The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is better than ever. Does anyone care?

Sports sedans are still some of the best cars to drive, even if fewer people than ever are buying them.

By Kunal Dsouza Wheels.ca

Feb 16, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated 7 months ago

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Recently I had the opportunity to drive the new Mercedes C-Class which has been completely redesigned for the 2022 model year. Apart from looking like a shrunken S-Class, I was reminded just how good new sport sedans are to drive. I also noticed that since it’s gone on sale I’ve only seen a handful on the road, where I can’t go a day without spotting a number of GLC and GLA crossovers. Not very long ago it was C-Class sales that helped Mercedes pay the bills but now most buyers enter the Mercedes world through a crossover.

Go back just 10 years and the hype train surrounding the arrival of a new C-Class, BMW 3 Series, or Audi A4 would have discussion forums and social media buzzing with anticipation. Now that the focus has shifted to crossovers and SUVs, all that anyone cares about is ground clearance, chunky tires, and third-row seating. Sleek and stealthy sport sedans have been replaced by tall, awkward, and bulbous SUVs.

And that makes me a bit sad because even though there’s more choice in the market than ever before, it just doesn’t feel that way. As a result fun sedans and luxury coupes are dwindling, and unless you have tons of money to spend what remains is merely a shadow of what it once was.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C300

2022 Mercedes-Benz C300

The C-Class is one of the original sport sedans. It's always been impeccably built and great to drive. The new one has an interior that looks like it can be dropped into a car worth twice as much. The gorgeous tablet-like screens have some of the best visuals I’ve seen yet and the ambient lighting will impress even the techiest of nerds.

You might argue that you can get a lot of this in a Mercedes GLC, but drive both back to back and there’s no argument as to which is the better vehicle. The C-Class isn’t just better looking; it’s better to drive, gets better fuel economy, and has roughly the same amount of room for 5 passengers. Sure, it falls short on cargo space but is that the only reason we’re buying cars today?

In almost every objective measure, then, the new C-Class is better than the GLC crossover and it would probably win most subjective tests too but better doesn’t always equal more sales. For every one C-Class sold in the U.S. and Canada, nearly 3 GLC crossovers find homes. And as GLC sales go up year after year, sales of the C-Class steadily decline.

This isn’t just happening at Mercedes. The sales numbers for the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 follow a similar pattern. And when something fails to sell, it’s not long for this world. For me, personally, it would be a sad day if Mercedes were to stop selling the C-Class or if BMW got rid of its 3-Series.

The last few cars I’ve owned were sports sedans. And until my garage can accommodate more than one car, I’ll probably keep buying them because they do it all. I also enjoy driving too much to succumb to the utilitarian temptations of a crossover.

In the decade that I’ve owned my current car, a BMW 3-Series, it’s carried my newborn son home from the hospital, helped us move more than once, and taken us to remote cottages in the middle of nowhere. Gravel roads, logging trails, snow-covered rural roads and highways, my little rear-wheel drive sedan has been through it all and never let me down. I’d be lying if I said that an SUV with its extra ground clearance and all-wheel drive wouldn’t have been better suited to some of those roads and conditions but I never found it a necessity. And on clear roads where 95 per cent of drivers do 95 per cent of their driving, sports sedans are vastly more fun and engaging than any SUV.

In the new Mercedes C-Class, I felt at home the second I buckled myself in. The firm and supportive driver’s seat hugs your torso in all the right places. All controls are easy to reach and the main screen is angled towards you delivering an excellent user experience. I don’t like that there’s no volume knob, and the recent trend toward capacitive touch buttons isn’t one that I can get fully behind just yet but those are fairly minor annoyances in the grand scheme.

2022 Mercedes-Benz C300
The biggest difference between driving a sedan and a crossover is evident from the first turn you make. The C-Class is planted and secure. You always feel in control and the way it responds to your inputs inspires confidence and more importantly, makes for an enjoyable driving experience.

In a crossover, you're a smaller part of the driving equation. In many of them, it feels like you're just along for the ride. And while that might be just fine for some, I think many have forgotten just how much driving joy they gave up when they made the switch away from a sedan into an SUV or crossover.

It’s a funny thing, though, because as the “affordable” sport sedans slowly disappear, the ones in the six-figure price range, like the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing and the latest iterations of the BMW M3 and M5 are some of the best examples the world has seen yet.

Curiously, as the transition to electric cars continues to unfold we’re seeing new sedans like the slippery Hyundai IONIQ 6 enter the market. EVs can be packaged completely differently than a gas car as they don’t have all those messy driveline bits to worry about. And since EVs need to be much more aerodynamic, the sedan has a clear advantage over a crossover.

In the meantime, there are still some great sport sedans out there, like the new C-Class. And if more people start to realize what they’ve been missing throughout the SUV boom, the sport sedan might just be due for a big comeback.


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