still feels peppy under the hood of the 2015 C-Class. In American C300 trim, it should be plenty quick, and a marked upgrade from the rather uninspired performance of the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in the previous American C250.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Suspension and transmission responses can be adjusted through a range from Eco to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Eco mode slows the cars responses in an effort to extract maximum efficiency, and while it does make the car feel more sluggish, it’s done in a way that you’re unlikely to notice when trudging through city traffic—the optimal time to enhance efficiency. In Comfort mode, the powertrain response is re-awakened, but responsiveness is smoothed. In Sport and Sport+ modes, throttle response is made sharper, Airmatic-equipped models become firmer (and in Sport+ mode, 15 mm lower), and the transmission gets just a touch more aggressive in its shift quality. When set to its most aggressive mode, the 2015 C-Class is engaging and fun to drive through a winding canyon pass, but it doesn’t exhibit the sharper edges of a true sport sedan.

Like most modern luxury sedans, the 2015 C-Class uses electric-assist power steering. Like most electric-assist power steering, the driver’s feel for the behavior of the front wheels’ contact patches is somewhat muted, but the steering rack’s variable ratio is spot-on, ramping up steering rate in a progressive and predictable manner. In 4Matic models, the extra tractive power sent to the front wheels, along with a little more weight on the nose in V-6 form, serves to further reduce steering feel, but the rear-drive four-cylinder model’s steering is noticeably lighter and more communicative—and yes, the U.S. will get a rear-drive version of the C300 a few months after the 4Matic-only model is launched.

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