1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C280 (190)


The C-Class is the entry-level Mercedes-Benz, but how can you not love ‘em all. Perhaps my most memorable Mercedes experience was on the autobahns of Europe. I got so used to driving fast with confidence I wondered why we don’t have \”no speed limit\” freeways in this country.

The confidence I felt came from driving a car built to handle the \”no speed limit\” autobahns, plus the universally \”good\” drivers of Europe. The requirements to get a license in Europe are much more stringent than here in the U.S. And another observation I made was that three cars dominate the fast lane in Germany. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Porsche was hardly to be seen.

Not all European countries are as liberal with the speed laws as is Germany. I got nailed in Austria for speeding, and it wasn’t that I didn’t know there was a limit there, but rather because a Mercedes is so at home at high speeds you can easily forget how fast you’re going. And in the wide-open spaces Mercedes gives you that feeling of standing still at 70 mph. At 200 kilometers per hour or about 120 mph Mercedes-Benz really shines.

The C-Class was introduced in 1993 and it replaced the 190. It is available in two trims: C230 and C280 4-door sedans. The number simply indicates how big the engine is in liters, or in this case 2.8 liters. Mercedes have changed little in appearance over the years except for performance engineering. Perhaps that’s what I like about European cars. They avoid fashion changes and fads that might be ok in women’s fashions, but not as necessary to woo a man into buying or not buying a car. Apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates the same look from year-to-year that we get from cars like the Mercedes-Benz, because they sell tons of ‘em. Anyway one typical kind of change that Mercedes-Benz has made for 1998 is a sensor that de-activates the passenger airbag if the weight in the passenger seat is less than 26 pounds. That innovation will surely become a requirement on all cars to protect small children. SmartKey is another slick innovation in the new Mercedes that is perhaps the most unusual. It is an electronic space age device that looks a bit like the typical remote keyless entry controller without the notched metal key part. The plastic remote unit emits a radio frequency to lock and unlock doors, and a separate system to start the car. You insert the key fob into the slot on the dashboard and twist. An infrared beam electronically unlocks the steering column and starts the engine. Not all design innovations have been stellar from Stuttgart. I’ve owned two Mercedes and hated the airbag suspension design on the 300SEL but totally loved everything about the 450 SEL.

The Competition:

Acura TL $33,150, Audi A6 $33,750, Cadillac Catera $33,610, Infiniti I30 $31,500, Lexus ES 300 $30,790, Mazda Millenia $36,595, Mitsubishi Diamante $33,050, Volvo S70 $34,010.

I\’ve driven all and it would be a tough decision. Snob appeal would prompt buying the Mercedes. A sense of value would prompt buying the Volvo. My patriotic sense would prompt buying the Cadillac. My sense of risk would prompt buying the Audi, and my fondness for the Japanese people would prompt buying one of the others.

Good News:

Affordable (same pricing as 1997). First class engineering and solid construction. New V6 engine for American drivers. Back windows roll down all the way. Big trunk\’s low opening allows easy loading.

Bad News:

Not as roomy as much of the competition. Center rear seating is uncomfortable. Narrow rear doors make getting in and out difficult.

Standard Equipment:

2.8-liter V6 194 horsepower engine, 5-speed automatic trans, dual airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS), climate control, anti theft and remote entry system, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, side-impact protection, power windows, central locking, cruise control, 8-speaker sound system with cassette, burlwood trim, traction control and passenger weight sensor.

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 21 City and 27 Highway MPG.


MSRP is $ 35,400

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
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