2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

C250 Sport RWD 4-Dr Sedan I4 auto trans

2012 mercedes-benz c-class Reviews and News

2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe 4matic
"I've never really driven on snow before, so this should be interesting." On the list of things you definitely don't want to hear from a driving partner you've just met when climbing into the passenger's seat of a smallish 302-hp coupe in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this has to rank near the top. The calming news -- and the reason we're here in the first place -- is that the coupe in question, the Mercedes-Benz C350, now has all-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive obviously isn't anything new for Mercedes -- the brand offers its 4Matic system on some twenty other models, including the sedan version of the C-class (albeit with a smaller V-6). This spring it's expanding the option to both the C350 coupe and the E350 coupe. Mercedes invited us to this western ski retreat, where global warming still feels like "just a theory," to see how all-wheel drive transforms the two-door C-class.
Or doesn't change it much at all. Powering four wheels can sometimes soften a car's reflexes, but happily that's not the case here. Mercedes says the 4Matic system, which packages a transfer case into the company's seven-speed automatic, adds only 100 to 150 pounds versus a rear-wheel-drive setup. That's about half the weight difference on many of the C-class's competitors. It also requires no changes to the steering or suspension aside from a slight increase in ride height.
The 4Matic version of the C350 thus remains the rewarding, involving sport coupe we've come to know and love. On a stretch of well-plowed pavement that winds through the Teton Mountains, the C-class's talkative steering and taut body control inspire plenty of confidence. The direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6, which carries over virtually unchanged from the rear-wheel-drive model, never feels burdened by the fact that it's usually sending 45 percent of its torque to the front wheels. High in the rev range, it plays a soundtrack nearly as smooth as that of BMW's in-line six. The torque-converter seven-speed automatic transmission responds crisply to inputs from the steering-wheel paddles, although when left to its own devices it could be more proactive and aggressive. Unlike the dual-clutch transmission on the hotter C63 AMG, this one doesn't seem to downshift under hard braking and doesn't hold gears in corners, even when set in "sport" mode. The seven-speed does help the C350 4Matic achieve a relatively impressive 19/28 mpg in EPA testing -- the same as the rear-wheel-drive model. By comparison, opting for all-wheel drive on the (last-generation) BMW 335i brings a 1- or 2-mpg fuel-economy penalty on the highway.
Of course, we didn't fly all the way to Wyoming in February to drive on thawed pavement or to watch our fuel consumption. Mercedes obliges by taking us to a snow-covered field through which it has carved a tight, winding snow track. This is a blast, naturally, but it does expose some of the 4Matic system's limitations. The all-wheel-drive C-class automatically varies the torque split from front to rear depending on conditions, sending as much as 70 percent of its torque in either direction. Unlike more performance-minded all-wheel-drive setups, though, it doesn't control how much torque goes to each rear wheel. That means the C-class does fine accelerating in the slippery stuff, but wants to plow ahead in tight corners where cars like the Mitsubishi Evolution and the Acura TL SH-AWD would send more torque to their outer rear wheels and almost magically rotate. A brake-based torque-vectoring system similar to what BMW uses on all-wheel-drive variants of the 3-series appears on 4Matic S- and CLS-class models but would be costly to integrate into the cheaper C- and E-class, Mercedes says. The C350's more conventional stability control doesn't like to play along when we try to drift through an ess-curve, intervening early and then limiting acceleration for several seconds.
None of this is likely to matter much to luxury buyers who simply want all-wheel drive so they can get home safely on a snowy night. Which brings us back to my driving partner's first foray into winter driving. The 4Matic system, along with those other modern wonders -- antilock brakes, stability control, and performance winter tires -- make a nonevent of Jackson Hole's snow-packed, steeply graded roads. I calmly check e-mails and fiddle with the Comand infotainment system as my partner peers out into the white abyss ahead. (For the record, he drove smoothly and judiciously). I do no worse during my time behind the wheel: the C-class has no trouble keeping up with a Chevrolet Suburban making its way down a steep, slick incline near our hotel.
So, the C350 coupe 4Matic will not pose a rally racing threat to the likes of a Subaru STI, but it does offer all-wheel-drive traction with little to no dynamic or fuel economy sacrifice compared with the rear-wheel-drive version. Those in northern climates would do well to consider the $1125 option, even if it means saving the money elsewhere (for instance, passing on the $1025 eighteen-inch wheels). In fact, our drive left us wondering why Mercedes doesn't offer it on even more cars, including the four-cylinder-powered C250.
