Take a quick glance at the exterior of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300, and you’d be forgiven for not spotting any conspicuous visual changes. Squint, and perhaps you might notice the revised shape of the bumpers, or the way the standard LEDs brighten up the head- and taillights at night. But that’s about it.
The choice to keep things similar is intentional, Mercedes says. Customers are happy with how the car looks, so why mess with success? Instead, Mercedes’ focus is to bring the 2019 C-Class up to the top of the tech heap, upgrading its electronics architecture to accommodate the latest and greatest safety features—with a few extra tricks added for good measure. Indeed, it might not look all that different, but the big deal here is that the C-Class is much smarter than before.
All of the intelligent drive features found on the S- and E-Class are now available on the smaller C. Semi-autonomous driving is enhanced by the use of GPS data, automatically adjusting speed for curves and intersections, while upgraded radar and camera systems keep an eye on traffic conditions ahead of and around the car. Active Lane Change Assist is also included—engage the turn signal while the system is operating, and it’ll change lanes for you, even leaving the turn signal on until the maneuver has been completed. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are also on hand. Even the climate control is now smarter courtesy of GPS, automatically recirculating the air when the car enters a tunnel and reverting to fresh air upon exit.
Inside, the changes are a little more obvious. Buyers can opt for an all-digital cluster that replaces the traditional speedo and tach with a 12.3-inch configurable display. In the center of the console, the “floating screen” is now a little less prominent. Going from a square shape to a squat rectangle makes it feel more harmonious and less of a tacked-on afterthought. It’s bigger now, too, with the standard screen measuring 7.0 inches and the upgraded display clocking in at 10.3 inches. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard across the board.
A redesigned steering wheel features the thumb pad controllers from the S- and E-Class, as well. Using little swipes, the driver can use the left one to change the info in the instrument cluster, and the right one to interact with the center display. Continuing with the tactile theme, the COMAND touchpad now offers haptic feedback.
The rest of the interior is a knockout, as it’s been since the C-Class debuted in 2015. My tester wears a domino-inspired scheme, with diamond-quilted white Nappa leather nestled in between swaths of black, part of the optional AMG Line package. And although some might admire the anthracite black open-pore wood trim, it looks a little too artificial and drab for my tastes. The warmth of the brown walnut wood is a much better complement.
In the 2019 C300—the base trim for U.S. buyers—a new 2.0 turbo-four makes 14 more horsepower than the old engine, for 255 hp, while torque stays steady at 273 lb-ft. Peak torque now arrives 500 rpm later at 1,800, likely contributing to the slight manufacturer-estimated dip in 0–60 to 5.9 seconds from 2018’s 5.8.
Part of the horsepower increase comes from how the new twin-scroll turbocharger gets its twist on. Instead of exhaust gases hitting the turbine all at once, it’s now divvied up into two cylinders at a time, providing a more even and metered flow of air. Think of it like blowing out candles on your birthday cake: A big heave of breath might have more power behind it, but it’s the controlled exhale that lasts longer.
The result is a happy little mill, delivering a healthy dose of grunt throughout the rev range with only small pockets of turbo lag on occasion. Even in the upper revs, Mercedes’ 2.0-liter retains its composure, avoiding the thrash and clatter that befalls other four-cylinders. Only at much higher speeds on the autobahn does the C300 begin to show any kind of strain.
Throw it into a corner, and the C300 quickly reminds you that it’s tuned for comfort, not agility, even with the suspension set to its Sport setting. Of course, if it’s more chutzpah you’re after, Mercedes offers the C-Class in C43 guise. And even though the nine-speed automatic delivers its gear changes in a mostly refined fashion, at times it was a little too eager to hold gears after a spirited start. Calm down, C300, I’m just leaving the mall at rush hour.
Speaking of malls, C300 can also notify you if it’s been broken into, or if someone smacks into it while it’s parked, and can similarly tell you if the vehicle is being towed. Details of the incident are beamed to the Mercedes Me app as well as displayed on the center display during startup. In the event of an impact, this optional system uses the accelerometer and anti-theft sensors to determine where the car was hit and indicates the area on an illustration within the alert. Assistance can be summoned if the damage interferes with driving. It’s also technically possible for the car’s cameras to record the incident, though current privacy laws prevent this part of the feature from being activated.
So although the C300 might not look that much different at first glance, the tech has taken a big leap forward. The 2019 C300 sedan will arrive on dealer lots later this year, joined once again by convertible and coupe versions. Pricing has yet to be announced, but expect a slight bump in starting MSRP from the 2018 models. All that new tech comes at a price, after all.
Photos of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 Cabriolet and 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 variants are featured in the gallery below.
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