After declaring the 2015 BMW 3 Series sedan the winner over the Audi A4, we are pitting it against its main competitor and the most popular luxury car in Australia in 2013, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But we’d also like to throw another car into the mix that we and other experts agree is a worthy competitor to these two, the Volvo S60.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class, BMW 3 Series, and Volvo S60 all have several sedan models to choose from, with the former having the most options, the latter having the least, and the C-Class fitting in somewhere in the middle. Roughly half of C-Class cars sold, however, are C250s, and this model competes directly with the 328i, so we’ll focus on these two sedans along with the similarly priced S60 T5 Luxury. Of the 3, the base BMW 3 Series price is the most expensive ($69,400), while the C250 starts at $68,990 and the S60 is $67,015 with a few upgrades.
Exterior and Styling
Each of these luxury sedans features sporty styling with bold, flowing lines. The C250 resembles its more expensive S-Class cousin, and we find it the most elegant-looking of the bunch. Along with its daytime running lights, the S60’s wider grille and bonnet styling give a bolder and more muscular (yet still elegant) look. And extended lines add to the dynamic appearance of the 3 Series with its classic long bonnet and wheelbase.
Interior and Comfort
Inside, the S60 offers an impressive combination of technology, luxury, and comfort. Quality leather is complemented by either wood, graphite, or aluminum trim, and a 7-inch infotainment display is positioned nicely in the dash. When it comes to displays, though, there’s nothing better than the 3 Series iDrive system with an 8.8-inch display that rises up from the console. Shortcut buttons and an intuitive rotate-and-click dial make iDrive extremely user friendly. Though not as impressive, the C-Class offers either a 7 or 8.4-inch display with a command display that’s similar to the technology used in iPads. Where the C-Class excels though, is with its beautifully crafted interior that’s a step above the S60 and 3. From the leather to the veneers to the metals, it offers superb luxury and comfort. All 3 sedans are comfortable in the rear seat, with the BMW having the least amount of headroom.
Under the Bonnet
All 3 of these luxury sedans have a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. The S60 and 3 Series, however, have an 8-speed transmission to the C-Class’s 7, and at 180 kW are 25 kW more powerful than the Mercedes as well. With a 0-100 Km/hr time of 5.9 seconds, the 3 Series is the fastest of the group, while the Benz is the slowest at 6.6. The C250, though, does boast the best fuel efficiency by a slim margin (6.0 L/100Km compared to 6.3 and 6.4).
On the Road
The Volvo is the only front-wheel drive car of the three. Its grippy tires and linear steering make for good handling around corners, although it does have some jiggling issues. The C-Class’s standard suspension is a bit shaky and quite noisy as well, but upgrading to the Airmatic suspension for $2,490 turns it into a much quieter ride that handles bumps significantly better. No matter which suspension it’s outfitted with, the C-Class offers precise handling. However, the star of this show is the BMW when fitted with the $2,200 Adaptive M Suspension upgrade, which offers superb driving dynamics.
Like the S60, the C250 is equipped with a radar cruise control system, but it also adds hands-free steering assist (among many other features). The BMW has some nice safety features as well, but the Volvo is the more worthy foe in this area. One feature it possesses that the others don’t is a camera that reads speed limit postings and relays them to the instrument panel.
The S60 holds its own with the other two very popular models. It has a more luxurious and comfortable interior than the 3 Series, and is pretty much on par with the C-Class when it comes to ride and handling. Though the BMW can’t be beat when it comes to performance and handling, we give the Benz the slight edge here due to its unmatched interior quality, impressive tech, and long list of features.