On sale: April
Base price: $44,370
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 302 hp, 273 lb-ft
Fuel economy: 19/28/22 mpg

Short takes:

Mercedes-Benz S550 4Matic

A V-8-powered S-class, even a four-wheel-drive one, doesn't exactly fit the mold of a winter rally-racing car, but it actually impresses me when I hustle it around Mercedes' makeshift snow track. Perhaps it's the 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8's ample low-end grunt and the torque-vectoring effect created by the enhanced stability control system. Or maybe it's the fact that the air suspension calmly absorbs the deep divots on the bumpy course and that the driver's seat can massage my back through the entire lap. Regardless, even a short turn behind the polished wood wheel of the S-class is a reminder of how distinctive and stellar a full-size sedan it remains some five years since its last redesign. It's not as athletic as a BMW 7-series or as sexy as a Jaguar XJ, but it oozes a sense of solidity and surefootedness that eludes any competitor. It's your father's Mercedes - in a good way.

Mercedes-Benz E350 coupe 4Matic

The E350 coupe shares its underpinnings and engine with the C350 and weighs only about 50 pounds more, which leaves us wondering why it feels less responsive. Whereas the C350 responds instantly when the right foot beckons, the E350 seems to take a fraction of a second to collect itself. At the same time, the E-class coupe can't match the quality and luxuriousness of the S-class, featuring less leather and wood and more plastic. Mind you, it's still a well-crafted and capable German car, one that just begins to stretch its legs barreling down the highway at 85 mph. It's just not as satisfying as either the athletic C-class or the super-luxurious S-class.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series Front Left Side View
There’s something charmingly mischievous about the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Drive one after spending time in a BMW M3, for example, and it’s like someone just lifted a statewide ban on fun you didn’t even know existed. The Bimmer is measured and balanced and honest—the AMG is totally unhinged and wild.
BMW makes an even more M3-y version of the M3, the GTS. It’s not available in North America, but it’s even faster, quicker, and more precise than the regular M3. AMG is now making a more AMG-y version of the C63, which means it’s even more insane. The Black Series is the Mercedes equivalent of a rambunctious high-school senior lighting his farts on fire in the middle of first-period English Lit the day before parent-teacher conferences. In a world full of sanitized, politically correct, socially responsible, lawyer-tested/spouse-approved hybrids, this car is just plain nucking futs.
The body kit is, frankly, reason enough to Baker Act the Black Series. Built on the base of the C63 AMG Coupe, the Black Series wears thermoplastic polycarbonate panels that flare the front fenders 2.2 inches in front, 3.3 inches in rear. Why so big? Because the Black's track is also increased massively -- by 1.6 inches front and 3.1 inches rear. Tobias Moers, AMG's head of vehicle development, laughs as he admits that his team used rear suspension components from the much larger E63 AMG.
The Black Series certainly looks like it's bulging at the seams. It wears a vented aluminum hood, and a front fascia that sucks in so much air and is so tall that it should be called the Hoover Airdam. Then there are the enormous side skirts, vents behind each of the wheels, and of course, the de rigueur rear diffuser. If subtlety isn't your thing, the Black Series is available with an Aerodynamic Package, which adds carbon fiber flics on the front apron, a carbon fiber splitter low and sharp enough to decapitate ants of larger-than-average stature, and an adjustable and completely over-the-top carbon fiber wing.
The massive tires and forged wheels are the same size as those on the larger E63 -- and so are the rear rotors, which are pinched by four-piston fixed calipers. Up front, though, the Black Series has even bigger cross-drilled rotors -- 15.4 inches! -- wearing six-piston fixed calipers.
And all of this might be absurd if the Black Series didn't have the go to match the show. Affalterbach fans will immediately recognize the Tasmanian Devil exhaust note that can only belong to the sadly-being-phased-out AMG 6.2-liter V-8. Upgraded here with the Gullwing's forged pistons and lightened crankshaft, the 32-valve V-8 twists out 510 horsepower and nearly as many decibels of acoustic assault. The tach needle will need to be pointing to 5200 rpm before the engine will whip out its 457 lb-ft of torque. Why? Because real engines need revs. Besides, the Black Series will suckerpunch you if you question it.
