Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

If the lease on your Mercedes-Benz C350 4Matic sedan is coming due soon and you’re considering stepping into the all-new C400 4Matic sedan, here’s what you can expect: gutsier acceleration, improved fuel economy, superior handling, upgraded interior quality, a roomier cabin, a fancier infotainment system, more safety features, and a new exterior design that takes obvious styling cues from the swanky, top-of-the-line S-Class sedan.

Oh, yes, and a higher price tag. The base MSRP of the 2015 C400 is $51,400. $3,500 more than the base price of the C350 sedan that it replaces. A fully loaded C400 can go for over $65,000 before tax. That may seem high, but competitors like the BMW 335i xDrive and Audi S4 are similarly priced, properly equipped. And the C400 is a lot more car than the C350 was.

The C400 borrows styling themes from the S-Class sedan, but on a smaller scale.

First of all, it’s bigger and roomier. It is 94 mm longer and 41 mm wider with a 76 mm increase in the wheelbase, the C400 has a roomier cabin, particularly for rear seat passengers, and a larger trunk (481 L. For those who thought the previous C-Class sedan was too small and the current E-Class is too big, the new C-Class is an attractive compromise.

Though bigger, the new C-Class has lost about 100 kg due to the extensive use of aluminum in the body structure. That helps both performance and fuel economy. And as you might expect of a Mercedes, the body structure has been designed to meet the most stringent crash safety standards. However, as of this writing, neither the NHTSA nor IIHS have released crash results for the 2015 C-Class.

As mentioned, the design of the C400 borrows styling themes from the S-Class sedan, but on a smaller scale. The front of the C400 presents a somewhat aggressive face thanks to the large grille and prominent tri-star emblem, aggressive lower air dam and mesh grilles, and swept-back headlight covers with bright LED running lights. The body sides convey a more athletic message with a descending upper character line that emphasizes the hips over the rear wheels, giving the C400 a “ready to pounce” look. This blends in nicely with the rounded tail, wrap-over taillights, and integrated lip spoiler in the trunk. Personally, my favourite view of the C400 is from the rear three-quarter angle.

In Canada, the C400 comes standard with the sportier AMG styling package that includes 18-inch low-profile tires and AMG five-spoke alloys, a lowered suspension, distinctive AMG mesh air intakes, side sill panels, rear bumper air outlets, and rear diffuser. You also get perforated front brake rotors with Mercedes-Benz logos on the calipers.

But what about those headlights? The C400’s curved eye-brow LED daytime running lights are trendy in my opinion. My guess is that they will appear dated as newer headlight designs appear. But admittedly, Mercedes isn’t the only luxury manufacturer attempting to dazzle oncoming traffic with their LED running lights. 

The 2015 C400’s interior deserves special praise: the standard Avantgarde interior includes high-quality cabin materials such as genuine aluminum, realistic-looking glossy wood trim on the centre console and doors, and soft-touch plastic dashboard materials. The standard Artico simulated leather seats with contrasting stitching look and feel like the real thing (real leather is available as a $1,990 option), the large round air vents in the dash with aluminum trim add a sporty aeronautical theme, while the standalone iPad-like screen in the centre instrument panel and the new console-mounted COMAND controller with touchpad resemble contemporary computer and tablet designs.

The C400 driver faces an attractive new three-spoke electric tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with 12 buttons and shift paddles. Tasks such as making phone calls, changing radio stations, adjusting the volume, accessing vehicle information, and shifting gears can all be done without taking hands off the steering wheel. Behind the wheel, two brightly illuminated gauges border a new 5.5-inch colour display that includes useful information such as average fuel economy and driving range, digital speedometer, radio station, ECO driving score, driver-selectable performance and safety modes, outside temperature and time. The driver can switch between these selections using buttons on the steering wheel spokes.

Seating arrangements are first class: the C400 driver and front passenger have wonderfully supportive 16-way power front seats with generous side and thigh bolsters. The seats have power adjustments for recline, height, front cushion extension, head restraint height, and lumbar adjustment up-and-down and in-and-out. A tall padded armrest between the seats is handy for resting the right forearm and accessing the controller/touchpad.

By the way, an optional AMG interior package is available that includes sports seats with bigger side bolsters, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, stainless steel sport pedals, and stitched dashboard and door trim.

