Used Vehicle Review: Mercedes-Benz C-Class, 2015-2018

Vehicle Type

Unique styling, an upscale cabin, a firm, quality feel, and pleasing performance and efficiency.

Luxury Car

History/Description

The latest-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class hit the market in 2014 for model year 2015, with sedan and coupe variants on offer. For this generation, the C-Class ditched the angular and chiseled shape of its predecessor, and adopted a more graceful and curvaceous body design language that’s common on many Mercedes models today.

Competing fiercely with the Audi A4, Lexus IS, BMW 3 Series, and others, the new-for-2015 C-Class offered up plenty of selection. In addition to coupe and sedan body styles, shoppers could specify numerous engine options and packages to suit their needs.

Feature content may include climate-controlled leather seating, automatic climate control, navigation, premium audio systems, high-performance lighting provisions, advanced safety systems, radar-guided cruise control, push-button ignition, parking assist, the COMAND central command controller, and plenty more.

Just note that C-Class Coupe followed a different timeline than the sedan models. In 2015, the C-Class Sedan was all-new, though the previous-generation C-Class Coupe carried on a few more years before the latest-generation Coupe hit the road for 2017. As such, this review will focus mostly on the 2015 and later C-Class Sedan, though some of the information below can be applied to the 2017 and later C-Class Coupe, too.

Engines/Trim

Look for a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine with 241 horsepower in the C300, and a 3.0-litre turbo V6 with 329 horsepower in the up-level C400. The C450 AMG arrived for 2016, packing a 362 horsepower 3.0-litre turbo V6. All units were fitted with all-wheel drive (AWD) and a seven-speed automatic with manual mode.

What Owners Like

Unique styling, an upscale cabin, a firm, quality feel, and pleasing performance and efficiency from both four- and six-cylinder powerplants were highly rated by owners of this generation of C-Class. Feature content fitting of a pricier luxury car available in this relatively affordable model was also appreciated. Ride comfort, handling, and a pleasant overall driving experience help round out the package.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes are few and far between, though some owners wish for an easier learning curve to the C-Class’s central command interface, and sportier models may be too rough and jarring on rougher surfaces for some driver’s tastes.

Pro Tip

This generation of C-Class has one of the lengthiest lists of recalls we’ve ever encountered – with no fewer than 16 recalls issued for problems ranging from melting starter system wiring to power steering failure to faulty seat bracket welds. Some recalls affected as few as 10 vehicles, though shoppers are advised to be triple-sure to work with a dealer to determine which, if any, recalls apply to the model they’re considering.

The dealer can look up the vehicle’s VIN number against the recall database, and will address any applicable safety-related issues, free of charge. As recalls deal with latent safety defects, having them completed as soon as possible is highly advised. Have the vehicle checked for recalls before you buy, though you’ll likely need the seller’s written permission (or to have them appear in person, with you, at the dealer) to have the information accessed. If this isn’t feasible, after buying the car, have a dealer check into any outstanding recalls ASAP.

Here’s Your Test Drive To-Do List

Unwanted Wind Noise

In this popular post on a Mercedes-Benz owner forum, instructions are outlined for fixing a potential issue with unwanted cabin wind noise, which may come from the front door area. If you detect any unwanted wind noise (howling, whistling) when the front doors are shut and windows are rolled up, a dealer may be able to adjust the front door fit and alignment, check the outer mirror, check the door seal area, install additional weather sealing, or even install new side windows as a solution.

Sunroof Shattering

The relatively well-documented issue of exploding or fly-away sunroof panels isn’t specific to Mercedes models in general, though numerous C-Class owners have reported issues with both on this generation. The cause isn’t totally understood, but numerous owners have reported problems with sunroofs that either shatter, or become separated from the vehicle and fly away at speed. This is the subject of one of the C-Class’s recalls, so be sure to have it investigated by a dealer for maximum peace of mind. A failed sunroof can cost thousands to repair and may not be covered by your insurance policy’s glass coverage.

