Choice can get confusing with the 2019 Mercedes C-Class. Engines, drivelines, suspensions, it’s all up for grabs.
Let us reassure you: any way you reach out of the C-Class bag, you’ll draw out winning ride and handling. Just prepare to be flattened if it’s the AMG card you draw.
We base our ratings on the most common versions of wide-ranging car lines such as the 2019 C-Class, so here it’s a 7, based on the C300 sedan, coupe, and convertible. Feel free to add a couple of points for either the C43 or C63. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Mercedes says it’s replaced as much as 50 percent of the C-Class in the 2019 model year. A lot of it’s invisible, but one of the more important changes is a new base engine. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 mirrors last year’s displacement, but with a more effective twin-scroll turbocharger, the new inline-4 develops 14 more horsepower, for a total of 241 hp. Torque stays at 273 pound-feet, and acceleration should remain the same at about 6.0 seconds to 60 mph.
Grunty and a little forward in its noise, the turbo-4 spools up to hit peak torque at low engine speeds in a way that’s completely familiar from last year’s model. It’s a lot to ask for the turbo-4 to clip off passes at 120 mph on the Autobahn, but ask we did-and it delivered. Top speed, we found out, arrives at 130 mph.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available. All C300s sport a 9-speed automatic with a knack for making the most of the turbo-4’s output. Paddle-shifted in sport mode or left to its own patterns in normal, the C300 has plenty of low-end boost and instant-on acceleration. It lacks the crackly AMG exhaust note and the high-revving frenzy, but pulls with a decent head of luxury-car steam.
We’ll have to wait for EPA official ratings to determine if the promised fuel-economy gains materialize.
Mercedes-AMG C43 and C63
Performance gains announce themselves on the uprated C43 AMG. Its replumbed twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine has stronger forced induction, for a total of 385 hp, up from 362 hp; torque stands still at 384 lb-ft. With typical V-6 grotty undertones and a lovely froth of AMG exhaust sounds up top, the C43 drops 0-60 mph times of about 4.5 seconds, but still stops at the 130-mph limit.
The C43 makes a convincing back-road weapon, with willing acceleration in nearly every one of its nine forward gears. It offsets its V-6 engine noise with the AMG whuffle, and splits its copious power to the rear with a 33/67 torque bias, then damps it across the rear wheels with electronic torque vectoring.
Any more, and you’re asking for the C63 AMG, due for a retune and a later model-year arrival (stay tuned for those impressions). In 469-hp or better yet, 503- C63 S trim, it’s a snarling, slightly bonkers offshoot of the C-Class that smokes tires like Jimmy Dean does sausages.
2019 C-Class ride and handling
The latest C-Class has nothing to fear from great-handling cars like the BMW 3-Series and Cadillac ATS. In peak form the AMG C-Class drives with brio and confidence that Mercedes has only channeled best in this latest generation of sedans.
Every C-Class has electric power steering. Even the C300 has quick programming and a precise feel that delivers real road feedback, whether the car’s driver-selectable modes default to comfort, or are tweaked into either of its sport modes.
Base cars come with steel coils and standard shocks, but the C-Class can be upfitted with adaptive dampers and air springs. It’s the ideal setup, one that gives the C300 a comfortable and smooth ride, and all but filters off body lean. The C300 can stay flat through very tight corners, even while it soaks up dints and dings or otherwise blemish-free roads. In generations past, the C-Class has let the base 3er outpoint it in road manners; this one gives up no ground.
AMG-fitted cars inhabit an entirely different world. The C43 AMG skips the air springs, mandates the adaptive shocks, and tells the all-wheel-drive system to send 33 percent of its power always to the front, 67 percent to the rear. If you think it’s formulatic, tap the start button and send the C43 on a lane-and-a-half-wide mission to sniff out the fastest route. With its upsized brakes, and sticky 19-inch wheels and tires, the C43 AMG crackles with most of the thrilling, power-down cornering baked into the C63 S. It’s a three-quarter step in the AMG direction, not a tentative half-step up from the C300.
In the 2018 model year Mercedes added a C350e plug-in hybrid to the C-Class family. It placed a a 60-kilowatt (80-horsepower) electric motor between the former 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine and an older 7-speed automatic transmission. Net power reached 275 hp. Mercedes will update this model sometime in the 2019 model year, and will likely add more battery capacity to boost the plug-in’s 9 miles of electric drive range, and with any luck, the combined 30-mpg fuel economy that barely nudged out the gas-engined C300.
Review continues below