Mercedes-Benz C250 Sedan & Coupe – Rental Car Review

November 8, 2012 2 By Tad Reeves

Mercedes-Benz C250 - in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

I recently rented, on separate trips, a Mercedes-Benz C250 sedan, and then later a Coupe, from my trusty friends at Enterprise Rent-a-Car.  Now, I had a ton of folks who saw the above photo I posted to Facebook say, “Wow!  Cool!  A Mercedes!”  However, I actually didn’t even find it to be superior to the Kia Optima I had rented previously, and I wanted to take some time and detail my thoughts on this car.

  • The Engine is a Joke:  In the name of efficiency, and also because BMW and Audi were doing it, Mercedes opted to replace the base 6-cylinder in the C300 with an all-new 201hp 1.9-liter, direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder.  In short, I think this engine absolutely doesn’t belong in a Mercedes.  Its character would be appropriate in maybe a Golf GTI or an old Saab, but not a new Mercedes.  My reasoning is that, whilst it does give impressive fuel economy for a mid-side sedan (I averaged 24mpg on mixed highway/city driving, and 33mpg on a 500mi stint of I-81 to Tennessee) it has some of the most non-linear power delivery I’ve seen since an old Volvo 740 turbo station wagon.  You step on the gas, and you get nothing, then a surge of power and clanky Volkswagen noises.  It makes it very difficult to modulate, like if the throttle is connected to a big rubber band.Case in point why that is out of character – in normal around-town driving in the rain, I tried to get through an intersection quickly.  Not flooring it, just goosing it enough to get through the intersection.  The car hesitated and so I gave it a bit more, and then all of the sudden, mid-corner, the boost comes on in a gear I didn’t expect, and the whole car starts power-sliding for about 8 feet to the side until the stability control kicked in.   Just not what I’d expect in a luxury sedan from Mercedes – I’d expect something a bit more refined and linear.

    I’m sure I’d have liked this engine a lot more if it had a stickshift, but connected to an automatic, it just does not feel like I’m driving a “luxury” vehicle.

  • The Ergonomics are a disaster:  There are two things I like about the C250 – the seats and the steering wheel – both of which feel lifted from an AMG machine.  The steering wheel is a flat-bottom unit that feels fantastic and just makes you want to – well – steer.  And the seats are bolstered well, but are comfortable for long cruises.Mercedes-Benz C250 gauges and interior

    The rest of the interior, though, was a poorly-thought-out mess:

  • No map lights:  In the sedan, there are no map lights.  So, when driving in the middle of the night, you need to illuminate the entire car in order to look at where you dropped your road trip snacks.   For some reason, the C250 coupe does have map lights, but they’re controlled through these microscopic buttons on the headliner that you literally almost have to stop your vehicle to locate.   It’s the little things like this that you notice on a road trip.
  • Terrible infotainment system:  The KOMMAND system for handling audio / phone / etc is a user-interface study in confusion.  It took me, who has spent years developing web user interfaces, about 30 mins to figure out how to hook up my phone via Bluetooth to the stereo, only to have it actually not work.  (I had to end up getting a 1/8” stereo jack to plug it in directly).  And while the stereo itself sounds great, good bass, good tweeters – the phone bluetooth audio connection makes telephone conversations almost useless.  Every call I made sounded worse than a McDonalds drive-through.   The infotainment system in my Honda not only is more visually pleasing, but is a snap to use even for novices and above all, actually workswith all of the bluetooth phones we have in the house.And for a car that I rented so that I could take a road trip, having the stereo and phone not work just makes me hate the whole car, if you know what I mean.
  • Gauges: The gauges are beautifully-styled but are tough to read, and the steering wheel obscures half of the tachometer.
  • Aaaaand….it broke down:  And, as fate had it, on my second C250 rental, I got a C250 coupe that evidently had an engine issue – or developed one.   I pulled into a rest stop for a break, then pulled back into the freeway – and while accelerating the check-engine light came on and, from the sounds of it, one of the cylinders stopped firing.   Naturally, I panicked a bit, as I was driving through the least-populated area of Virginia at 10:30pm, and still had another 5 hours of driving before hitting Knoxville.  Luckily I was able to reach the Enterprise location at Roanoke Airport, and was able to limp there 10 mins before they closed.  They of course switched me out to a different car with no questions asked.

But with the above, you can understand now why I have a funny look on my face when folks say, “Ohhh…Mercedes!  Nice rental, man!”  If you get this one as a choice for a road trip, I’d suggest taking something else.