Moers also could barely contain a laugh when he told us that the mechanical limited-slip differential has a 60-percent lockup rate under power and that the suspension (coil-over-shocks up front, multi-link in back) was adjustable for both compression and rebound. He stopped laughing, however, when he said that the factory setting was perfect.
And so we squeezed ourselves into the manually and barely adjustable bucket of a European-specification Black Series. U.S.-spec cars will have eighteen-way power adjustable seats, and a bench rear seat is optional for either market. The only transmission is the C63's familiar seven-speed automatic, which uses a multiplate clutchpack instead of a torque converter. We put the transmission into manual mode, engaged the stability control's sport mode, and headed out onto the race track.
With 59 more horses and 14 additional lb-ft of torque compared with the already almost-too-fast C63, the Black Series should be a lot faster. Except that Mercedes says it weighs some 235 lb less, so it's a LOT faster. It's crazy fast even right off the line when the engine's half asleep. And then the torque curve explodes upward as five grand approaches, the Black Series surges forward with the ferocity of -- dammit now you're in the rev limiter. When the transmission computer finally stops ignoring what must look like a grand-mal seizure to the computer monitoring the upshift paddle, it whacks off a lightning-fast 100-ms shift into the next gear. Right into the rev limiter. Repeat, add speed, and repeat again.
Like the C63's predecessor, the 2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series, the clumsy automatic transmission is the only thing that stands in the way of what could only be described as an orgasm of on-track idiocy. Like its predecessor, the new Black Series is one of the most thrilling race track drives on the planet. It’s a big, heavy linebacker of a car that somehow whisks itself through corners with the grace of a ballerina wending through the padded hallways of a state-run sanitarium. The tight diff allows the rear end to break free smoothly and progressively, and the Black Series is happiest tackling corners with just the slightest bit of throttle to nix the hint of static understeer. It rewards smooth driving with unbelievable speed and poise, but it practically begs you to partake in tail-out stupidity just for fun.
Just like the CLK63 Black Series, this latest AMG is the silliest of the sillies. It's the fastest of the fasts. It's the dream of an AMG designer making a sketch of an absurd version of an already absurd car while the rest of the office was out on vacation. No, seriously, it is -- that's how this Black Series came to be. It's one of those cars that makes you wish you were rich and powerful, if only because the only somber part of this party animal is that you can't have one. Less than 100 will be coming to the United States, and they're all spoken for. Damn.
2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe Amag Promo
Where once there was the CLK coupe, which purported to split the difference between the C-class and E-class sedans, now there are two mid-size Mercedes coupes, one for each of the mid-size sedans. Last year saw the debut of the E-class coupe, and now comes the two-door version of the C-class. While the 2012 C-class sedan is a three-model lineup, the coupe will be offered in just two variants: C250 and C350 (there is no two-door version of the C300 4Matic).
2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe Front End 2
Lower, but not longer or wider
The sleeker, sportier proportions of the C-class coupe are the result of a change in only one dimension. The car's overall length exactly mirrors that of its sedan sibling, and it sits astride the same, 108.7-inch wheelbase. Overall height has been chopped by 1.5 inches, due to the car's unique roofline. Unfortunately, unlike the bigger Benz coupes, the C-class did not also lose its B-pillar in the process.
The lower roofline creates a cozier cabin, which is a nice way to say that there's a lot less rear-seat room. Where the sedan has a five-place interior that can accommodate at least two rear-seat riders in comfort, the coupe is strictly a 2+2. Those second two actually have decent legroom, but foot room is tight and so is headroom, despite a strategically scooped out section in the ceiling. Accessing the back seats is made easier by front seats that scoot forward electrically, but the hard door armrests and the lack of a center armrest drive home the message that rear-seat riders' comfort is not a priority.
Front-seat occupants, however, enjoy an environment that is quite pleasant, benefitting from the upgrades visited upon the C-class for 2012. The dash now has a large, integrated display screen (rather than a pop-up nav unit), and the steering wheel is trimmed in brushed metal. Aluminum trim also adorns the dash and door panels of the C250, while the C350 gets glossy walnut (or, as an option, a particularly unconvincing matte-finish wood.) Most surfaces are soft-touch, but the overall effect is sober high quality rather than sybaritic luxury.
Turbo four or V-6?
