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On the Road: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300

Forbidden Fruit: Behind the wheel of a C300 4MATIC Wagon

Benjamin Hunting
Jun 21, 2018

Cast a stone in the parking lot of the closest golf course and you may, by some slim chance, bounce it off one of the handful of luxury wagons still available to the long-roof cognoscenti—the few, the proud, who snub the crossover straight jacket in favor of pairing handling and ease-of-parking with their need for practicality.

2018 mercedes benz c300 front fascia Photo 2/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Front Fascia

What you won't hit with your errant pebble—at least, not in the lower 48—is the Mercedes-Benz C300 wagon. While this family-friendly entry-level model is alive and well outside of the United States, the Silver Star's product planners have erased it from the American fleet, preferring instead to feed their largest export market a steady diet of Yank-friendly SUVs.

If you don't know what you're missing, it's hard to get all that worked up about it, which is why we felt it our mission to find out how good the family-friendly variant of the C-Class wagon truly is. After spending a week with this Deutschland-grown forbidden fruit in the frozen wastelands of Canada—briefly thawed by the country's too-short dalliance with summer weather—it's clear that its American absence is an oversight that's as regrettable as it is puzzling.

WHITHER CANADA?

Canada has traditionally been a fertile furrow for European wagons blowing in from across the Atlantic. It's hard to say why, although it may have to do with the indoctrination into the cult of the hatchback that occurs from a young age—frugal True Northers embrace often compact three- and five-doors in deference to the higher fuel prices that their American cousins won't tolerate.

2018 mercedes benz c300 driver seat Photo 6/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Driver Seat

When the C-Class wagon was announced a handful of years ago, its Canada-only status wasn't the only thing making it unique in the North American Mercedes-Benz lineup: it was also intended to come exclusively with a 2.1-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder engine. The crash-bang of Volkswagen's diesel nightmare put an end to that particular plan, and in fact delayed the entry of the C wagon into the Canadian market to the point where the 2017 model year was wiped from the books.

2018 mercedes benz c300 front bumper Photo 7/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Front Bumper

Now that it's here, the C300 retains its mono-drivetrain flavor; only this time it's a 2.0-liter turbo gas-fired four in place of the oil-burner. Rated at 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the unit is paired with a nine-speed automatic as well as standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Unlike its rival, the BMW 3 Series Touring, there are no fire-breathing upgrades to be had in the engine bay: this is a single-ticket ride.

TURBO-WAGON

Still, that snail-fed four-cylinder is far from a disappointment. During normal driving the 2.0-liter is just as effective in the wagon as it is in the sedan. In a straight line, its 6.1-second sprint to 60 mph is merely a few tenths slower than its four-door sibling. All-wheel drive ensures foul-weather stability, and the more aggressive suspension that came with our tester's Sport package upped the ante when asking the car to change direction in a timely manner.

What's most intriguing about the C300 wagon, however, is that it manages to deliver all of the above—essentially matching the comfortable, yet engaging driving experience of the C-Class sedan—while also leveling the board with SUV-levels of interior storage space. Although the 17 cubes of cargo room available with the rear seat up (and 53 when it's folded forward) fall just barely short of what's on offer in the GLC-Class crossover, the wagon still punches above a long list of people movers advertised for their luggage capacity.

2018 mercedes benz c300 rear hatch Photo 11/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Rear Hatch

In fact, it's no stretch to say that the C300 wagon includes everything that active families are looking for in a modestly-sized daily driver (ample interior room, all-wheel drive, the latest advanced safety technologies)—with none of what all but the very smallest subset of buyers don't particularly need (extra weight, cumbersome handing, thirstier fuel mileage, taller ride height).

BRING BACK THE BEST

It's no secret that wagons—at least, to most European car enthusiasts—are the favorite answer to the family car question, no matter how many blob-shaped rebuttals the SUV camp continually throws down from the lectern like some desperately showboating high school debate team.

2018 mercedes benz c300 engine bay Photo 12/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Engine Bay

The only mystery to be solved here is "why only Canada?" Saying that demand for these nearly-forgotten rides has ebbed into their obscurity is a self-defeating argument, as it's clearly impossible for customers to buy cars that don't exist on dealer lots.

Mercedes-Benz isn't the only automaker to have thinned its wagon herd in the United States (aside from the spectacular Mercedes-AMG E 63 S), but given how thoroughly excellent the C300 is at getting the job done—and how gorgeous it looks while doing it—it seems poised as perhaps the best hope the luxury market has for leading a long-roof revolution.

2018 mercedes benz c300 rear bumper Photo 19/19   |   2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Rear Bumper
By Benjamin Hunting
10 Articles

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