Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC

C300 v Taycan 4S - 3C300 v Taycan 4S - 4

With my Jeep in the shop this week,i I had some time in a dealership loaner car, a newer C300ii with just 12`000 km on the clock. Compared side-by-side with my electric steed Sparky iii – finally back from his own adventures in supply chain zaninessiv – the two white sedans struck a stark if sullied pose on my street.

One, the consummate symbol of forward-thinking inevitable technological progress city-car extravagance, which is dominance over other drivers on the road, especially those with lesser prestige cars.

The other, a timeless tribute to Teutonic sophistication brand dilution giving people what they want and little more, which is membership in the German car club. 

The C300 might not be as much of a “flexv but it’s actually a pretty great little car! Minus the undefeatable start-stop, it’s enjoyable enough, quiet enough, powerful enough, well-built enough, luxurious enough, spacious enough, techy enough, and just plain nice enough without being overbearing about it. Everybody knows that it’ll be a rusted-out shit-bucket in 10-15 years and that it’s a million miles from being  collectible” in any way, so no one really gives it a second glance, but that has an undeniable appeal in its own It costs about what a loaded Accord costs and gets about exactly as much attention while catering to people who prefer just that tenth of an iota of prestige from having something German in their driveway.

C300 v Taycan 4S - 1C300 v Taycan 4S - 2

Of course the Merc, unlike the Honda but almost certainly exactly like the Porsche, will be a disaster to own off-warranty,vii but for something to lease-and-replace every three years, the C300 is kinda the full meal deal.

And it’s a screaming bargain if you compare it to the lithium-powered flash that is Stuttgart’s first all-electric car. Delivering about 85% of the driving enjoyment 98% of the time with arguably little of the P-car’s unsociability and serviceability headaches  while getting TWICE the real-world driving range – all for a third of the price – and we have a pretty compelling value case on our hands. Indeed, there are massively diminishing returns to climbing the materially-driven social hierarchy and being contented with mere membership.viii But you knew that already, eh?

Or maybe I’m just projecting all this because I’ve just climbed all the ladders there are to climb in this little provincial outpost on the Canadian Prairies, and I’m now closer to Larry David than Jerry Seinfeld than I previously thought possible.ix I guess we can’t rule that out either.x

Oh well. There are worse fates than belonging.

___ ___ ___

  1. One new shock and one new ride height sensor under warranty, as well as one new spare tire cover from a little parking lot incident where someone backed into my parked behemoth with their Mazda CX-30. All these little things!
  2. “Pete you can’t review cars on this blog, you’re just supposed to talk about crypto and politics and travel and parenting and things!” Ahh my dear newbies. My sweet, sweet innocent newbies. Didn’t you know that this used to be a 100% car blog? Check the archives yo.
  3. Every Electric Monk needs an Electric Horse, don’t you know! Or at least a bored one…
  4. Two months to get a new heater! Not just any two months either, two months of -30C! The Taycan was therefore entirely unusable during this time so was left parked in the service centre at the local dealership. Once it came back, all was well! Until the app refused to start the car remotely…

    Indeed, being at the cutting edge has its challenges, but unlike the world of crypto, you really can’t troubleshoot anything yourself with these cars. “Right to repair” or not, with the 10 million lines of code, highly specialised diagnostic equipment, and scarce parts availability means that it’s the dealer’s way or the (side of the) highway. In this light, electric cars are very much the custodial wallets of automotive tech. Take that for what it’s worth.

  5. It’s interesting to think about what a “flex” is in practice. I currently see it falling into two broad categories: 1) membership and 2) dominance.

    Before we get to crypto art categorisations (inevitable on these pages), let’s use the red-hot wristwatch/timepiece market as a basis for understanding this framing of “flexing.” Membership is perhaps best seen with Rolex, the #1 brand of Swiss watches. They’re the most boring thing in the world for most buyers, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that they’re timelessly recognisable as a status symbol and a not terribly discreet demonstration that you’ve achieved a certain level of material success.

    Dominance is perhaps best seen with Greubel Forsey, which represent the most exhaustively finished movements and most sweated production techniques in the world, culminating in the Hand Made 1, which takes three years to manufacture… by hand!… but is recognisable by like 50 other people on the planet. If you know, you’re king shit. If you don’t, you’ll see a generically cool-looking watch.