The 2012 C-class marks the return of the four-cylinder engine to Mercedes' U.S. lineup after a long absence. Powering the C250 is a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four. (This suggests that the car might more accurately be called the C180, but Mercedes has long since abandoned matching model designations to engine size.) The turbo four's output of 201 hp and 229 pound-feet of torque doesn't look terribly impressive in these days of 274-hp Hyundai Sonata turbo fours or even the 201-hp naturally aspirated four in the Honda Civic Si.
2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe Front Three Quarter 3
Nonetheless, the engine, which is paired exclusively with Mercedes' ubiquitous seven-speed automatic, manages to scoot the C250 from 0 to 60 in a factory-measured 7.1 seconds. Initial response, however, is weak before the turbo kicks in. This turbo boost isn't nearly as well integrated as in Audi's 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder, and the engine note is uninspiring.
Happily, there's an alternative in the form of the 3.5-liter V-6 found in the C350. The V-6 brings a healthy, 302 ponies to the party and 273 pound-feet of torque-plenty for this 3562-pound car, and enough to drop the 0-to-60 time to 5.9 seconds. Furthermore, the normally aspirated engine's response is immediate and its muted growl befits a Benz. In the absence of EPA figures, we have only the company's preliminary fuel economy estimates with which to measure the V-6's gas mileage penalty over the four; Mercedes indicates additional consumption of 2 mpg overall for the bigger engine. In that case, the C350 is clearly the way to go here.
Money matters
Of course, the C350 costs more money. Just how much more, we can't exactly say at this point, as Mercedes isn't releasing pricing until closer to the coupes' showroom debut, in September. Compared to their sedan counterparts, though, we can say that the coupe versions are likely to be roughly $3000 more. That extra money buys fewer doors, but more style, as well as a panoramic glass sunroof, memory for the power driver's seat, and shift paddles (all of which are extra on the four-door). We're estimating a $37,000 starting price for the C-class coupe , which makes it a fairly inexpensive way to get two-door style in a Mercedes Benz-but we'd budget a bit more to get the C350.
2012 Mercedes Benz C350 Coupe Front Three Quarters 3
2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 /C350 Coupe
Base price (C250/C350): $37,000/$43,000 (estimated)
On sale: September 2011
Fuel economy:
C250: 24 mpg combined (est.)
C350: 22 mpg combined (est.)
1.8L I-4 turbo
Horsepower: 201 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 229 lb-ft @ 2200-4300 rpm 3.5L V-6
Horsepower: 302 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 273 lb-ft @ 3500-5250 rpm
Rear -wheel
7-speed automatic
Suspension, f/r:
Damper struts, coil springs/Multilink, coil springs
Rack-and-pinion, speed-sensitive hydraulic power assist
Vented discs, ABS, Brake Assist
Curb weight: 3419/3562 lb (C250/C350)
17 x 7.5 in
225/40R17 front, 245/40R17 rear
Competitors: Audi A5, BMW 3-series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Promo
The addition of a two-door coupe to the C-class lineup has given AMG the opportunity to expand the family of its popular C63 AMG model. Currently offered as a sedan and (in Europe) a wagon, the C63 adds a coupe variant for the 2012 model year. Mechanically, the coupe and sedan are identical, with one significant upgrade coming to both for 2012. The two-door is the same size as its four-door sibling, but its lower body, more intimate cabin, and sportier styling make it a racier distillation of the C63 formula.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Front Three Quarter
Familiar motivator
The C63 coupe's 6.2-liter V-8 is an engine that we know (and love) from the C63 sedan-and elsewhere in the AMG line-up. What do we love about it? The deep rumble on start-up, its quick bark during full-throttle upshifts, the roar as it passes by at full gallop, and of course the tremendous response, which is both linear and lag-free. But the big V-8 actually is on its way out; it has already been replaced by a smaller, 5.5-liter bi-turbo V-8 in the CL63 and the S63, the blown 5.5 powers the new CLS63 AMG, and for 2012 it steps in for the 6.2-liter in the E63 as well. Why not use it here? The answer, from AMG's head of product development Tobias Moers, is that the 5.5-liter biturbo makes more torque than the smaller C-class chassis can handle (516 pound-feet in the E63).
The naturally aspirated 6.2-liter's output is lower, although it's still considerable: 451 hp at 6500 rpm and 443 pound-feet at 5000 rpm. That's the same as in the C63 sedan. Ordering the AMG development package increases horsepower to 481 hp, thanks for a revised camshaft, lightweight pistons and connecting rods, and a reprogrammed ECU. The extra oomph shaves the 0-60 time by a fraction, from 4.4 to 4.3 seconds. More importantly, the development package provides increased bragging rights, in the form of a top speed raised to 174 mph, from 155 mph. Little wonder, that our C63 coupe test cars were so equipped.
