With the addition of a mid-size wagon to its lineup, Mercedes-Benz can now compete on equal footing with its Deutschland rivals, BMW and Audi.
The 2018 C 300 4MATIC Wagon (or Shooting Brake to the Europeans) is a premium mid-size all-wheel-drive wagon that helps redefine the segment and eviscerate the “wagon” stigma, which at one time was marginally less barbarous to a motoring enthusiast than that of a minivan.
Historically though, wagons were the family workhorse of choice before Lee Iacocca sped Chrysler down the golden highway of family transport in the Dodge Caravan.
Despite the exalted reverence for the minivan, I’m reminded of the wagon’s historical contribution to household transportation each time I sit before my laptop.
While this week’s test vehicle is a world away technologically from the friction-motor-powered 1961 Rambler Cross Country Wagon I enjoy before me, it makes me wonder why wagons lost their way with the motoring public. Well, wonder no more – they’re back and the C 300 version is brilliant.
It took a few drives for the true character of the Merc wagon to reveal itself, but I came away greatly impressed. Those favourable impressions started with outstanding attention to detail in the cabin.
Metal trim adorns many surfaces adding a sense of quality and precision. Open-grain wood appliques conjure up thoughts of old-world artistry in juxtapose to the cutting-edge technology it surrounds.
The latest version of the Mercedes-Benz Command Controller can be frustrating to acquaint oneself with; but if that’s the case, many functions are also served by direct access buttons.
Either way, it doesn’t take too long to adapt to the tech, which includes a multi-function touch pad hovering over a large scroll wheel.
One “less endearing” cabin quality – common among newer Mercedes-Benz products – is a high beltline, which leaves me feeling as though I’m sitting too low in the car, yet I like to think of myself as fairly tall – and really, who doesn’t?
Height, though, has little bearing on the enjoyment to be cultivated behind the wheel of the C 300 Shooting Brake, at the core of which is a powerful 2.0L turbocharged I-4 gas engine fused to a 9-speed automatic transmission.
The punchy mill effortlessly dispenses 241 horsepower accompanied by 273 lb-ft of torque, the latter of which is evident from just 1,300 RPM. Mercedes is using this engine quite broadly now, and it’s a gem.
The 4-banger is exceptionally refined, but just as importantly – and perhaps more so for enthusiasts – it’s remarkably responsive and powerful.
I pretty much guarantee that acceleration off-the-line exceeds what you, the informed Exhausted.ca reader, would expect.
It blew me away given that we’re talking about hauling a sizeable wagon off the line, not a lightweight sports car. Mercedes-Benz assigns a 0-100km/h time to the C 300 Wagon of just 6.1 seconds.
Think of that for a moment. A 2.0L 4-cylinder power plant hustling a mid-size luxury-liner to 100 km/h in basically six seconds.
Add to that impressive figure, fuel-economy ratings of 10.7L/100km in the City and 8.0L/100km on the highway, and there’s lots to like about the heat beneath the C 300’s sculpted hood.
The wagon is founded upon a chassis that must be similarly rigid to an iron anvil, and on which its sophisticated selective-damping multi-link suspension is affixed.
That combination had me searching for bumps in the road just to appreciate the vehicle’s ability to absorb abruptness without conveying it to the cabin in the way of thumps or shudders.
While it may not be the smoothest riding wagon on the market today, I’d argue that it’s one of the best when it comes to the vexing balance between ride quality and handling dynamics.
I threw the wagon into some challenging cornering exercises during which it exhibited no body roll whatsoever. A fraction of understeer therein felt just right while never compromising control. And may I remind, this is a wagon.
So, there you have it. The Mercedes-Benz C 300 Wagon is an amalgam of practicality, technology, and unexpectedly good performance in a vehicle that frankly looks far better than its sedan cousin.
While it temps with a reasonable entry price of $46 large, it should be noted that my tester rang in at $56,865 thanks largely to its Premium and Premium Plus option packages.
The secret, though, is that the base unit shares the same outstanding drivetrain and underpinnings as that of this week’s test model. Wink wink, nudge nudge.
2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon
Price as tested (before taxes): $56,865
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0L turbocharged I-4 / 9-speed automatic
Power/torque: 241 hp / 273 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 10.7, highway 8.0
Warranty (basic): 4 years / 80,000 km
Competitors: Audi A4 Allroad, BMW 3-Series Touring
- Cutting-edge technology
- Beautiful cabin
- Outstanding driving dynamics
- Makes me feel short
- Tech can be confounding