And the age-old civil war continues! The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series have been forged in a war since they came into existence. But the civil war had always been a one-sided battle! You see, the Merc has always catered to the chauffeur-driven audience, while the Beemer had been crowned as the ultimate sports sedan.
Things were a little sorted back then, as it was easy to crown the BMW for its driving dynamics and the Merc for its sheer opulence. But times have changed, and these saloons are now better than ever! The C-Class received a minor facelift last year with a new range-topping C300d variant. To spruce things up a bit, BMW launched the 7th generation 3 Series this year.
So, in essence, these are all-new sedans. And things are harder for us this time around as BMW has upped the ante in terms of luxury while the Ingolstadt-based carmaker has ensured the C300d is no slouch when it comes to driving dynamics. So, naturally, we grabbed the keys of both for our BMW 3 Series vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class comparison.
Since most of the buyers will be inclined towards the diesel, we grabbed the Mercedes-Benz C300d and the BMW 320d in Luxury-Line variant for this comparison. Only the petrol-powered BMW – the 330i, that is – is available with the range-topping M moniker. Therefore, the one you see here is, in fact, lower-specced than the 330i.
Out of all newer-generation BMWs, the 3 Series looks the most sorted out. And that’s all due to the fact that the overdone grille – which is a lot bigger on the 7s – suits the 3 and certainly makes it stand out. The grille also packs in active aero tech, for the vents close and open for engine cooling. The L-shaped lights look classy but can be easily mistaken for any other new-generation BMW.
In this comparison, Mercedes-Benz C-Class easily trumps the BMW in the looks department. Sure, the design is a little older in comparison to the BMW, but the C300d exudes that sporty character with chunkier rubber, bigger alloys and a better-balanced design. The lines are much sharper here, and boy those alloys just mean business.
The same can be said for the interiors as well! Step inside the cabin, and you cannot claim the Mercedes is five years elder than the 3. The fit-and-finish and the detailing inside the cabin are commendable. It makes the driver feel special with the metal-finished switchgear, wood trimmings all around, piano black elements, and the nice chunky steering wheel.
In terms of equipment, you do get some niceties such as a dual-panel sunroof, electronically-adjustable steering wheel, rear-seat sun blinds, front memory seats, and multibeam headlamps.
Although it is a step up from its predecessor, the BMW’s cabin feels a bit underwhelming in comparison to the Mercedes. You sit facing two 12.3-inch digital displays – one for the instrument cluster and the other for the infotainment – in comparison to the Merc’s single non-touch display. The quality of materials and fit-and-finish is impeccable and the seats are now much more supportive. You also get an extra speaker here – 10 in comparison to Merc’s 9 – and certainly the clarity feels better too. Unfortunately, though, the gesture controls are missed on the 320d altogether.
Since the Beemer is now longer than the Mercedes, it has an added advantage to the rear. The rear passengers now sit in much more comfort in comparison to its predecessor. The space at the rear is, in fact, relatively more than the C300d. The seats, in itself, are much more comfortable and supportive. But it’s only a small difference, for you cannot go wrong with either if you plan to spread your legs while chauffeur-driven.
Engines and performance
Both these saloons are powered by a 2.0-litre diesel, but apart from this similarity, they are worlds apart. The C300d is BS-VI compliant, and in a higher state of tune than the 220d. It is capable of churning out 241bhp and a whopping 500Nm of torque. On the other hand, the 320d motor (BS-IV compliant) that propels in the Beemer is good for 188bhp and 400Nm of torque.
As suggested by its on-paper figures, the C300d feels punchier and meatier than the 3, right from the word get-go. Sure, the BMW is no slouch when it comes to outright acceleration. But in comparison to the Mercedes, it feels a bit underwhelming. Nevertheless, the gearbox on the BMW is much more responsive to inputs keeping the rev counter always in the right range.
Turbo lag is much more evident in the C-Class, for the 320d inside the hood of the BMW now uses a twin-turbo unit to mask that turbo lag. As a result, the power delivery is quite linear in the BMW. The C300d only comes in its true senses once you overcome that turbo lag, for when it becomes a beast leaving the 320d in the dust. In essence, the 300d is absolutely faster than the 320d.
Where the Merc loses its points, though, comes to the handling and weight of the steering. Sure, it’s much better-weighted than before, but the steering is not as direct as precise as the BMW.
It might be five years elder than the 3, but the Mercedes-Benz C300d feels much more premium and appealing than the BMW. It looks much better too! The 18-inch wheels that come with signature AMG alloys are much nicer than the puny 17-inchers from the BMW. From the looks part then, the C-Class surely trumps the 3.
Even when it comes to the interiors, the Mercedes-Benz packs a lot more technology and feel-good features. In the interior comparison, BMW 3 Series loses its points as the cabin feels simple and less exuberant than the C300d.
But the BMW plays the price card. You might be saving ₹2.84 lakh (ex-showroom difference) by opting for the BMW, but the Mercedes-Benz C300d is not only BS-VI compliant, but it also packs in a plethora of niceties over the BMW. And yet again, if diesel is not your default choice, you can always pick up the 330i with the M-Sport tag, for it’s the best driver’s car in the segment. But for this comparison, the crown goes to the Merc. To read our full BMW 3 Series vs Mercedes-Benz C-Class comparison, be sure to head over to autoX.