If someone asked you to name a moderately priced, fun-to-drive, compact, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan, the BMW 328i would likely be the first vehicle that pops to mind. After that, other four-door models like the Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS250 and even the Audi A4 (if you are willing to accept its rear-bias all-wheel-drive system) would follow suit. The Mercedes-Benz C250 would eventually make the list, but that luxury-oriented sedan would likely be near the bottom.
To answer that question, we spent a full week with a 2013 C250 Sport that was fitted with a few choice options that bumped its athletic demeanor several notches, yet still kept its sticker price from hitting the stratosphere.
Mercedes-Benz launched the all-new third-generation C-Class (internal code W204) at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show for the 2008 model year. The four-door received a mid-cycle refresh in 2011 (shown at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show) that introduced a revised seven-speed gearbox and a refreshed, more upscale interior to better align it with its more expensive siblings. But that wasn't all, as Mercedes also treated its smallest sedan to a slew of exterior cosmetic enhancements, new driving assistance systems and next-generation telematics. The upgrades were comprehensive and very stylish, likely explaining why the Mars Red sedan in our driveway turned heads everywhere it went.
Added all up, this car's grand total was $42, 355.Our particular test car was a 2013 C250 Sedan with a base price of $36, 255 (including a $905 destination fee). Its most expensive option was the Dynamic Sport package ($3, 050), which added the unique seven split-spoke 18-inch wheels, AMG rear spoiler, sport seats in MB-Tex/Dinamica, red seat belts, red contrasting stitching, sport steering wheel, Advanced Agility Suspension and speed sensitive steering. The Premium 1 package ($2, 500) added Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, 10-way power driver's seat, power lumbar, power steering column, split-folding rear seats, Harmon-Kardon surround sound audio package and other enhancements. The remaining two options were the rear decklid spoiler ($300) and a special order fee ($250). Added all up, this car's grand total was $42, 355.
But our test car was missing a few desirable options. Had we added navigation ($2, 790) and xenon headlights ($1, 290), our price would have jumped to $46, 435 – that's a big jump over its base price.
While a swelling sticker price may push it near the top of the segment, its physical dimensions keep it at the bottom. The C-Class sedan has a 108.7 inch wheelbase, the shortest in its competitive grouping, and its overall length trails all of the others by an inch or two. While those tiny numbers won't really affect the ride and handling, they do translate to a slightly smaller passenger cabin, especially for those in the back seat.
During our week, not a single occupant complained about a lack of room.Yet during our week, not a single occupant complained about a lack of room. Even though some were rubbing their knees on the seatbacks, the passenger cabin of the baby Benz diverted everyone's attention with its sporty, yet tasteful, appointments. Everyone liked the bold red seatbelts and contrasting upholstery with subtle red stitching. There was just the right amount of bright aluminum trim splashed through the cabin to offset the heaviness of the black carpets, dash and headliner too. We especially liked the heavy-duty fabric floor mats with red piping, which proved very easy to clean.
With regards to the rest of the cabin, the door-mounted seat controls are handy and the large lock/unlock switches next to the door handles logically placed. The primary instruments, with light backgrounds, were easy to read and the steering wheel felt great in our hands. The climate controls were easy to use and the "max cool" and "off" buttons conveniently reduced the number of buttons we had to push. Praises aside, we still don't like the COMAND infotainment interface and its counterintuitive logic. And why is there a NAV button on the center stack when there is no navigation system?
With the exception of Lexus, which still holds out with a V6 in its entry-level sedan, most in the segment are running inline four-cylinder engines with forced induction. As such, the C250 is fitted with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder. The thoroughly modern aluminum engine is rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, making it slightly less powerful than the standard 2.5-liter six in the Lexus and the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder offered by BMW, Audi and Cadillac in the States. Bolted to the back of the longitudinally mounted engine is a seven-speed automatic transmission (7G-Tronic Plus) sending power to the rear wheels.
Sport activated, a full throttle launch will deliver 60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds.This is a good point to mention the "sport" button, found just above the driver's temperature control about mid-way up the center console. When activated (a red light on the silver face illuminates), the electronically controlled adaptive dampers firm up, the steering becomes heavier and the throttle response is quicker. Most importantly, the C250 launches from a stop in first gear instead of second. That little button is worth its weight in unobtainium, as it completely transforms the character of the sedan.
Sport activated, a full throttle launch will deliver 60 miles per hour in about 6.5 seconds, proving that the turbocharged four-banger works every bit as hard as its burlier rivals – it felt positively underrated from behind the wheel. Shifts from the automatic transmission were firm, maybe too firm for some, but those yearning for sport over luxury won't mind one bit. We liked the seven-cog gearbox, but found the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters a bit gimmicky as there isn't enough engine compression to use them for braking. Plus, their response to inputs was a bit lethargic.