My, time does fly. It's been 26 years since the Mercedes-Benz 190 was first introduced. Affectionately called the Baby Benz, the car never had the cachet of its bigger more expensive siblings. That was then this is now.
After spending one week in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C300 4matic, we can honestly say that the Baby Benz is all grown up. An acquaintance strolled up to the car and immediately recognized it as a C-Class.
That was significant because it showed over the years that the car has obtained an identity of its own. It had grown beyond the Mercedes moniker into a C-Class, the entry level nameplate into the lineup.
And the equipment and the styling was further evidence. The car took its design cues from the flagship S-Class. And one look will tell most how the next generation E-Class is going to look. With that said, our test vehicle was 4matic. That's Mercedes-speak for it had the automaker's latest generation of permanent all wheel drive systems sending 45 percent of the torque to the front wheels while the rest flowed to the rear wheels.
This Baby Benz had outgrown its four cylinder powerplant, too. It had aV6 engine that made 228 horsepower and a healthy 300 pounds-feet of torque. The engine was mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission that shifted as smoothly as silk is to the touch. Once it was past second gear, the shifts couldn't be felt.
Acceleration was smooth, handling was precise, U-turns were compact, parking was easy and the sight lines were clear, not even the A-pillar obstructed the view. There was acceptable room in the back seat and obviously the front seats weren't bad.
The power front seats had manual lumbar supports and were quite comfortable. For $34,840, the C300 4matic wasn't a bad buy. But options and shipping pushed the total price of our test vehicle to $45,535. That didn't seem like entry level so we paid close attention to what you get for the bucks.
The panorama roof looked great but alas most folks rarely have anyone in the rear seats. Get a regular sunroof which is standard and save the $1,000 cost of a glass roof which very few people are going to enjoy.
The Premium II package featured satellite radio, heated front seats, Bi-Xenon headlamps, heated washers and cornering lights. There were also split folding rear seats, a garage doors opener, auto dimming and power folding mirrors, rains sensing wipers and a power rear window shade.
However, $260 for a luxury sedan package the included the Mercedes star on the hood, alloy wheels, all-seasonal tires and burl walnut trim seemed a bit much. Still, there was the Multimedia Package (320) that included --what else - media. A hard drive based six disc CD changer, a premium surround sound system, voice controls and a PCMCIA slot.
All of these goodies made the C300 seem special; like the compact luxury sedan that it was. However, we did have one compliant. We never figured out how to engage Bluetooth, the technology that converts compatible cell phones into hands free car phones. That's even after opening the owner's manual. That old axiom of keep it simple is true.
Still, the C300 is all grown up. It looks like a Mercedes-Benz, drives like a Mercedes-Benz and best of all it feels like a Mercedes-Benz.