Hard Shifting on Performance Models

Though information is fairly inconclusive, some owners of C450 AMG models with the higher-output V6 engine have reported issues with hard shifting or slipping of the transmission, particularly when entering or exiting second gear. In many cases, as is nearly universal with this issue in modern cars, the fix was a software update to the transmission’s computer brain, or a “hard reset” of the transmission electronics – both suggesting that the problem is electronic and not mechanical in nature.

Just a note: if you detect any funny business from the transmission in the C-Class you’re considering, be sure to have a dealer technician check into the problem, and do not attempt to resolve it by disconnecting and reconnecting the battery.

Connectivity

Spend a moment or two of your test drive confirming proper and complete Bluetooth connectivity, by trying both phone calls and media streaming. If the Bluetooth doesn’t work flawlessly, software updates (to the vehicle and/or your handset) may fix the problem. In other cases, a hard reset of the system is the answer.

Tires

Tire wear and tire life is subject to a range of variables, though shoppers are advised to fully check the condition of the tires on the C-Class they’re considering ahead of purchase, seeking a technician’s help if they’re unsure how. Replacement tires can be pricey on this car, especially on models with larger wheels and sportier tires – so know the replacement costs before you buy, and be sure to assume the unit you’re considering needs new rubber when setting your budget, until you confirm otherwise.

Mandatory: Electronics Checks

Spend as long as required to run every electronic feature in the C-Class you’re considering through its paces, ideally several times. This includes the full breadth of central command system functionalities; cruise control; all steering-wheel mounted controls; the climate control; the stereo (from all playback sources); all COMAND system dial positions and buttons; all door locks, window switches, and keyfobs; the Bluetooth connection; the parking assist system / back-up camera; and more. Issues have been reported with varying frequency across all of the above systems, so you’ll want to be sure everything is working properly before you buy.

Also Mandatory: Diagnostic Scan

Buying a used C-Class without a full diagnostic scan by a dealer technician is not advised. This quick computer scan can reveal hundreds of possible issues in the vehicle’s driveline and other electronics, saving you time, money, and headaches.

Other Useful Information

Maintain Your Warranty

There’s a good chance the C-Class you’re considering will still be covered by some remaining portion of the vehicle’s factory (powertrain) warranty when you buy it – provided that said warranty is still in good standing. To be sure that’s the case (and to avoid any unwanted surprises), be certain that all service records are up to date, including oil changes. Even a stretching of one oil change interval, or one skipped oil change, will compromise the warranty.

Also, be certain to confirm that the vehicle has never been modified with non-factory engine programming, possibly in the form of a “chip” or “tune” applied to turn up the boost from the turbocharger system for more power. Modifications like this by a previous owner will typically void remaining powertrain warranty coverage, even if the offending software/parts are removed before a warranty claim is made.

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO)

For several reasons, we’d strongly advise shoppers to consider a Certified Pre-Owned copy of a used C-Class from this generation. Typically, a CPO vehicle is fully inspected, updated, and reconditioned by the selling Mercedes dealer – adding more peace of mind for shoppers. Buying a CPO-certified C-Class likely means all maintenance work, recalls, and software updates are up to date, giving shoppers less to worry about. Further, CPO vehicles may come with extended warranty coverage and additional roadside assistance coverage, too.

Verdict

As is the case with so many luxury cars, a second-hand C-Class is a machine more likely to be enjoyed for its style, technology, and driving experience than low costs of ownership and worry-free operation. A long list of recalls and some well-documented issues just a few years into this generation’s life mean shoppers are strongly advised to opt for a CPO-certified model, and to budget for any extended warranty coverage available. During ownership, to maximize the value of any extended warranty coverage, be absolutely certain to stay on top of any and all required scheduled maintenance, too.

Crash Test Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick (2016–2017)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2015, with rear side airbags)

Extended warranty should be considered mandatory. 8/23/2018 6:28:00 AM