Premium compact car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,800 – $7,700*


1995 Mercedes-Benz C-Class 4-door


1995 Mercedes-Benz C36


1995 Mercedes-Benz C36


1997 Mercedes-Benz C-Class


1997 Mercedes-Benz C230

Pros:
  • Acceleration (C280, C36)
  • Antilock brakes
  • Steering/handling
Cons:
  • Wet-weather traction
  • Rear-seat room
  • Road noise

All told, we’ve been impressed with the C-Class. This sedan is well worth a look if you’re shopping in the luxury end of the compact-car league.

Overview

Mercedes-Benz sent its 190-series sedan into retirement after 1993, replacing it with a slightly larger C-Class sedan. Measuring 2.3 inches longer overall than the 190, and 1.2 inches wider, it rode a wheelbase one inch longer. The rear-wheel-drive, compact-size C-Class sedan came in two flavors. The C220 sedan used a 147-horsepower, 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine with dual camshafts. The C280 sedan held a 194-horsepower, 2.8-liter 6-cylinder engine, also with dual camshafts. All models came with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Dual airbags were installed, along with antilock all-disc braking. Traction control was an option on the C280, governing both the throttle and the brakes.

Yearly Updates

1995 C-Class
A new Electronic Traction System applied brakes to either drive wheel if slippage is noted, transferring more power to the opposite wheel. ETS replaced an automatic-locking differential on the C220’s option list. Acceleration Slip Control, a more advanced system that also employed throttle control, remained optional on the C280. This year, it gained a dashboard switch that permitted turning off the throttle-control portion, leaving only the braking function. A high-performance, limited-production C36 sedan debuted in spring of 1995 with a dual-cam 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine that made 268 horsepower. The C36 model also got a firmer sport suspension, 17-inch wheels and tires, and color-keyed exterior trim.
1996 C-Class
Except for a few new standard features, little changed for the third season of the Mercedes-Benz entry-level sedan.
1997 C-Class
A base C230 model with a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine replaced the C220. Horsepower rose only slightly, but torque grew from 155 to 162 pound-feet. A new 5-speed automatic transmission replaced the 4-speed unit, with adaptive electronic control that modifies shift action to match the operator’s driving style. The airbag system now includes a front-seat occupant detection sensor, which deactivates the passenger-side airbag if it detects a weight of less than 26 pounds on the seat.
1998 C-Class
The C-Class gets a host of revisions for 1998. Gone is the inline 6-cylinder in the C280, replaced by a V6 engine of the same displacement and horsepower rating. Also new is a high-performance model called the C43. It is powered by a 302-horsepower V8. Other changes include revised styling and a new “Smart-Key” anti-theft ignition system.
1999 C-Class
Changes included a new standard engine for the base model, standard traction control, and a new sport handling package on C230 models. The base engine was a supercharged version of the old and sported an additional 39 horsepower.
2000 C-Class
Automatic transmissions gained Touch Shift manual-shifting capability, with a separate gate. A telescoping steering column and antiskid control moved from optional to standard.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

All C-Class sedans had a 4-speed automatic transmission, but engine choices differed markedly. A dual-overhead cam, 2.2-liter 4-cylinder went into the C220, while a 2.8-liter 6-cylinder provided the power to the C280 sedan. Delivering a lot more get-up-and-go was the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine installed in the limited-edition C36, producing 268 horsepower. For 1997, a 2.3-liter engine replaced the 2.2-liter 4-cylinder, and all models got a 5-speed automatic transmission. In 1998, Mercedes replaced the C36 with an even hotter model called the C43. It sported a 4.3-liter V8 with 302 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque. Then in ’99, the base 2.3-liter was given a supercharger and an additional 39 horsepower.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.2/132
Engine HP 147
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 155
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic

23/29

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/140
Engine HP 148
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 162
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

23/30

Supercharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/140
Engine HP 185
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 200
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

22/29

22.8

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/173
Engine HP 194
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 199
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
19/26
20/27
19.2

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.6/220
Engine HP 268-276
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 284
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
18/22
18/24
19.7

ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/260
Engine HP 302
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 302
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

18/23

Road Test

Both the 4- and 6-cylinder engines are quiet and refined, even when pushed hard, but suffer rather leisurely acceleration from a standing start. Both of the 2001 V6 engines are quite smooth. The older engines do gather steam quickly and deliver strong passing power–especially the C280. A C280 sedan accelerated to 60 mph in a brief 8.3 seconds. The C320, introduced in 2001, did 0-60 in just 7.2 sec. The automatic transmission downshifts promptly to deliver passing power when it’s needed, though upshifts can feel sloppy during hard acceleration.

Steering response is excellent, and handling is balanced with fine grip through turns. You’ll feel most of the bumps in either of these cars, even though the firm suspension absorbs the worst of the impacts. Road noise intrudes on the pleasure, too–especially emanating from the rear tires.

Controls are laid out in a user-friendly manner, and you get a comfortable driving position. Though more spacious than its 190 predecessor, the C-Class isn’t exactly roomy. Tall drivers might lack sufficient head or leg room, even with the seat position considerably rearward. Moving the driver’s seat all the way back drastically cuts into rear leg space, which is only adequate even under the best conditions. Cargo space is good in a usefully square trunk, and an optional folding rear seatback provides extra space.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1996 Mercedes-Benz C280

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 3
30%
Ride Quality - 6
60%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 3
30%

Total: 46

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
105.9 177.4 67.7 56.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.7 16.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.2 37.0 41.5 32.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 C-Class 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 155
Injury 99
Theft 107

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Brake squeal at low speeds (under 10 mph) may activate the antilock brake system. (1994-97)
Dashboard lights
Description: The EC warning light may come on indicating loss of A/C refrigerant caused by a faulty refrigerant pressure sensor. (1997)
Fuel gauge
Description: Erroneous fuel-gauge readings are often due to a bad potentiometer on the fuel-level sensor. (1994-96)
Hard starting
Description: The starter may corrode due to the windshield water draining onto it. (1994-96)
Rough idle
Description: Mass airflow sensors (MAS) malfunction could cause a variety of performance problems including rough idle when cold and off-idle hesitation. (1994-2000)
Clock
Description: The clock on the C220 may reset itself when starting the engine due to a faulty instrument-cluster voltage regulator. (1994)

Recall History

1994 C220
Description: Cruise-control linkage may be inadequately lubricated, subject to binding, so throttle will not return to closed position when pedal is released.
1994-95 C220/C280, C36
Description: In minor frontal impact, hood-latch hook may not function properly as secondary safety catch.
1996 C280
Description: Drive-belt pulley of a few 6-cylinder engines can develop fatigue cracks and break; car would then lack engine cooling, battery charging, and/or power steering.
1998-99 w/Hoppecke battery
Description: Battery-maintenance schedule could be less than needed to maintain proper electrolyte levels. Low electrolyte levels could result in battery explosion.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.