(Full Disclosure: I drove these cars. They're not mine. I won't be using the x/10 model to describe them.)
The 3-Series is the benchmark of the luxury sport sedan market. Many automakers try to copy and counter with their own similar creations, yet they usually all come up short. The Audi A4, the Cadillac ATS, and of course, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class are perfect examples of 3-Series competitors. The All-Wheel-Drive variants you see here are direct competitors, and are both wildly popular. I see maybe one or two RWD versions of the 328i a year, and I have never seen a RWD C-Class (that wasn't an AMG) where I live. Ever. Most dealerships don't even keep RWD cars on the lot in the northeast because no one would buy them. Shows how brainwashed America is when it comes to that kind of stuff. Whatever. Wow I really went off topic... Anyways... how do they stack up?
BMW: From the rear biased design to the signature kidney grilles, it screams classic BMW. A slight lip spoiler at the rear is a very nice touch. The 17 inch alloy wheels really highlight the design nicely. Before the facelift I disliked the rear light fixtures and split outline kidney grilles, but this facelifted model handles those issues nicely. The understated rear fender flares are my favorite part of the exterior as they really describe the sportiness of the car. An overall positive design in my eyes.
Merc: I love the C300's front end, the LED running lights are a huge plus, and make the car much more noticeable on the road. The dual exhausts and the alloy wheels give the Merc a very nice, sporty look. The chrome highlights that are placed around the exterior of the car help bring out the lines that make this car look good. My only problem with this car is with the look of the rear taillights. They seem too oversized and mis-shapened when compared to the rest of the car.
Both interiors here come with standard black leather and wood trim. BMW has a push-button start-stop button, which is more convenient then the Merc's weird (and ugly) turn-key fob. Although both cars use a good amount of plastic in their interiors, the BMW's buttons are much more solid and put-together then the Merc's, which felt loose and about to fall out at any moment. The Merc, however, has a nice color screen just for the satellite radio, while the BMW only has a small slice to display radio information. The standout part on both cars was the steering wheel. The Merc has an oversized, underweighted, thin steering wheel that isn't too much fun to use, while the BMW has a smaller, thicker, more comfortable wheel that is a joy to operate.
When in comes to engines, the BMW is equipped with a 3.0L straight six-cylinder engine that produces 230 horsepower and 200 LB/FT of torques (underrated as fuck). The Merc utilizes a 3.0L V6 that makes 228 horsepower and 221 LB/FT of torques. Oppo as a whole seems to prefer the straight six layout, and it's clear why. The power delivery and overall smoothness is miles better than the Merc's in almost every way, and and it helps with the balance of the car. The BMW gives effortless response through the gas pedal at almost every rpm, while the Merc needs to be pushed if you want to get responsive power out of it. Both cars are compliant off the line thanks to AWD.
Braking, Handling, and Ride
As far as braking goes, both cars are equally solid performers. Although the Merc has slightly longer pedal travel, if you stomp on the brakes they will stop the car. When it comes to the ride, however, they are completely different vehicles. The Merc has a shitload of body roll when pushed in the corners, while the BMW scoffs at most canyon runs and responds with good feedback and taught handling. The BMW also has great steering feel where the Merc just doesn't deliver. Sure, on the highway the Merc soaks up bumps, but the BMW does it just as well while also giving you buckets more performance.
The BMW's automatic is a 6-speed unit. It shifts fast enough for what you want, but isn't anything to write home about . The Merc's 'box is much of the same, but has seven gears instead of six. Both of these gearboxes have a normal mode and a "Sport" mode. In the BMW, the sport mode holds the gears longer and noticeably sharpens throttle response. In the Merc, the sport mode does nothing. At all. The BMW's manual shift option direction is the correct way (push forward to downshift, pulls towards you to upshift) which means it's much more fun because you can pretend to drive a racecar.
Both stereos are pretty good, but I don't listen to music/radio much, so I don't really care. The BMW straight six makes a phenomenal sound from 0-7000 rpm, and makes a nice low burble from the exhaust. The Merc is "meh" at all times except redline.
Depreciation is your friend. Why buy something new when you can get something better used? Also, the BMW averaged 19.6 mpg's with me, and the Merc got into the low twenties thanks to that seventh speed.
The BMW is the clear winner here. It's superior handling and power outclasses the Merc in almost every way. The BMW does everything the Merc does plus much more. This car in RWD/manual/M-Sport trim must be an astonishing car, because this one is simply amazing.
(All photos taken with Galaxy Note 2 except for that money one)