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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Overview

More Power Makes for More Fun

Mercedes-Benz surprised a great number of people when it introduced its hatchback C-coupe to the U.S. market. While performance-oriented hatchbacks are hot commodities on the European continent, here in the States, they tend to be looked upon as overpriced economy cars. If ever there was a car that could change the perception of the average American, it is the C-Class coupe. With its swooping lines, aggressive wheels and $25K starting price, the C-coupe has already made great inroads with the buying public. But there are always those holdouts that demand more power and performance; for them, Mercedes has created an even better C-coupe, one saddled with a powerful V6 engine, a six-speed-manual transmission and a base price that remains well below $30K. With the introduction of the C320 coupe, Mercedes-Benz is sending a powerful message that it intends to stick behind its decision to bring fun, affordable coupes back into the U.S. market.

You're probably already familiar with the C320's little brother, the C230. The two cars share the same body and suspension, but the C320 comes with more standard features and of course the marvelously potent 3.2-liter V6 engine. With 215-horsepower and a terrifically linear torque curve, the C320 coupe can move in ways the C 230 only wishes for; and it does it without the constant whine of the supercharger. You might think that the added weight up front would somehow diminish the C's handling, but actually it feels better with the larger engine. The six-speed gearbox could do with a bit less travel in the shifter, something more akin to the boxes found in the Mazda Miata or Toyota Celica, but it gets the job done and we imagine the vast majority of C320's will go out the door armed with Mercedes' masterpiece transmission, the five-speed TouchShift automatic. The TouchShift features an adaptive brain that can adjust to your style of driving; it also allows you to shift gears without the aid of a clutch pedal by simply tapping the shift lever from side to side.

On the road, the C320 feels more solid, heavier and better connected than the lighter C 230. The C-Coupe's steering remains precise and centered, though some may find that the steering feels a bit heavy for fast back and forth action. Unlike other entry-level cars, the C320 comes standard with an advanced suspension that does a great job of keeping the truncated rear end in place. You can thank the sport suspension lifted from the C-Class sedan for this trick as well as the standard electronic stability program (ESP) and automatic slip control. You'll find that over both smooth and harsh pavement, the C320 delivers a firm ride that is controlled yet not overly rough, a formula that is well in line with its German heritage. Yet for all its ability to tackle twists and turns, the C320's most enjoyable attribute is its new found power; straight line acceleration is a blast and you'll find yourself needing to keep an eye on the speedometer as you can quickly overrun the legal speed limit in just seconds.

Inside, you'll find a comfortable set of sport bucket seats complete with fore and aft adjustable headrest and manual controls for the seat bottom angle and seat height adjustment; optional 10-way power seats can be ordered as part of an upgrade package. You'll likely find the C320's front seating to be comfortable and spacious, though the same cannot be said of the rear quarters, which are rather tight on both head and legroom. The rear seats do fold flat, creating a large cargo area easily accessible via the C320's wide rear hatch.

From the driver's seat, you'll find a very well appointed instrument panel complete with tachometer, trip computer and steering-wheel-mounted controls for the audio and information screens. Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and a safety system with front-side impact airbags and a side-airbag curtain.

The advantage of being a Mercedes comes into play once you start browsing the options list. There are not many competitors that can match the C320 for content, especially those in its price range. Where most rivals offer a single power glass moonroof, the C320 offers a panoramic two-piece glass roof the covers that entire passenger compartment. While some cars come with onboard trip computers, the C320 provides the added convenience of the Mercedes-Benz's COMMAND navigation and guidance control system. And for those who demand only the best, Mercedes offers the option of heated leather seats, rain sensing front wipers (there is no rear wiper), auto dimming rear and side-view mirrors, premium audio system and a voice controlled Motorola V60 phone.

Still think hatchbacks are only for economy cars?

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