2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

We got our first up close and personal look at the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class — including the wagon version — at a dinner last night. While we’re lusting over the wagon version that we likely won’t get in the States, we can at least report that the new interior in the sedan and wagon is as classy as it appears in photos and a substantial improvement over the outgoing car.

From the outside, revisions to the 2012 C-Class are so minor casual observers might not even notice. Changes are primarily limited to the front fascia where new headlamps, designed to mimic those found on the new CL-class, a revised grille, and reshaped air intakes are found. The only other changes are a slightly lower rear bumper, revised taillights, and more modern wheels.

Once you get inside the new C-Class, it’s an entirely different story as Mercedes-Benz designers rethought the whole interior. The dashboard has been completely revised, featuring an inverted version of the angular design theme currently proliferating through Mercedes’ lineup and now seen on the S-, CLS-, E-, and CL-Classes. Metallic finish buttons lend the interior a more upscale feel as do the new dash accents — available in either wood or aluminum.

While these touches give the new C-Class a decidedly more upscale feel than the outgoing car, the biggest improvement is the elimination of the pop-up navigation system. Instead, new C-Class buyers are treated to a fully-integrated unit prominently displayed in the center of the dashboard and covered by a sun-shielding hood.

Of course this new interior is accompanied by a raft of Mercedes’ latest technological advancements. C-Class buyers can now get Attention Assist, which monitors drivers’ eyes to ensure they stay awake and suggests when to take a break from driving; Adaptive High Beam Assist, which detects when to turn the high beams on and off; and Park Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, and Blind Spot Assist. Additionally, the C-Class debuts Mercedes’ new connectivity system with better mobile phone and MP3 player integration including text message display and music streaming via Bluetooth or a USB-input mounted in the center armrest.

In keeping with the industry trend (and government regulations), Mercedes made a number of efforts to reduce fuel consumption with the new C-Class. To that end, the German automaker revised the powertrain offerings on the 2012 C-Class. Every engine offered is now equipped with direct injection and Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic with revised gear ratios for better fuel economy. This marks the departure of a six-speed manual as a transmission option, leaving the SLK300 as the only Benz offered with a third pedal in the States.

While the manual transmission departs the C-Class, the four-cylinder power returns for the first time since 2006. The I-4 is found in the base C250 model, displaces 1.8-liters, and uses twin-turbos to produce 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. This will scoot the C-Class to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds according to Mercedes and achieve 24 mpg combined. The next trim level is the C300 4Matic with a 3.0-liter V-6 producing 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. According to Mercedes, the C300 4Matic will match the C250’s 0 to 60 mph time, but is only rated at 20 mpg combined.

The rang-topping engine, at least until the outrageous AMG model is introduced, resides in the C350 and is a new, 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Equipped as such, the C-Class will get to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and achieve an estimated 21 mpg combined. Thanks to the addition of standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive, the C300’s fuel economy actually decreases by 1 mpg, but the C350 gains 1 mpg. The C250 is new for the 2012 model year.

“In terms of driveline and safety systems, the new-generation C-Class offers the comfort and safety of our luxury vehicles — and with many high-end details in the interior evocative of the new CLS, the new C-Class sets completely new benchmarks in its segment when it comes to premium look-and-feel,” says Dr. Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president of Mercedes-Benz Cars’ sales and marketing.

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