When we think of luxury sedans, it’s usually the German cars that pop into mind like the BMW 3-series, Audi A4 or the Mercedes-Benz C300, which is all-new for 2022. But what about the other luxury brands like Lexus, Genesis, Cadillac or the Volvo S60? Are they any closer to being the first thought that comes to mind or still the alternative?
Engine – In the Mercedes C300, it is still powered by a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. The difference now is that it has a bit of help from a 48-volt mild hybrid system which Mercedes calls EQ-Boost. This is the same system that is found in their larger inline-6 cylinder engines. In the C300, the engine produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque (190 kW & 400 Nm). With the mild-hybrid system, the electric motor and electric supercharger provide a temporary boost for the engine before the turbocharger gets up to speed. This makes this engine a little bit more responsive than the last. From nearly idle to near the redline, the engine pulls hard.
The 2022 Volvo S60 B5 has the same type of engine; a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder with the aid of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. However, this engine is not quite as potent as the one in the C300. It can produce 247 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (184 kW & 350 Nm). As a result, the Mercedes can sprint to 100 km/h from a stop in 6 seconds (according to Mercedes-Benz) while the Volvo requires 6.5 seconds (according to Volvo). From the driver’s seat, both engines feel punchy when you’re driving around town. You really only notice the difference when the rpm needle climbs closer to the redline but how often are you going to be doing that with these types of luxury sedans? Neither of them have AMG or Polestar Engineered badges on the trunks.
Fuel Economy – Although the engine in the S60 isn’t as powerful as the one in the C300, it is more fuel efficient. The 2022 Volvo S60 B5 AWD is rated for 9.4 L/100km (25 MPG) in a city and 6.9 L/100km (34.1 MPG) on a highway. The 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC is rated for 9.9 L/100km (23.7 MPG) in a city and 7.1 L/100km (33.1 MPG) on a highway. When I drove these cars, I put roughly the same amount of mileage on them and through the same type of city & highway environments. The end result was 8.3 L/100km (28.3 MPG) in the Volvo and 9.2 L/100km (25.5 MPG) in the Mercedes.
Thanks to the new mild-hybrid technologies, both engines are more efficient than their older iterations. When switched to the Eco drive modes, both engines will shut off at speeds above 60-ish km/h when coasting, thus not using any fuel and allowing the car to travel a little bit further without any engine braking. When stepping back on the throttle or brake pedal, the engines immediately fire back up.
Transmission – The Mercedes C300 utilizes a 9-speed automatic while the Volvo S60 uses an 8-speed automatic transmission. Both provide smooth shifts but it’s the 9-speed in the C300 that changes gears a little bit more quickly. It’s not as quick as an AMG tuned 9-speed but it is more responsive should you want to take over the controls than the 8-speed in the Volvo.
Braking – The Volvo S60 has strong and smooth to operate brakes. The Mercedes C300 has strong and very difficult to use brakes. The first 20% or so of brake pedal travel feels as though you’re stepping on air. The pedal provides no resistance whatsoever and the car barely slows down. After which, the brakes provide a lot of force and the pedal firms up immediately but the car slows down too quickly. This makes smooth stops in the Mercedes-Benz C300 very difficult and jerky. Because of this odd brake pedal characteristic, I feel like it ruins the entire driving experience of the car. Thankfully, the Volvo does not have this issue.
Handling – The 4MATIC AWD system in the Mercedes C300 is a rear-biased drivetrain whereas the AWD system in the Volvo is a front-biased drivetrain. Generally, rear-biased AWD systems tend to induce oversteer (which is more fun) and front-biased AWD systems tend to induce more understeer (which is not as much fun). Thus, the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 feels a little bit more exciting on the edge than the Volvo S60. Having said that, the 2022 S60 B5 is planted around corners and at 8/10ths, it feels similar to drive as the C300. They both have quick steering responses but lack feel, which is the norm these days for cars of this type.
Ride Comfort – Between the two, it’s hard to say which has a more comfortable ride. The suspension in the Mercedes C300 is a little bit more absorbent at soaking up bumps in the road but the seats in the Volvo feel a bit more supportive and softer which aids in the ride comfort. Again, hard to say which one is more comfortable because both felt superb while commuting to and from work on a daily basis.
