Sandwiched between the rear-wheel-drive C250 and C350 in Mercedes’ C-class sedan range, the C300 4MATIC functions in a narrow bandwidth and didn’t receive as much attention as the others when the lineup was refreshed for 2012. That changed for 2013, with a larger, more-powerful V-6 engine now standard that gives the car a more energetic feel on the road. Being the middle child is never easy.
Under the hood now lives a detuned version of the C350’s direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 making 248 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque, gains of 20 and 30, respectively, over the previous C300’s 3.0-liter. Mercedes’ seven-speed, torque-converter automatic transmission is standard, as is 4MATIC all-wheel drive, the latter only offered on this trim and accounting for about 150 of our example’s 3803 pounds. With our testing equipment aboard, the extra grunt helped spur the car to 60 mph in a respectable 6.2 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.8 at 97 mph.
We’ve yet to test a new 302-hp C350 sedan, but a comparable C350 4MATIC coupe ran the quarter in 14 flat and a lighter, 201-hp C250 sedan needed 15.2 seconds. (A 211-hp Audi A4 2.0T Quattro with 140 fewer pounds can do it in 14.9.)
But the lack of navigation or reverse aids of any kind for 45 grand is a serious omission, especially considering the three-pointed star on the grille. Optioning both would add nearly $4000 to the car’s bottom line, at which point its charm begins to fade in light of better overall alternatives, such as the surprisingly good 2014 Lexus IS350. Mercedes’ new, smaller CLA-class arrives this fall, too, aiming for many of the C’s current buyers. But a full update of the C-class is on the horizon, with the larger and likely pricier fifth-gen model arriving next year as a 2015 model. If you want a C, you might want to wait, but pulling the trigger now will at least get you a livelier C300 than before.