The C63 coupe provided our first opportunity to drive the 6.2-liter together with the seven-speed Speedshift MCT wet-clutch automatic transmission in a C-class body. That powertrain combo has been available elsewhere in the AMG lineup, ever since it debuted in 2008 on the SL63 AMG, but the C63 previously used a traditional, 7-speed torque-converter automatic. That transmission disappears for 2012, as the C63 sedan will make the change to the Speedshift MCT in tandem with its new coupe this fall.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Front Three Quarters
The MCT is just a sterling piece of equipment. AMG cars have long been automatic-only, a fact that has been bemoaned in the enthusiast press. But the MCT is so good and so smart that it's hard to make the case that even the keenest driver is missing out on anything here. As in its other applications, the gearbox has four modes. The default is C, for Controlled Efficiency, which means smooth gear changes and early upshifts, designed to eke out the least embarrassing EPA numbers possible. Sport mode quickens the shifts; Sport-plus is faster still, with logic that mirrors what an enthusiast driver would do himself if he were manning the paddles. There's also a Manual mode, which will hold your selected gear until you're bouncing off the rev limiter. In any mode, however, you're always free to grab a shift paddle and shift for yourself.
All that said, it's the execution that's so impressive. Even in Sport-plus, the transmission was smooth as a torque-converter automatic as we crawled through morning rush-hour traffic in Seville, Spain. Once outside of town, we loved the rev matching and the way the gearbox would know to downshift as we braked for a turn (in Sport or Sport-plus). But it was on the track that the gearbox was an absolute revelation. I've never had an automatic transmission that, left to its own devices, grabbed the right gear, every time on a race circuit. But pop the MCT into Sport-plus and that's exactly what it does. My hands were poised at the paddles, but there was no need to use them. The MCT downshifted aggressively going into the corners, and held each gear to the redline coming out onto each straight.
Track days made easy
As in the C63 sedan, the coupe features a wider track front and rear compared to the standard C-class, with an AMG-specific strut front suspension and multi-link rear. Changes from the 2011 C63 include increased wheel camber and revised spring and damping rates, the latter to mellow the ride without losing performance. (AMG's Moers claims that the 2012 car is one second faster at Germany's Hockenheim circuit, and that the new coupe's 'Ring time is "very near 8 minutes.") The C63 does not offer driver-selectable damping, so tuning for a livable on-road ride is important. We found it to be exactly that on the smooth roads of the Spanish countryside, but it might well be a different story on the beat-up pavement in the States. Perhaps with that in mind, Mercedes will not be offering Americans the most extreme wheel sizes; we'll get a choice of eighteen-inch wheels, nothing larger.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Front In Motion
As is the case with the transmission, the chassis's electronics are particularly impressive. The stability control's sport mode is more generous than most, allowing you to freely explore the C63 coupe's limits before it ultimately takes steps to rein you in. (It can also be switched off altogether.) Despite the big-displacement V-8 under the hood, the coupe feels very well balanced, and there's more than enough power to get the rear end loose. Steering that's sharp and quick helps you keep the car right on the edge, and also helps you gather it up when you push it too far.
On the subject of reigning in exuberance, the C63's brakes are considerably upsized over the civilian C-class, at 14.2 inches diameter in front and 13 inches at the rear, with all rotors ventilated and perforated. Aluminum and steel two-piece front rotors are part of the AMG development package and are denoted by red calipers. We found the brakes easy to modulate, and they held up well during our track session.
Taken together, the stability control's lenient, tail-out sport mode; the transmission that thinks like a DTM driver; and the engine that has the muscle to rocket you down the straights, create in the C63 coupe a car that makes track driving deceptively easy. Any C63 AMG owner owes it to himself to get his car out onto a track at least once. It's an addictive experience.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Side
Race Start's DNF
For all the C63's race-day goodness, its Race Start function earned a DNF. Engaging it requires a series of steps so convoluted that even the AMG guys had trouble getting it to work. First, you need to call up the stability control's sport mode; then you select Race Start with the transmission mode knob. If you're lucky, the dashboard message center will tell you to confirm the selection by hitting the upshift paddle. Instead, we kept getting the message Race Start Not Available - See Owner's Manual. There can be many reasons for this: your foot is not on the brake, a window is open, the steering wheel is not pointed exactly straight ahead, the stars are not in proper alignment.
