2003 Mercedes Benz C 320 Coupe (451)


This week I tested the entry-level 2003 C Class, C 320 coupe. Someone asked me recently as people often do, “What car do you think is the Best”?

You know, that is a very difficult question. Sure I can easily respond, Ferrari, or Lamborghini of which I’ve owned and driven various models. But there are too many variables that go into the answer. Forget money or application of the car for your need and the answer gets easier. But that isn’t the real world, even in Hollywood or other places where lots of fast lane folks make quick money and spend it faster.

At the end of the day if I wanted an all around wonderful handling car that makes me feel secure and safe, instills confidence that it will run well for a long time, provide some prestige and pride of ownership I always come back to Mercedes. I’ve owned two of them and felt it provided an image of success.

Of course I was young and impressionable and agreed with the world’s view of success. Not true I’m happy to say. When daughter Jenny told me she wanted a bigger and better house because, as she said, “I feel bad when friends visit our little house”. I suggested that if she felt that way she needs new friends. You shouldn’t feel you are being judged on what you have, but rather for who you are. Where you live and what I drive shouldn’t be the benchmark of how successful you are or what a good person you are.

My friend Winston (not Churchell) says when we make it you’ll be riding in the Bentley. Somehow that speaks volumes on how important cars have become to defining our persona. Sad, eh?

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Germany

Class: – Compact

Cars: – C Class & Wagon, CL Class, CLK, E Class & Wagon, G Class, M, Class, S Class, SL Class & SLK.

Handling & Performance:

The C 320 resembles the parent but is still a scaled down version for entry into the world of Mercedes-Benz. Remember the Porsche 914? It was an attempt at making Porsche affordable. I think Mercedes has done a better job with a less expensive version. The Porsche 924 that followed wasn’t much better.

On another note I was a bit annoyed by the function of the gas pedal. You apply the gas and there is a pause before the engine gets the message.


Mercedes. What else needs to be said? Its design is distinctive and classy even on a miniature scale of this youthfully designed entry level Benz. Then there is a wide and complete progression of the Mercedes line. You can now enter the brand with relative affordability.

Fit and Finish:

Pretty representative of the breed.


The hatchback is good, if you like hatchbacks, but the rear window does not have a wiper, and that is NOT good. I can’t imagine how they missed the need for that.


You enter the MBZ world for about $28,000 and work your way up to over $125,000. Or you can buy 11 or12 Kia Spectra’s for the same money. Boy, that gives a whole other meaning to automotive transportation.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you will stretch, financially, for one of these and buy a junk for your spouse, you may want to consider two less expensive cars like the Kia Spectra.

The Competition: Hatchbacks

Mercedes-Benz C 320 $28,020, Honda Civic Si $19,000, Honda Insight $19-21,000, Hyundai Accent $10-11,000, Toyota Celica $17-22,000, Hyundai Elantra $13-14,000, Volkswagen New Beetle $15-18,000.

Good News:

Nice youthful styling, powerful, quality safety and design features.

Bad News:

No rear window wiper, odd controls for cruise & radio, difficult seat adjustment and funky gas pedal.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter 215 hp V6 engine, 6-speed manual trans, climate control, cloth upholstery, leather tilt and telescopic steering wheel with multi function controls and shift knob, cruise control, cassette radio, 3-way adjustable front seats, power windows, auto headlights, trip computer, 24 hour roadside assistance program, dual front and side airbags, antitheft alarm with engine immobilizer & anti tow, ESP Electronic Stability Program and anti slip regulation, 4-wheel power assist disc brake system. Options: Special paint, leather upgrade, 5-speed auto trans.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 25 Highway MPG.


MSRP plus options $31,440.

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