- Capable handling from Sport models
- Firm, comfortable front seats
- Styling has been significantly improved
- Steering feels too light
- Materials not up to our tester’s $45,000 sticker price
- Excessive interior noise
Competes With: BMW 335i, Infiniti G35 Sport, Lexus IS 350
Test Drive: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport Sedan
If you’re like any number of people in the work force, you find your days increasingly filled with work obligations surrounded by hours frustrated in congested traffic. When you’re not at work, you’re thinking about work, leaving precious little time to focus on the things that really matter. It sounds and is indeed a bit overwhelming, which makes it all the more important to occasionally treat yourself to a reward for your dedication and sacrifice.
One solution is to buy a new car, one that promises to offer the comfort and convenience you long for during that stressful commute, along with a sporting character that will serve up some fun on the weekends. A possible example is the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C350, a luxury sport sedan intended to provide equal parts coddling and excitement. But with an as-tested price approaching $45,000, paying for the Mercedes-Benz C350 entry-level four-door luxury car just might require even more overtime hours in that cubicle, and when compared with superior products such as the BMW 335i and the Lexus IS 350, the Mercedes-Benz C350 simply doesn’t live up to its promise.
Aside from the C63 AMG, the C350 Sport provides the most power you’ll get from a 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class model. The 3.5-liter V-6 puts out 268 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, and though those figures don’t measure up to offerings from BMW and Cadillac, they’re enough to make the C350 feel lively. Engine refinement could be improved under heavy acceleration, but that’s not a huge issue since the loud tires are certain to drown out any other unpleasant noises. On a more positive note, the Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport’s seven-speed automatic transmission offers quick and smooth shifts; click the gearbox into sport mode and you’ll hang out with the high revs a bit longer, or opt for the manual function to experience slightly delayed shifts.
As one editor commented after driving the Mercedes-Benz C350, “driving it is very nice.” Not exactly the kind of reaction you might hope for in a luxury-branded sedan with the word Sport in the name. Unfortunately, those few words succinctly describe how it feels to pilot this version of the redesigned C-Class: Perfectly average when compared to the boosted rush of a BMW 335i or the refined muscle of a Lexus IS 350.
Ride & Handling
Partially compensating for the ho-hum powertrain is the 2008 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport’s ride and handling package. With firmer tuning and a lowered ride height compared to Luxury variants, C-Class Sport models are designed to tackle twisty roads with a bit more athleticism. Mission accomplished. We put our test car through its paces on a variety of twisty roads and walked away impressed with the little Benz’s knack for carving corners. Body roll was nicely controlled, understeer was kept well under wraps, and the 17-inch tires offered a commendable level of grip. Rounding out the praiseworthy elements were brakes that were always at the ready to expedite a quick stop, regardless of how much abuse they might have endured.
On the other hand, the steering failed to elicit the same warm and fuzzy feelings. Several editors complained of the system’s light feel, expecting a greater degree of heft and responsiveness for a vehicle billed as a sport sedan. There were also rumblings about the suspension that while nicely dialed-in for aggressive runs, felt stiff during the daily slog in town.
Interior & Exterior
Finally, we get to the one area where our 2008 C350 Sport test car disappointed us the most – the interior. With the Mercedes-Benz badges, the $44,275 sticker price, and the car’s flashy looks, we somehow expected an interior at least as nice as you’d find in a Volkswagen, let alone a BMW or Cadillac. Instead, we were greeted by an abundance of hard plastics, a urethane rather than leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a general hodge-podge of varying materials and surfaces. As one editor noted, “The interior is a disaster, filled with plastics and rubberized textures that are shameful for this manufacturer.”
The layout and operation of primary controls didn’t help to improve the situation. Our test car’s navigation system, part of the optional Multimedia Package, lacked a touch-screen function and was viewed as somewhat gimmicky with its pop-up operation.
Next Page: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport Sedan Summary & Specifications
Read the Overview: 2008 Mercedes-Benz C-Class