New vs Used: Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The C-Class is a stunning introduction to the Mercedes-Benz brand, but which is it better to buy new or used?

Elegant Choices

netcarshow.com | mbusa.com
netcarshow.com | mbusa.com

While the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is officially the brand’s entry-level car, the C-Class is probably the more common introduction buyers get. And like the rest of Mercedes’ lineup, the C-Class blends a high-end luxury experience with serious performance capabilities making for a great first impression. From potent powertrains to the latest in automotive technology, the C-Class feels more like a shrunk down S-Class than the “budget option” little brother.

Like all cars, and luxury offerings in particular, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class takes a decent hit in depreciation over its first few years on the road. So, even with today’s elevated used car prices, there’s still enough of a gap between new and used to make it well worth considering an older model. Below we’ll compare the 2016 C-Class with the current 2021 model to see which offers the better overall value for buyers.

Specs

2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2.0L I4 - netcarshow.com
2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2.0L I4 - netcarshow.com

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class offers multiple powertrains. The starting point is the C300 and it’s 2.0L four-cylinder making 241 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. Rear-wheel drive comes standard and gets 25 city and 34 highway mpg. Meanwhile, the optional 4Matic all-wheel drive version gets 24/31 mpg. Next is the C450 AMG. It comes with a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 producing 362 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel drive is standard here, and fuel economy comes in at 21/29 mpg. The AMG C 63 and AMG C 63 S carry a 4.0L turbocharged V8 making 469/503 horsepower and 479/516 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel drive is standard here too, and fuel economy identical between the two ad 18/25 mpg. A seven-speed automatic is standard all around.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2.0L I4 - carsforsale.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 2.0L I4 - carsforsale.com

The 2021 C-Class has a completely new roster of powertrains to consider. It too starts with the base C300, but now there’s a 2.0L turbo-four with 255 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy starts with the rear-wheel drive sedan at 27 city and 35 highway mpg and runs all the way down to the all-wheel drive cabriolet version at 22/30. (You’ll can get the 2021 with either RWD or optional AWD and in sedan, coupe, or cabriolet forms.) New up is the AMG C 43 with its 3.0L twin-turbo V6 producing 385 horsepower and 384 lb.-ft. The coupe and cabriolet get 19/27 mpg while the sedan nets 18/27 mpg. The top-of-the-line AMG C 63 and AMG C 63 S both carry a 4.0L twin-turbo V8 469/503 horsepower and 479/516 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy drops to 17/26 mpg for the sedan and coupe and slightly less for the cabriolet at 17/25 mpg. All configurations come with a nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters.

Driving & Performance

2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - netcarshow.com
2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - netcarshow.com

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a good exemplar for Mercedes blend of performance and luxury-level comfort. The base C300 is quick, if not blistering, and clearly a cut above most non-luxury options. The seven-speed automatic is smooth and decisive in its shifts, and the steering is accurate and appropriately weighty, even if feedback is more muted than in rivals from BMW or Audi. The AMGs provide a great boost in power, but even the mid-point C450 had plenty of oomph. The C450 is also perhaps the best middle ground when it comes to suspension tuning, with the C 63 and C 63 S on the stiff side. The optional air-suspension is highly recommended if you can find a used example with it equipped.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class - mbusa.com

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class builds on what made the 2016 model so good. The new C300 base engine feels even more powerful than the mere fourteen horsepower difference between it and the 2016 model would indicate. Sportier also, however, means stiffer and the C-Class feels distinctly less plush on the road than other Mercedes models. But even with the optional air-suspension having been dropped, the new coil-spring only set up is still impressive compared to non-luxury cars. Again, the mid-point car, in this case the AMG C 43, is the best balance between performance and ride comfort. In all, the upgraded engines in the new 2021 C-Class give it a slight edge over its older 2016-model competition.

Comfort & Interior

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is known for its stellar interior, and the 2016 model is no exception with its elegant design, high-grade materials, and loads of creature comforts. Indeed, the C-Class looks and feels more expensive than it actually is. Trim options include wood or aluminum flourishes along with optional ambient lighting. The seats are highly configurable and exceedingly comfortable, though rear-seat legroom can be tight for taller passengers. The 2016’s infotainment system and its COMAND software are decent but require a bit of a learning curve to navigate efficiently, especially with the rotary dial and touch pad interface. Thankfully, the 2016 model still retains physical buttons for HVAC and stereo controls.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class remains at the top of the segment in terms of interior quality. Materials are generally of a high quality, though you can find some swaths of hard plastic if you try. Unlike the 2016 model, in the 2021 nearly all physical buttons have been eliminated and their functions are now housed inside the new 10.25-inch touchscreen. Redundant controls on the steering wheel and a control dial offer flexibility when accessing the new MBUX system’s many features. Seating remains great, and the rear seat is just slightly roomier than before.

Trims & Features

2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 300 - carsforsale.com
2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 300 - carsforsale.com

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300 comes standard with a 7-inch digital display, dual-zone climate control, keyless ignition, power driver’s seat, and leatherette upholstery. The C450 adds Bluetooth, AMG adaptive sport suspension, and many additional options that include real leather upholstery, AIRMATIC air-suspension, AMG Performance sports seats, a Burmester premium stereo, ventilated front seats, adaptive LED headlights, a larger 8.4-inch infotainment screen, ambient lighting, surround camera, and parking assist.

2021 Mercedes-Benz C 300 - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz C 300 - mbusa.com

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300 also offers a generous array of standard features. These include a new 10.25-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, HD radio, two USB ports, dual-zone automatic climate control, hands-free trunk, heated power front seats, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. Standard safety equipment includes blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and driver attention monitoring. The AMG C 43 adds a sport tuned suspension, performance steering wheel, and optional performance exhaust, performance front seats, and performance data recording. The AMG C 63 and C 63 S add an AGM limited-slip differential, AMG sport exhaust, and the C 63 S get exclusive access to ceramic brakes and adjustable traction control.

Big Savings on Big Power

2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG C 450 - carsforsale.com
2016 Mercedes-Benz AMG C 450 - carsforsale.com

If you’ve ever dreamed of getting into a proper AMG Mercedes, the 2016 C-Class may be just the ticket. That’s because, though depreciation is shallower than it once was for used cars, this is still a luxury car and they still depreciate more than average. To wit: your average new 2021 C300 will run you between $45,000 and $50,000, depending on options. The 2016 C300 is, in today’s market, roughly $20,000 to $30,000. The latest 2021 AMG C 63 S is going to ring up at around $100,000. For a twin-turbo V8 AMG from just a few years back, the 2016 C 63 S is hovering just above $50,000. Is the price premium of 50 Gs worth buying a new AMG versus a lightly used one, almost surely not. Best of all, the AMG C 450 from 2016 runs about $35,000 for our pick as the best deal of the bunch.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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