Entry level luxury cars are not a new concept. For years the top European, Japanese, and American manufacturers have tried to provide elegance, comfort, leading design, and competitive performance in packages that are not fiscally out of reach.
The difference today is that the actual luxury you can get in an entry level model is on a level that cars from 20 or even 15 years ago just couldn’t compete with. Due to manufacturing efficiency, entry level luxury cars don’t have to ‘cut corners’ like they used to.
A perfect example of this is the Mercedes Benz C300
The 2015 C300 is a master class in what an entry level luxury car should be. The Avant Garde interior, luxurious and quality trim, full featured navigation package, and bold exterior styling mean that the C300 is no longer just a Mercedes that more people can afford, but it is essentially a stripped down S-Class that still has the ability to turn heads and most importantly, make the driver smile.
Some might find it hard to believe that a C-Class Mercedes can approach the levels of its big brother. But consider this; the interior features the very same power seat and window configuration as the S-Class, the leather on the upholstery is above anything else in its price bracket, and there’s even the option to install the S-Class perfume sprayer for that luxury scent every time the car is driven. The C300 is head and shoulders above anything that Audi or BMW are doing. Put simply, it looks and feels just as a Mercedes Benz is supposed to.
Luxury cars have always meant luxury level performance, but now that the entry level European cars have to compete with some very potent Japanese competition, more attention than ever is being put towards the driving experience. The C300 is as much a luxury car as it is a powerful sports sedan.
The inline 4 cylinder engine is turbocharged to provide optimal performance without sacrificing efficiency. The 2L engine produces almost 250 horsepower, but more importantly it develops 273 lb-ft of torque at 1300rpm. Producing this much torque at the bottom end of the rev range means that the power is instantly accessible. Pick-up from any speed will never be a problem, allowing the C300 to feel like a much more powerful vehicle.
Special attention has been paid to the handling characteristics too. A luxury car should be comfortable for commuting and long haul journeys, but that doesn’t mean that owners don’t want to have some fun now and again. The Sport+ Air Suspension option provides an active suspension with comfort and sport modes, but even without the option the car is a cut above average ride quality.
The C300 is one of the best entry level luxury sedans on the market right now, and many would argue that it is the best. Whether it’s ‘affordable’ luxury or not, is a subjective issue. Quality used models, including those as late as 2012/13 can be had for less than $29,000, and a brand new 2015 model goes for a list price of only $10,000 more.
At these prices and with the level of quality that Mercedes is putting in to the C300, it looks set to take the fight to Audi and BMW for the all-important entry level top spot.