    How do these two approaches differ in practice when it comes to crypto art? Well BAYC is Rolex: obvious and a bit crude but undeniably well-marketed, well-networked, and massively effective at making owners wealthier than they were before, not to mention a very effective marker of membership into a certain kind of club. Greubel Forsey on the other hand is (non-XCOPY) 1/1s, appreciated by cognoscenti and providing considerable personal enjoyment but of limited networking value, even if quite elevated in terms of cultural value.

    Financially, the former tends to outperform the latter. But why? Because we’re sociopolitical creatures and Metcalfe’s Law matters! Also in today’s fragmented, fractured, and atomised world – the New World especially – we’re all-too-often all-too-lonely. Great art is transcendent in a very personal, highly cultivated, and arguably very elite way, one that doesn’t typically translate to broader adoption. Fine art education is pretty rare in general but pretty damn uncorrelated with the newly minted millionaires and billionaires of the crypto-economy in particular, not to mention the tech economy more broadly. But is this all bad? Should we start the pity party now?

    On the plus side, this state of affairs makes for more affordable digital art for those of us who pride ourselves in such things, but those of us in this admittedly minority camp, it also creates a fundamental tension between obtaining long-term social validation from those lower on the totem pole (aka dominance) and short-term social validation from crypto-peers (aka membership).

    All of which is the say that membership is much, much easier in an online environment whereas domination is dramatically more difficult, if not bordering on the impossible. The bones of #b-a so ruefully attest to the latter, the explosive success of Yuga Labs to the former…

    Yuga Labs Pitch Deck 2022

    So is it any wonder that “grails” within PFP collections continue to underperform massively relative to well-selected floor-ish investments, at least in this down-market? With the benefit of hindsight at least, no, no it isn’t. Because as the sea of PFP communities swells, from the increasingly large outside world, an ape is an ape is an ape, just as a punk is a punk is a punk. If you’re an average NFT collector with $5`000-10`000 invested in this highly speculative space, seeing another collector with an investment of $300`000 in a single JPEG feels exactly as approachable as if they had an investment of $3`000`000 or even $30`000`000. They’re all ludicrous! As such, just being an ape or punk of any description sends very nearly all the signal that there is to be sent. Sure, within a given PFP community there lives and breathes the narcissism of small differences that allows for valuation discrepancies between floors and grails, but from the outside-looking-in, it’s all a much of a muchness. As the possibility space of external communities explodes in this veritable gold rush, that outside perspective matters more and more as it becomes increasingly likely than any given market participant is outside of any given PFP community, whereas even just a year ago, Punks were the NFT community. And that’s simply not true anymore. Today, the trait is no longer the grail, the collection is the grail.

    As such, the incredible valuation compression between intra-collection grails and floors that we’ve seen in market after market can well be expected to continue, at least in the mid-term. BAYC’s emphasis on an equality-first, membership-based design that de-emphasises grails and minimises the narcissism of small differences within the collection – rather than the Punks-like, Meebs-like, Toadz-like rarity-based design – seems like an incredibly strong blueprint going forward. Nothing is guaranteed of course! But that’s definitely the way the winds currently appear to be blowing. 

  6. I swear I’m closer to 50 years than someone in their mid-30s has any right to be.
  7. Who could’ve predicted that the denuclearised Germans would be so bad at long-term planning? I mean other than the bloodthirsty Russians selling them natural gas by the Exajoule.
  8. The qualification that such attempts at social climbing are so frequently material and little else besides is a crucial caveat. Buying a fancy car doesn’t mean that we were suddenly born into a different social strata; that you get to go back in a time machine to weave a social fabric with a certain set of people, that you “belong” to a different cut of society. It doesn’t wash away the dirt underneath the fingernails of your forefathers. Only education across the generations can lift us up. The boys toys are an effect, not a cause
  9. Jerry owns about 200 cars including some of the rarest and race-proven models with a particular focus on Porsche. Larry drives a humble Toyota Prius and can’t stand the headaches and attention that come with sports cars. Larry returned the only 911 he ever bought after just a single week of ownership. This isn’t unlike my father’s personal story, and let’s be real I’m more likely like my Ukr father than some random Cali Yid. Anyways my dad had a BMW 2002 just before I was born but sold it because he found it “gutless.” During my lifetime he owned mostly Volkswagen Beetles and Golfs.
  10. Despite being a couple generations too young myself, perhaps this is what Raoul Pal is always harping on about when he talks about the deflationary economic pressures of Boomers leaving the workforce. I guess it’s a thing!

One thought on “Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC

  1. […] the Taycan 4S: Porsche’s first all-electric sports car, Two steps forward, two steps back, and Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz C300 4MATIC (which is equally as much about the Taycan as the […]

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