Mainstream automakers have pretty much given up on the station wagon segment in North America, which means this type of vehicle is now in the hands of the luxury brands. That’s too bad, because a wagon offers the driving feel of a car with the versatility of an SUV.
Case in point, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon, which competes with the BMW 3 Series Touring, the Audi A4 allroad and the Volvo V60. It has a powerful and fuel-efficient engine, all-wheel drive, plenty of cargo space and, above all this, it looks great. Why are so few people buying them?
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Well, the SUV equivalent at Mercedes-Benz is the GLC. It has a higher ground clearance, which means the driving position is elevated compared to the C-Class, and that’s definitely something shoppers consider. Otherwise, there isn’t much difference here, and both are equipped with pretty much the same all-wheel drive system, so there’s no true advantage between the two during our Canadian winters. And the base price difference is a hundred bucks.
Does the consumer think that at the same price point, an SUV offers better value? It shouldn’t.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon can do everything the sedan can, but with more cargo room for hauling stuff and/or the family pooch. It’s equipped with a turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Performance is brisk, take-offs are prompt, fuel consumption is low. We averaged 8.5 L/100 km during our test, which is a few tenths better than what we’d probably achieve in a GLC 300 4MATIC.
This is a smooth and refined engine, more so than the one Mercedes installs in the B-Class, the CLA and the GLA. A noticeable difference, actually, so if we’re wondering why we should spend extra coin for a C-Class or GLC instead of the three subcompacts mentioned above, here is one excellent reason. The C 300 Wagon offers good driving dynamics, but a creamy ride as well. Flipping the drive mode selector to Sport or Sport+ livens up the car’s throttle response, but most owners will likely leave the default Comfort mode on all the time.
The interior design is very tasteful, with a circular theme that includes round air vents and driver instrument pods. Some prefer an infotainment screen integrated into the centre stack, but the floating unit does look slick and modern. Personally, I love open-pore wood trim because it creates a more natural effect than glossy wood panelling or piano black plastic—in addition to concealing dust and fingerprints.
Overall, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon’s switchgear is straightforward, but we’ll sound like a broken record here and say that the COMAND infotainment system is a chore. The on-screen menus are poorly laid out and despite a multifunction knob on the centre console, it’s a distraction while driving. The navigation map is graphically clean, but again, using the system’s functionalities takes some getting used to. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is introducing the company’s new MBUX system, and let’s hope this one quickly expands throughout the product lineup.
It’s a compact-sized car, so rear-seat accommodations are tight for three, adequate for two. The optional panoramic sunroof is worthwhile for bringing extra sunlight into the cabin, but it doesn’t come cheap. Cargo space is rated at 490 litres with the rear seats up, the smallest of its segment. With the seats folded down, volume grows to a respectable 1510 litres, down compared to the 3 Series, but equal to the A4 allroad and better than in the V60.
Starting out at $46,000 before freight and delivery charges, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C 300 4MATIC Wagon does include a fair amount of features, but some more popular items can only be found in option packages. The $5,000 Premium package—a little pricey—adds the big sunroof, navigation, LED lighting, an intelligent key and a power tailgate, while the $2,300 Premium plus package—which must be combined to the Premium group—rounds up active park assist, rear-window sunshades, illuminated door sills and a 360-degree camera system. The open-pore wood trim is a steal at $250, and so is the heated steering wheel which costs the same. Asking $475 for satellite radio compatibility in a car of this price is offensive.
On other hand, its competitors aren’t more affordable with a similar level of equipment, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC certainly isn’t either. Note that for 2019, a Mercedes-AMG C 43 4MATIC wagon with 385 horsepower will be added to the lineup. That sounds pretty interesting.
Those in the mood for a C-Class have plenty of good reasons to choose the sedan, the coupe or the convertible, like their alluring shape, stout powertrain and prestige factor. Yet the wagon is the most versatile of the quarter, and will probably be the rarest too. Having a little exclusivity in a very popular model line is definitely a plus in our books. The C 300 wagon may not have much difficulty being a better choice than the aging 3 Series Touring, but has a hard time to justify itself over the A4 allroad and the all-new V60.