If you do manage to get the elusive program to engage, you have only a brief moment to actually execute the start or you get the Race Start Cancelled message, and you get to begin again. When we finally got it to work, it proved rather unspectacular, so we instead switched off the ESP entirely and did a nice smoky burnout.
The AMG look, inside and out
The coupe isn't any smaller than the sedan, nor is it any lighter-its 3816-pound curb weight is about 160 pounds heavier than the 2011 version of the four-door C63. Some of the extra pounds stem from the two-door's standard panoramic glass sunroof. The glass top helps brighten the interior, but this is still a more intimate driving environment than you get in the four-door, due mostly to the lower roofline and more close-coupled front and rear seats. The driver of an AMG coupe is well positioned behind a thick steering wheel whose sculpted rim is flattened at both the top and the bottom. High-backed sport seats do a good job holding you in place without being too confining. The standard upholstery is cloth and MB tex; leather (in a single color or several two-tone combinations) costs extra. Compared to the standard C-class, the C63 also features more richly upholstered door panels as well as aluminum and gloss black trim.
On the outside, the coupe's AMG-specific bling largely mirrors that of the sedan. Beyond the uniquely styled hood, the flared fenders, and black roof, there's an aggressive front air dam, more prominent lower-body cladding, and a large rear diffuser. A carbon-fiber trunk-lid spoiler is a special tip-off that denotes a car equipped with the AMG development package.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Side In Motion 2
The 2012 C63 AMG coupe arrives together with the 2012 version of the C63 sedan this fall. The extremely well rounded two-door should only add to the appeal of the C63, which already is the second-bestselling AMG car after the E63. AMG officials wouldn't yet reveal pricing on the new coupe, but they intimated that it will command a roughly 5 percent premium over the sedan. That works out to about $3000, putting the C63 AMG coupe at around $62,000, before any gas-guzzler tax (which hits the 2011 C63 sedan to the tune of $2100). The four-door is likely to remain the majority of C63 sales, but the coupe should easily account for 1 in 5 sales. The choice for BMW M3 or Cadillac CTS-V shoppers is going to get a lot harder.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe
Base price: $62,000 (estimated, plus gas-guzzler tax)
Fuel economy:
13 / 19 / 15 mpg (estimated)
Engine: 6.2L V-8
Horsepower: 481 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
Drive: Rear -wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Suspension, f/r:
Damper strut, coil springs/multi-link, coil springs
Brakes: Vented and perforated discs, ABS, Brake Assist
Curb weight: 3816 lb
Wheels: 18 x 8 in front, 18 x 9 in rear
Tires: 235/40R18 front, 255/35R18 rear
Competitors: BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V
2012 Mercedes Benz C Class Side
The First "Baby Benz"
When Mercedes-Benz introduced its first small sedan back in 1982, the press immediately dubbed it the "Baby Benz." The first U. S. press drive was from the old-money Homestead in West Virginia (perhaps to remind us all of its luxury bones), to the Indianapolis Speedway. The goal was to see which two-person team of reporters could achieve the highest fuel economy. Snore.
2012 Mercedes Benz C Class Side
Brock Yates and I made our own game plan, with very different rules: First one to Indy wins. We put the hammer down and beat everyone else by hours, won the hastily created Friends of OPEC award, and we were lustily cheered by the German mechanics as we collected our prize. "Real men don't give a flying (insert bad word here) about fuel economy, Lindamood!" Yates snorted. "Yeah!" I shouted.
Not an auspicious start to what has become the bread-and-butter car of the three-pointed star. That first "starter" Benz was dubbed the 190 and didn't really get interesting until it got a high-performance 2.3-liter16-valve head and boy-racer bodywork to redeem itself. The 190 officially became the C-class in 1993, which was redone in 2000 and again in 2007. That fourth-generation has sold more than a million worldwide. Including the 190-badged years, the C-class has racked up over 8.5 million sales for Mercedes-Benz.
What's changed
We're all a lot more sophisticated today. Well, I at least bring a lot more luggage along than I used to. But in my defense, we would be hitting the motor show in Geneva, where cold, wind, and rain were predicted, then flying to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, known for it's near-80 temps this time of year to test the new C-class. It takes a village worth of luggage to support the sophisticated me. On the other hand, one look at the 2012 C-class says volumes about its upscale metamorphosis from Baby to premium player in the crowded entry-luxury segment. And I can't say enough about the size of the trunk.
