The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C300 Wagon is annoying at times, for sure, but still a cut above

Ted LaturnusIf you’re like me, you miss the traditional station wagon. Especially if you grew up in the pre-SUV ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, when the family hauler of choice was a four-door wagon, often with a backward-facing, pop-up rear jump-seat at the very back for kids and pets.

In hindsight, probably not the safest vehicle on the road, but if you’re a boomer, you likely grew up with one of these and look in vain these days to find one at your local Ford, GM, or Chrysler dealership.

All is not lost, however. The 2018 Mercedes C300 4Matic is a prime example of the estate wagon and was, for my money, one of the sharpest-looking models to come out of Stuttgart.

A few specs. With a full-time automatic all-wheel-drive, the C300 wagon is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops some 241 horsepower. Think about it: a four-banger that develops 120 hp per litre. A far cry from the voraciously thirsty V8s and in-line sixes that used to power the wagons of our youth.

2018 Mercedes Benz C300 Wagon
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When I was a kid, we had a made-in-Oshawa 1956 Pontiac wagon powered by a 261 cubic inch in-line six that developed maybe 120 horsepower on a good day – a tough, dependable rig, no question, but appallingly inefficient and definitely environmentally unfriendly.

But I digress. As well as being propelled by arguably one of the most technologically advanced four-cylinder engines on the market, the C300 has a nine-speed automatic transmission and full-time all-wheel-drive. Again, our family Pontiac had a three-on-the-tree manual gearbox with a rear-drive differential the size of a basketball. So, as well as being comfortable, roomy, and nice to look at, the C300 has superb traction and roadability.

But this is definitely not your father’s station wagon, and all its state-of-the-art technology notwithstanding, the C300 wagon has some major irritations. Here they are:

  1. HVAC. The defogging system in the C300 is not up to the task of keeping everything crystal clear during a major snowstorm. If you didn’t use the A/C, the windshield would fog up in minutes, and the windshield defogger, while it worked well enough, only operated at full blast. Annoying. I found myself continually fiddling with and adjusting the HVAC system, which got irritating – not to mention distracting – after a while.
  2. Sound system. The Burmester sound system in the C300 is an exercise in frustration and has all the hallmarks of the old infuriating Becker systems that were standard issue in Mercedes in decades past. In other words, it’s too damn smart for its own good. There were times when I could not get a station because the tuner would insist on not recognizing it. Again, much fiddling around.
  3. Controls. The toilet lever shifter and door-mounted seat controls are counter-intuitive, in my opinion. You get used to them after a while, but they are not demonstrably superior to controls, switchgear etc., found in far less humble models from – oh – GM, Toyota or even Hyundai.

In short, although the C300 is a treat to drive once underway, it requires far too much input from the driver. This was supposed to be an upscale luxury car, but driving it is just as much work – if not more so – than piloting a Toyota Tercel.

All that said, it is a treat once underway. It has spectacular braking, world-class handling, and a decidedly European ride and feel that I find irresistible. Annoying at times, for sure, but still a cut above.

AT A GLANCE

Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Drive: AWD
Horsepower: 241 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque:  273 ft. lb @ 1300 – 4000 rpm
Price as tested: $56,865
Fuel Economy: 10.7 L /100 km (city) & 8.0 (hwy.) Regular fuel.

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

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