2019 Mercedes C-Class Sedan vs. 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes C-Class Sedan have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes C-Class Sedan are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Active Brake Assist optional in the C-Class Sedan as “Superior.” The 3 Series Sedan scores at most only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

To help make backing safer, the C-Class Sedan’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The C-Class Sedan’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the C-Class Sedan and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Mercedes C-Class Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

C-Class Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

138

232

Neck Injury Risk

24%

36%

Neck Stress

203 lbs.

345 lbs.

Neck Compression

62 lbs.

113 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Mercedes C-Class Sedan is safer than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

C-Class Sedan

3 Series Sedan

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

161

549

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Femur Force R/L

1.2/1.3 kN

3.4/3.4 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.5/.43

.65/.82

Tibia forces R/L

2.8/2.4 kN

3.4/4.2 kN

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Mercedes C-Class Sedan is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

C-Class Sedan

3 Series Sedan

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

76

258

Chest Movement

1 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

147 G’s

232 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

17 inches

HIC

248

291

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

There are over 10 percent more Mercedes dealers than there are BMW dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the C-Class Sedan’s warranty.

Engine

The C-Class Sedan has more powerful engines than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

Horsepower

Torque

C 300 Sedan 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

255 HP

273 lbs.-ft.

AMG C 43 Sedan 3.0 turbo V6

385 HP

384 lbs.-ft.

320i 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

180 HP

200 lbs.-ft.

330i 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

248 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

340i 3.0 turbo 6 cyl.

322 HP

330 lbs.-ft.

Fuel Economy and Range

The C-Class Sedan has 2.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sedan Diesel’s standard fuel tank (17.4 vs. 15 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The C-Class Sedan has 1.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sedan’s standard fuel tank (17.4 vs. 15.8 gallons).

Transmission

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Mercedes C-Class Sedan, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the 3 Series Sedan.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the C-Class Sedan’s brake rotors are larger than those on the 3 Series Sedan:

 

C 300

AMG C 43

320i/330i

340i

Front Rotors

13 inches

14.2 inches

12.3 inches

13.4 inches

The C-Class Sedan stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

C-Class

3 Series

 

70 to 0 MPH

160 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

105 feet

115 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

The C-Class Sedan’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the C-Class Sedan’s wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer than on the 3 Series Sedan (111.8 inches vs. 110.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the C-Class Sedan is 1.7 inches wider in the front than the track on the 3 Series Sedan.

The C 300 Sedan handles at .91 G’s, while the 340i pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The C 300 Sedan executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the 330i (25.7 seconds @ .71 average G’s vs. 26.3 seconds @ .7 average G’s).

Chassis

The front grille of the C-Class Sedan uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The C-Class Sedan has .2 inches more front shoulder room and .1 inches more rear legroom than the 3 Series Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the C-Class Sedan offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button or just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than BMW. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 11% lower rating, BMW is ranked 8th.

Ergonomics

The C-Class Sedan has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

Unlike the driver-only memory system optional at extra cost in the 3 Series Sedan, the C-Class Sedan offers an optional passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat, steering wheel position and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The C-Class Sedan’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the C-Class Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the C-Class Sedan keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Model Availability

The Mercedes C-Class comes in coupe, convertible and sedan bodystyles; the BMW 3 Series isn’t available as a coupe or convertible.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the C-Class Sedan is less expensive to operate than the 3 Series Sedan because typical repairs cost much less on the C-Class Sedan than the 3 Series Sedan, including $85 less for a water pump, $55 less for front brake pads, $82 less for a starter, $143 less for fuel injection, $165 less for front struts and $796 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The C-Class Sedan was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2015. The 3 Series hasn’t been picked since 2014.

The Mercedes C-Class outsold the BMW 3 Series by 19% during the 2018 model year.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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