This C-class is actually being billed as a facelift, but there are more than 2000 new parts, from the new a four-cylinder engine (returning to the U.S. after a long absence), to a new lightweight aluminum hood and five new safety systems. Its sleek exterior (with an incredible drag coefficient of 0.26) features a stronger face (the Sport version's bigger three-pointed star mounted mid-grille is our favorite) and a cleaner profile, which move the C-class deeper visually and emotionally into the upscale heart of the M-B lineup. It's an image enhanced by a much richer standard leather interior, a longer list of high-end options, and upgrades like new state-of-the-art telematics that allow cars equipped with the COMAND system to access the web. It can even alert you to ideal car pool lane entry and exit points.
Body styles and powertrains
You don't pull big sales numbers without a lot of variants, and the new C-class will be coming to market as a sedan, a coupe, and a wagon -- with AMG versions of all three -- available for order right now in Europe. A convertible is most assuredly on the way. While the rest of the world gets to choose between some combination of three four-cylinder and two V-6 gas engines, or five inline fours and one V-6 diesels, M-B's U.S. marketing team is keeping it simple for us. The C-class sedan will be available this August with a choice of three gasoline engines, all mated to the very fine seven-speed automatic transmission, which is a critical tool in the fuel economy war. The C300 4Matic has a carryover 228-hp 3.0-liter V-6 with 221 pounds-feet of torque. The C350 Sport has a much more robust 302-hp 3.5-liter V-6 from the E-class with 273 pounds-feet of torque. But it was the brand new turbocharged 201-hp 1.8-liter direct-injected inline four powering the entry-level C250 that had the attention of the press corps. It was all about the torque -- a solid 229 pounds-feet, beating the 3.0-lter V-6's. Well, it was torque, a very sophisticated turbocharger, and the weight advantage the smaller engine has over the bigger V-6s. All in, the C250 weighs 400 pounds less than the C300, and even beats the modern C350 by 300 pounds.
2012 Mercedes Benz C Class Coupe Front Top View
The appeal of the C250 was especially noticeable after a long day of driving on the sinuous and narrow mountain roads of Tenerife, which led from lush vegetation in the south into a harsh moonscape of lava spilling from the steep center of the island to its north coast. Roads are fairly well maintained, as befitting a place geared directly to a well-heeled tourist clientele, but the interior roads snake for miles along the edges of vast crevasses reminiscent of Kauai's canyons, and you can see the canary-yellow paint of way-too-short stone blocks lining the road edge for miles in the distance, a cheerful reminder that nothing but a very long drop awaits you on the other side if you overcook a turn.
The V-6 in the C350 is a full 1.2 seconds faster from 0 to 60 mph than the C250, which feels great when you're passing the tourist buses waddling uphill, and when you're on the island's fast ring road. But flinging along with those yellow rocks in your peripheral vision is a much more entertaining proposition in the C250. Its combined fuel economy is being touted at an estimated 24, a nice bonus over the C300's 20mpg and the C350's 21 mpg.
2012 Mercedes Benz C Class Wagon Front Three Quarter Driving
For you diesel fans, it's coming. The late arrival of the C250 CDI is an interesting story. Production of the next-generation, NAFTA-model C-Class moves to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2013. That's when you'll get your diesel. As MBNA public relations chief Geoff Day points out, when you can still get double-digit fuel economy improvement with internal combustion gas engines, diesel just isn't as critical. That could very easily change by 2013. Any bets on the price of gasoline in two years?
The four-wheel independent suspension (three-link, strut-type in front, multi-link rear) with stabilizer bars front and rear, is carryover. Adding the Dynamic Handling Package allows you to choose between comfort and a sporty setting with the push of a dash button, and a dial next to the gear selector will change shift points from economy to sport mode. If you live on Tenerife, it makes a big different on the ravaged interior roads.
Five new driver assistance systems based on state-of-the-art camera, radar, and sensor technology, make it into the C-class. Attention Assist to detect driver drowsiness is included. Adaptive High Beam Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Parktronic are available as options.
Timing and pricing
Because of its late summer arrival in the U.S., the new C-class will be badged as a 2012 model. Base price, if it follows the typical M-B pattern of launching a refreshed model at the same price as the outgoing car or at an "equipment-based, better value price," should be in the low $30,000 range.
