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.
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.