“Are you sure this is the entry level Mercedes?” a friend of mine asked as we were driving down the road.

“I know you drive a lot of cars and I can see how easy it would be for you to get it mixed up with a car you had last week or something,” he said.

“Not that I’m saying that you’re mixed up,” he pointed out. “I’m just saying that this doesn’t ride like any entry-level car I’ve ever been in. Heck, I’ve been in top-of-the-line luxury cars that didn’t have this much stuff.”

My friend likes stuff and he was very impressed with the amenities and features of the next generation 2008 Mercedes C300 sedan, which Mercedes just rolled out to its North American dealerships earlier this month.

He also has a knack for being sarcastic.

“So how many millions will this entry level Mercedes cost me?” he asked.

“It starts at $31,975 for the Sports Sedan, $33,675 for the Luxury Sedan,” I said. “As you can see, standard equipment on the rear-wheel drive, five-passenger sedan includes a power sunroof, eight-way power front seats with lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and a central controller with seven-inch screen to make it easier to adjust stereo, climate and navigation.

“The C300 is powered by a high-tech 3.0-liter V-6 engine featuring variable valve timing. The two C300 models deliver 228 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. torque. Mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, it uses either premium unleaded gasoline or E85 fuel while achieving an EPA fuel economy rating of 26 mpg highway.”

I thought I was going to have to pull over and give him CPR on the side of the road.

In addition to being sarcastic, my friend is also a tightwad.

“All this for less than $32,000?” my friend asked, as his hand reached up to clutch his chest.

“Well, the test vehicle we’re driving is equipped with the optional navigation system and the optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. But other than the optional features, yes, you get all that for less than $32,000,” I said.

I also pointed out that the new C-Class is 3.9-inches longer and 1.7 inches wider than the previous generation, which makes for a much roomier cabin with expanded shoulder and legroom.

The wheelbase has also been expanded by 1.8 inches, and as I demonstrated during our ride to lunch (which I bought again), ride and handling are exceptional. I also demonstrated the electronic controller, allowing him to change the radio stations on 100-watt Audio 20 sound system (an optional 450-watt harman/kardon LOGIC 7 audio system is available), and program the COMAND navigation system to provide us with turn-by-turn directions.

“I’m impressed,” my financially frugal friend said. “I still can’t believe this is an entry-level luxury sedan.”

I happen to agree. For those in the market for an entry-level luxury sedan, the new Mercedes C-Class must be added to the test drive list.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.