At the rear, the C400’s outboard rear seats are very comfortable but tall passengers might find that the panoramic sunroof surround intrudes on headroom. Sitting behind myself, I had about 50 mm of kneeroom and 25 mm of headroom. However, I found that the slope of the rear window frame required me to duck under to get in and out of the car. The centre rear seat is not as comfortable as the outer seats because the centre driveline tunnel between the rear seats requires the middle rear passenger to straddle the hump. Absent that middle passenger, the outboard passengers can make use of a centre folding armrest with a storage box and two flip-out cupholders.

For 2015, Mercedes’s upgraded COMAND infotainment system features a 7-inch stand-up screen, navigation system, internet browser and Mercedes-Benz apps, AM/FM/single CD player, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Note that the screen itself is larger than the 7-inch (measured diagonally) image, and with the optional navigation package, the image expands to 8.4 inches. The screen can display many functions including navigation, radio, telephone and vehicle menus and is controlled by controller dial and touchpad in the centre console, as well as by voice commands. With the driver’s right palm resting on the touchpad, the controller dial can be swiveled, pushed and pressed to move around screen, choose options and enter choices. It’s basically a car mouse. As well, a new touchpad allows limited writing, one letter at a time, to spell out instructions such as the name of a destination for the navigation system. The touchpad also allows the driver to pinch and swipe just like a smartphone or tablet. If mistakes are made, a Back button beside the controller returns to the previous screen or screens.

Interestingly, the driver can also access primary screen menus such as navigation, radio, media and telephone by pressing buttons on the lower console. At times, this can be more convenient than pushing and prodding the controller.

The C400’s standard audio system has 100 watts, five speakers, four mid-range speakers in the doors and one bass speaker in the footwell, but our test car had the optional Burmester surround sound system (included in the $4,500 Premium Package) with 590 watts (!) of power, a nine-channel DSP amplifier, and thirteen speakers including four mid-range speakers in the doors, four tweeters in the upper doors, three broadband speakers, one in the dashboard and two in the rear parcel shelf, and two front bass speakers in the front footwells. It almost seems too much stereo for a car, but considering everything else you get in the Premium Package, it seems like a good deal. I really enjoyed the expansive sound of the Burmester sound system particularly when I was alone and could turn up the music as loud as I wanted without feeling guilty about disturbing my neighbours.

Lower down on the centre console under the three large air vents are new bar-type toggle switches for the climate controls. Temperature, fan speed and ventilation choices are displayed in the COMAND screen above and can be adjusted using the controller as well as the physical buttons.

Just ahead of the controller is a pop-up lid that covers two cupholders – this certainly makes the console look better when the lid is closed. Under the padded centre armrest is a flock-lined storage bin with two USB slots and an SD card slot.

The C400’s roomy trunk has hideaway hinges and is fully lined but there is a lateral support beam under the parcel shelf which limits the height of objects pushed to the rear of the trunk. Levers on either side release the 40/20/40 split rear seatbacks to expand the load length but the seatbacks don’t fold entirely flat. Under the cargo floor is a tire inflator but no spare tire.

In the 2015 C-Class lineup, the C400 slots in between the entry-level C300 sedan, now with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine replacing a 3.5L V6, and the upcoming C450 AMG performance sedan with a 3.0L turbocharged V6 and the full-bore C63 AMG using a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 replacing the naturally aspirated 6.3L V8. All these cars have switched to smaller turbocharged engines to improve fuel economy without sacrificing horsepower and torque levels.

Powered by an all-new bi-turbocharged 3.0L V6 pumping out 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque (replacing the C350’s naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft) the C400 4Matic zips from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, almost a second faster than the C350. However, it’s the C400’s extra torque at lower engine revs (starting at just 1,600 rpm) that really improves the performance, noticeably when accelerating from a traffic light, zipping in and out of traffic, or merging onto the highway. Turbo lag is minimal: there’s not much hesitation before the power kicks in.

Even with all that extra power, the C400’s bi-turbo 3.0L V6 offers better fuel economy than its predecessor: EPA ratings are 11.2 city/8.1 hwy/9.8 combined. That’s better than major competitors such as the Audi S4, Lexus IS 350 AWD, Cadillac CTS AWD, and Volvo S60 AWD. Only the new Acura TLX AWD offers superior city and highway fuel economy ratings while the BMW 335i xDrive offers better highway fuel economy.

During my drive, I was seeing an average of 12.2 L/100 km probably because I was experimenting with the C400’s performance capabilities. The C400 uses premium grade gasoline.