No word on AMG pricing, but we are assured that the C-class AMG models -- launched in Europe with the more prosaic C-class models -- will make it to America in August. The C63 AMG coupe, revealed to the press under strict photo embargo, will show its striking face at the upcoming New York Auto Show. Check back with automobilemag.com for the details.
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Mercedes-Benz's smallest car offers a wide range of power, equipment, and price, spanning the frugal C250 to the snortin' C63 AMG. As a driver's car, the C-class doesn't deliver the same all-around balance that makes the BMW 3-series so great. However, Mercedes places a larger emphasis on luxury and refinement, and it shows. Regardless of model, every C-class has a quiet cabin, a composed ride, excellent build quality, and an assertive but unobtrusive powertrain. It offers comfortable seats; a slick, three-spoke, flat-bottomed steering wheel; and a new 5.8-inch display that integrates HD Radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and a USB port in the center console. The downsized C250 achieves a respectable 21/31 mpg fuel economy rating, but the smallish 1.8-liter displacement means the four-cylinder isn't as potent as BMW's new 240-hp turbo four. Buyers who demand all-wheel drive are restricted to the C300 sedan, which uses a 228-hp V-6. The C350's direct-injected 3.5-liter revs eagerly and accelerates quickly when the right pedal is planted. All C-classes come with a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic, but it's not quite as quick as the eight-speed gearboxes offered by some competitors. While the proletarian C-class models may cede some performance to the BMW 3-series, there's one big exception: the C63 AMG, which packs a normally aspirated 6.2-liter V-8 that charges off the line with an authority that is absent in BMW's M3. The high-performance BMW boasts a more neutral and more tactile chassis, but the Mercedes is just as fun around a track.
2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series Front Left View
This car was made for southern California, with its roads as smooth as glass, its easy access to tracks, and its proximity to twisting canyon roads. Driving the C63 Black Series away from this automotive land of milk and honey may leave drivers wondering why they didn't go for the "regular" C63 AMG Coupe due to the stiffly sprung suspension, steering that feels connected to nothing, and the bi-polar accelerator pedal. Yes, you can take this car to the track and drive it home, but unless your route consists completely recently paved blacktop you won't want to. Even the car's best feature - its maliciously evil-sounding exhaust note with a crackling overrun becomes neutered unless you use the slow-to-react paddles.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series

2012 Mercedes Benz C350 4MATIC Coupe Front Left View
I adore the Mercedes-Benz C-class because it is luxurious and sporting without drawing undue attention to itself. Our C350 coupe looks great, and it doesn't have any of the frivolous creases or wings or gaping air vents that adorn some of its German rivals. The same is true of the interior: you get a lovely, no-nonsense cabin that is functional and elegant, yet devoid of silly styling flourishes.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 4MATIC Coupe

2012 Audi A4 Front Three Quarter View
German sales were on fire in the month of July, at least for Volkswagen and Audi. VW had its best July since 1973, while Audi's 28.0-percent increase led it to a best-ever July. Mercedes-Benz saw a 1.6-percent increase, partly due to drivers flocking to the C-Class. BMW might be as happy, but sales dropped 0.5 percent as a result of low supply.
Ignition 2012 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series 7
On this episode of Ignition, Carlos Lago takes a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe Black Series to the track to see if its performance matches the impression left by its body add-ons.
Mercedes Benz C63 AMG Performance Studio Edition Front Three Quarter
The Japanese market will receive two gifts from Mercedes-Benz AMG in the form of special-edition cars. The C63 Performance Studio edition and SLS AMG Matt Edition go on sale in Japan this fall, and won't be sold in the U.S.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
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C250 Sport RWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
21 MPG City | 31 MPG Hwy
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2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Specifications

Quick Glance:
1.8L I4Engine
Fuel economy City:
21 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
31 MPG
201 hp @ 5500rpm
229 ft lb of torque @ 2200rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
50,000 miles / 48 months
50,000 miles / 48 months
50,000 miles / 48 months
Unlimited miles / 999 months
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Front Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Overall
Not Rated
NHTSA Rating Rollover
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
IIHS Overall Side Crash
IIHS Best Pick
IIHS Rear Crash
IIHS Roof Strength

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

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Five Year Cost of Ownership: $41,611 What's This?
Value Rating: Poor