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2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive

It's been four years since the Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan received a redesign and two years since the coupe and convertible had the same treatment. For 2019, all three body styles undergo a refresh to keep them competitive against some very strong rivals. We traveled to Germany to see what's been changed.

Incremental Improvements
The popular 2019 Mercedes-Benz C300 now produces 255 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That's an increase of 14 hp over the 2018 model, and the engine is still available in sedan, coupe and convertible body styles. All three come standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available at an additional cost. A step up from the C300 is the AMG C43 that gets a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 385 hp. That represents an increase of 23 hp over last year. All-wheel drive remains mandatory on all C43 models.

2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive

On the outside, the entire C-Class lineup receives some subtle styling revisions. The C300 models receive the diamond motif grille that was on last year's AMG C43 as standard. In return, the new C43 lineup gets a twin-louver grille on a more conventional mesh background. In addition, the front and rear bumpers have been resculpted, and the tailpipes are now round instead of oblique rectangles. The headlights and taillights are now all LED, and an ultra-wide high beam is available. New available aerodynamic wheels have the potential to incrementally improve fuel efficiency.

In keeping with the exterior, the C-Class interior gets a few upgrades. A digital instrument cluster is now available, but instead of the flat panel exhibited in Mercedes' more expensive models, this display is fitted behind a traditional twin-circle binnacle. A new steering wheel features the touch control pads and cruise control buttons from other Mercedes models. The standard 7-inch central infotainment screen remains, but a 10.3-inch screen replaces the previous 8.4-inch as the premium upgrade display.

2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive

Safer and More Secure
Less obvious but equally important, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class lineup has new and enhanced safety and security features. Camera and radar systems have increased range to react better to changing conditions as well as support a low-level automated driving system. Related to that is Active Lane Change Assist that automatically performs a lane change when the turn signal is activated and a suitable space in the intended lane is open. The adaptive cruise control system incorporates map data to slow the vehicle when approaching a curve then accelerate once the road straightens, just as most human drivers do.

Enhancing the existing Attention Assist feature that ensures the driver is alert behind the wheel is an Active Emergency Stop system. If the driver does not respond to the visual and audio alerts, the vehicle will automatically activate the hazard lights and slow to a stop in its lane.

The Mercedes Me phone app also gets some notable upgrades. In addition to basic functions and remote start, a new notification system alerts you if your C-Class is damaged while parked. The system is also capable of sending a picture of the vehicle that caused the damage. These features will be offered later in the production run and will be subject to privacy laws and regulations.

2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class First Drive

The Song Remains the Same
None of the above revisions and enhancements do much to change the overall experience of the 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and that's a good thing. Whether you opt for the base C300 or the more powerful AMG C43, you'll be treated to a comfortable ride quality and more power than the typical driver desires. On the picturesque switchbacks of Western Germany, the C-Class sedan cornered with confidence-inspiring ease. On the unrestricted sections of the autobahn, the C-Class rocketed to 120 mph-plus speeds with mundanity of U.S. freeway speeds in lesser cars.

The interior remains pleasantly fashionable with controls that are easy to operate. Just as before, these Mercedes models compete against the BMW 3 and 4 Series as well as the Audi A4 and A5. The C-Class maintains its position in this class as the more luxury-oriented choice against the more athletic BMWs, while the Audi largely splits the difference and adds more high-tech features.

Deciding between any of these German sedans, coupes and convertibles will depend more on your personal preference than any objective differences. You can see for yourself when the refreshed 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class models arrive in showrooms at the end of this year.