Handling, Ride & Braking

More a cruiser than a corner-carver, the C300 handles OK. Despite our tester's sport-tuned suspension, midcorner body roll can become intrusive, and the Continental ContiProContact all-season tires lose their grip quickly. Once unsettled, the C300 plows early and often, with too much nose-heavy understeer for a car with rear-drive roots.

The steering wheel turns with a light touch at low speeds but firms up over switchbacks and during evasive maneuvers, delivering satisfying weight and good turn-in precision over quick cuts left and right. Curiously, prolonged turns Ч sweeping curves, highway cloverleaves Ч leave something to be desired. There's too much power assist, lending sloppy, tentative steering motions. Mercedes says the drivetrain's Sport mode enhances steering feel, but I noticed little difference. Probably of greater influence is the Dynamic Handling Package, which is optional on rear-wheel-drive Sport models. It includes an adaptive suspension and quicker steering ratio. The C63 AMG, with unique suspension and steering tuning, handles better, but when I drove one last year I noted a wee bit more steering slop than the segment's performance leader Ч the BMW M3 Ч exhibits. Slap on all the performance add-ons you want: A car's pedigree is hard to shake.

Ride comfort with our tester's 17-inch wheels was good; it could be even better with the C300 Luxury's regular suspension tuning. The C300 Sport's setup allows sufficient road feel but soaks up most bumps with muted ka-thuds. In this class, sport packages can render some pretty firm rides Ч the 3 Series and Infiniti G37 both exhibit this. It's clear Mercedes butters its bread on the comfort side.

One of our editors observed some odd body motions at highway speeds. The effect makes it feel as if the car hasn't settled in yet. I noticed a slight bit of this at low speeds, in a C63 AMG we evaluated last year. Go figure. Either way, it's disconcerting.

Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes are standard, with cross-drilled front rotors on Sport models. The pedal feels a bit mushy, however; others in this class have more definitive pedal feel. The C63 AMG has larger discs with beefier calipers; in our test car last year, the effect made for a much grabbier pedal.

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