by: Mike Ginsca,
Are wagons slowly making a comeback? BMW is still offering the 3 series. Audi has the A4 Allroad. And of course Volvo has a couple including the V90 and new V60. Mercedes-Benz is also continuing to sell a wagon version of the C-Class here in North America so there still might be a market for it. But is it worth it or should you spend the money on an SUV?
Engine – Just like in some SUVs, the C300 wagon comes with a 2.0L turbocharged engine. It produces 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque from a very, very low 1,300 rpms. Because the torque is in a usable engine operating range, the Mercedes C300 gets off the line fairly quickly. The engine pulls hard but it does taper off a bit at the top end, however, 99% of the time you won’t be revving it right up to the redline. Unlike a big SUV, the C300 wagon gets slightly better fuel economy. Mercedes-Benz rates it at 10.7 L/100km in a city and 8.0 L/100km on a highway. During my week and approximately 350 km drive with the car, I managed right in the middle at 9.5 L/100km.
Transmission – A new 9-speed automatic is the only transmission available with the C300. Depending on which drive mode you’re in, the transmission can shift more slowly but smoothly in comfort mode or quick but harsh in Sport mode. One thing I did notice is that this transmission likes to constantly shift through the gears when overtaking on a highway. It may get annoying to some.
Braking – This particular Mercedes-Benz C300 wagon has the optional Sport package which adds larger drilled and ventilated discs and fixed 4-piston calipers to the front wheels. These brakes don’t require much actuation of the brake pedal to bring the wagon to a stop quickly. The brakes are very powerful and fairly easy to modulate in normal driving conditions.
Handling – The steering is precise like any other electro-assisted system and it has a decently good feel. The steering wheel becomes lighter at parking lot speeds for ease of maneuverability and stiffer at highway speeds for better stability. Around corners the wagon feels planted both in dry and wet conditions thanks to 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. There is a bit more body roll than expected, even with the sport suspension option, but it’s better than an SUV.
Ride Comfort – Despite the sport suspension, the ride of the C300 wagon is very compliant. It doesn’t feel jarry when driving over bigger potholes and it generally provides a smooth ride. The front seats are not quite as soft as their Japanese counterparts but the seats themselves contour very well to your body. Also the driver’s seat has a lot of electronic adjustability. The rear seats are equally firm as the front but head and leg room is adequate for passengers under 6 feet in height.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Engine and driveline noises are almost non-existent in the C300. The cabin is well insulated with only a faint “woosh” of noise coming inside while on a highway. Build quality is equally good with no rattles or squeeks to hear.
Interior Design – This Mercedes C300 does not feature the new dual screen infotainment and instrument display that a few new Mercedes vehicles are receiving but even so, the interior of this C300 looks modern and fresh. Quality, and real, materials are used throughout the interior and the dashboard has a minimalistic design without too many buttons cluttering the look. Getting in and out is easy although some with less mobility may not like the lower seating position as compared to an SUV. Trunk space though is very similar to that of an SUV at 1,510L of maximum space with the rear seats folded.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – Mercedes vehicles are known to have the latest tech and this C300 is no exception. Sure, it may not be as loaded as an S-class but excellent adaptive cruise control, lane departure mitigation, blind spot sensors, emergency automatic braking, and more are standard or available. One thing I don’t like is the way that the infotainment system is controlled. It’s not a touchscreen and you have to do everything through the rotary knob and touchpad to control different functions. It’s not as quick as having a touchscreen but hopefully during the next update, the C-class will get the dual screen infotainment of the new A-class.
Exterior Design – Station wagons have come a long way from being rectangles on wheels. Designers today are giving them more rounded edges and curves that give a flowing and eye appealing design. The Mercedes-Benz C300 wagon stands out from the usual crop of SUVs and the optional sports package on this demo vehicle adds some nice AMG flares to the front and rear bumpers as well as the wheels.
In all, station wagons are basically just SUVs but with 2 major differences. SUVs have a higher driving position but station wagons drive much better. Otherwise they have the same convenience features, same safety features, same engines in some cases so why don’t more people buy station wagons? I must be one of the few then who would take a station wagon like this one over an SUV.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.