Equipped with five driver-selectable (Agility Select) driving modes, Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, the C400 driver can choose the level of performance and fuel economy they desire. Each provides a packaged combination of throttle responsiveness, transmission shift timing, steering ratio, suspension stiffness, climate control operation and the automatic stop/start feature, except Individual mode, which allows the driver to pick and choose individual settings for engine, suspension and steering.

Heaven knows how many C400 owners will actually adjust these driving modes after the first week of owning the car – my guess is that most drivers will find their ideal setting and just leave it there. But for those who want to ramp up the performance now and again, they can switch from Comfort to Sport and discover a more exciting drive with quicker throttle response, delayed upshifts, and flatter cornering.

Drivers who want maximum comfort and fuel economy can choose Eco mode and experience smoother acceleration, delayed upshifts, a more comfortable ride, and reduced air conditioning operation. In everyday commutes, we found Comfort mode provided a comfortable ride and relaxed steering effort while still offering plenty of performance.

A pleasant surprise was how quickly, quietly and unobtrusively the C400’s automatic stop/start feature restarts the engine after automatically stopping it when stopped at traffic lights. In some other cars we’ve tested, the jolt when automatically restarting is a real annoyance. The C400’s stop/start system is comparatively smooth.

Returning for 2015 is Mercedes’s familiar 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission. In the C400 it delivers smooth, timely shifts that are barely felt in the cabin. In top gear, particularly in Eco mode, the tachometer reads just 1,600 rpm at a steady 100 km/h, perfect for quiet freeway cruising and maximum highway fuel economy. Paddle shifters are included behind the steering wheel for those who want to take control of the shifting, and this can be enjoyed the most in Sport+ mode where throttle responsiveness, suspension stiffness, and steering effort are geared to performance. We found that manual shifts can bring out the beast in the C400, but in automatic mode, the 7G-Tronic transmission performs almost as well without having to touch the paddles. It’s no dual-clutch transmission, however.

Most C400 drivers probably won’t notice the standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system, even in winter. It seamlessly transfers power to the wheels with the most traction, thereby assisting with traction as well as directional control. Add to that standard traction control and stability control and a good set of winter tires, and the C400 maintains a steady bearing on just about any plowed surface. Unplowed streets and snow berms however, may put up a stiff challenge to the C400’s low front spoiler.

With its larger and lighter unit body platform, and newly available air suspension with driver-adjustable performance settings, and low-profile 18-inch tires (225/45R18 front 245/40R18 rear), the C400 feels more nimble than the C350 did while being easy to drive with a firm, but not uncomfortable ride, minimal tire noise, and stable tracking at high speeds. A bonus of the Airmatic suspension is that it is self-leveling when there is a heavy load in the trunk.

To warn the driver of possible collisions and inadvertent lane changes, the C400 includes numerous standard safety alert features including Attention Assist (vibrates the steering wheel if the car wanders out of its lane), Passive Blind Spot Assist (audible warning of possible collision with car in blind spot), Adaptive Brake with Hold function (holds car in position with brake depressed), Collision Prevention Assist Plus (monitors the distance to the car ahead and will prime the brakes if a collision is imminent) and Pre-Safe (if collision imminent, it locks the doors, closes the sunroof, tightens the seatbelts).

The optional Intelligent Drive Package ($2,700) includes Pre-Safe Plus (prepares the vehicle for an imminent rear-end collision); Pre-Safe Brake (automatically brakes if a front collision is imminent); Distronic Plus with Steer Assist (follows other cars at a safe distance and take evasive action if a collision is detected); BAS Plus with cross-traffic assist (issues warning and brakes if rear traffic collisions are imminent); and Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist (gently steer the car back into its lane if incorrect lane changes are detected).

More useful in daily driving is standard Hill Start Assist, which prevents the C400 from rolling back on a hill, a rear-view camera for reversing into a parking spot, and Parktronic sensors which warn of obstacles behind and in front of the car when parking. The C400 is also available with a 360-degree top-down camera view and Active Parking Assist (part of the Premium Package), which can automatically parallel park the car when it has been positioned correctly ahead of the parking space.

Now with a level of quality, luxury and safety that challenges top-level luxury cars, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 provides a rewarding combination of performance, comfort, luxury and safety – but at a price.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 4Matic
Base Price $51,400
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,295
Price as Tested $58,295
Optional Equipment
$4,500 (Premium Package: COMAND online navigation with Mercedes-Benz apps, Burmester Surround Sound System, Sirius satellite radio, 360-degree top-down camera system, Parktronic with Active Parking Assist, Keyless Go, Integrated Garage Door Opener)