Interior Space – These cars have an almost identical amount of headroom and legroom across both rows of seats apart from the front headroom in the front. The Mercedes-Benz C300 has a little bit more than the Volvo S60. But I still had plenty of space in the S60 at 6’4”.
The difference is in the trunks. The 2022 Volvo S60 only has 392 L (13.8 cu-ft) of cargo capacity while the Mercedes C300 has 455 L (16 cu-ft) of space. The Volvo has 60/40 split folding rear seats with a passthrough and the Mercedes-Benz has 40/20/40 split folding rear seats.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Thanks to the mild-hybrid powertrains, both cars have very smooth auto start/stop systems. In addition, both engines are quiet on daily drives. Wind noise is not too evident, even on highways, but road noise is present in both. Thankfully, it’s not too intrusive into the cabin.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC starts at $56,700 CAD ($45,500 USD) with the 2022 Volvo S60 B5 AWD starting at $52,750 CAD ($43,600 USD). As equipped, the C300 is $68,650 CAD ($55,700 USD) while the Volvo is $63,300 CAD ($53,695 USD).
Gadgets – They are both equipped with similar features such as surround view cameras, panoramic sunroofs, heated seats in all four corners, heated steering wheels, wireless phone chargers, and so on.
In my opinion the differences come down to the infotainment systems. The Volvo has the same system that has been used over the past half decade or so. It is not the new Android Automotive based system that is found in the updated XC60 for example. This system works just fine but it has a few things that annoy me. The climate controls for example are built into the touchscreen rather than physical controls. All new Volvo’s are like that but I still haven’t converted. Also, the drive mode selector is now gone from the center console and is now buried in the infotainment system. If you want to change drive modes, you have to press the home button, swipe to the left screen, select drive modes, and then select the drive mode that you want. It was much simpler with the control on the center console of older model year S60 & V60 models.
Things are not much better in the Mercedes. The infotainment is the latest iteration of MBUX which was first seen in the new S-class. It is a little bit simpler in design and operation but now all controls that were physical in the previous model years (ie, climate controls) are now integrated into the screen. The climate controls will always be on the lower portion of the screen but so were physical buttons and toggle switches. So that defeats the purpose of integrating them into the screen.
Interior Design – Because the Mercedes c300 takes a lot of inspiration from the S-class, it has a lot of the same capacitive touch controls. The seat controls, quick access infotainment controls, and steering wheel controls are all capacitive touch now. They look great but they are frustrating to use, especially the steering wheel controls. Swiping the volume knob or direction pad doesn’t always give you the desired effects.
Visually though, it’s the C300 that shines above the S60… if you’re into flashy looking interiors. The Volvo is subtle, minimalist, but modern. The C300 can feel like a disco with the ambient lighting system. But I kind of like it. I just don’t like using the controls in the Mercedes.
Exterior Design – It is the opposite of the interior designs when looking at these cars from the outside. The Volvo S60 looks aggressive yet timeless. I can just imagine it with black wheels, a window tint and maybe a half-inch drop and it would be perfect.
The Mercedes-benz C300 looks like any other Mercedes-Benz sedan. From far away you can’t tell if it’s an S-class, an A-class, an E-class and so on. It’s great for brand recognition but it just looks like a slightly smaller or slightly larger version of another sedan. The design itself too is a little bit bland especially parked next to the Volvo.
Safety – The IIHS gave the 2022 Volvo S60 a Top Safety Pick+ award with good crash test results and superior marks for the advanced driver and safety aids. Unfortunately the IIHS has not yet tested the Mercedes-Benz C300 but they did award the 2021 C300 with a top Safety Pick+ award as well. So I’d be surprised if the 2022 model didn’t receive one too.
Warranty – Both of these cars have the same warranties. 4 years or 80,000 km (50,000 miles in the United States), whichever comes first, new vehicle and powertrain warranty.
Conclusion – Between these two vehicles, I personally like the 2022 Volvo S60 B5 more than the 2022 Mercedes-Benz C300. The C300 has a great engine, a comfortable ride, and a spacious cabin. But the controls and especially the brake feel are the biggest turn offs for me. The Volvo on the other hand has a smoother engine than before and also more fuel efficient, a spacious cabin just like the C300, and the brakes are normal feeling. So in this test, the Volvo wins.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the C300. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca
Thank you to Volvo Canada for providing the S60. www.VolvoCars.com