Nuts & Bolts

Overall reliability for the current C-Class has been average. In crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the car earned the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-crush tests, making it an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2010. Standard features include antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and nine airbags; click here for a full list. Seat-mounted airbags for the rear seats are optional, but the car secured its Top Safety Pick status without them.

The C300 Sport starts at $33,600 Ч at the high end of the segment, but it comes well-equipped. Standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, vinyl upholstery, eight-way power front seats, a moonroof and a CD stereo with an MP3 jack. The C300 Luxury runs $35,300; it has a standard automatic transmission, which costs $1,490 on the C300 Sport. All-wheel drive C300s command just over $37,000 in Sport or Luxury trim, but both include the automatic. The C350 starts at $39,750 and is available only with rear-wheel drive and the automatic. The same goes for the C63 AMG, which starts at $57,350 Ч plus a $2,100 gas-guzzler tax.

Climb the options ladder, and available features include a navigation system, genuine leather, additional power seat controls, full iPod compatibility, heated seats and a backup camera. Typical of Mercedes, some common luxury features are optional no matter how high you go: The C63, despite its near-$60,000 starting price, still upholsters its sport seats in vinyl Ч and charges extra for real cowhide. "Ridiculous" defined.

Check all the factory options, and the C63 can top out over $75,000. That's an eye-watering price, to be sure, but an M3 sedan loaded to the gunwales costs just as much.

    See also:

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    Important safety notes
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    Exterior & Styling
    Particularly from the rear, the GL's appearance looks a bit like Mercedes' original M-Class. The 21-inch wheels, oversized grille and chrome running boards on my test car gave it a look similar to ...