First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250/C350 Coupe

May 26, 2011
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


Photo Gallery

2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

C250 Sport RWD 4-Dr Sedan I4
starting at (MSRP)
1.8L I4
Fuel Economy
21 City 31 Hwy
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class