Mercedes-Benz has updated its C-Class for the 2012 model year. The exterior changes are mild, but the interior upgrades are substantial, as is required in this competitive compact-luxury sedan class. The updated C-Class is scheduled to hit dealerships in summer 2011. Competitors include the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 and Cadillac CTS.
The three models are the new C250, C300 and C350, which come in regular and Sport trim versions. There's also a C-Class coupe — a first for the nameplate since 2005. The high-performance C63 AMG lives on; it's available in both coupe and sedan body styles.
The C-Class' styling has been refreshed, but not completely redesigned. The restyled front end takes after the current E-Class, with resculpted headlights and horizontal LED running lights in the bumper. The eyelash highlight from the 2011 C-Class is gone. Bi-xenon headlamps are optional. The most noticeable changes around back are the new taillight assemblies, which integrate LED lighting in a continuous band.
Interior trim choices include brushed aluminum, black ash and matte-finish burl walnut wood. A row of metallic buttons anchor a newly designed center control panel.
A new instrument panel package brings a high-resolution color LCD screen to the center-mounted speedometer. The whole panel isn't LCD, as it is on the S-Class and CL-Class. The screen is outlined by a conventional analog speedometer ring.
Entertainment features include a new generation of Mercedes' Comand system, Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB port in the center armrest.
Under the Hood
The C-Class offers three engines. The C250 has a new 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder with direct injection. The C300 with 4Matic all-wheel drive has a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, and the C350 has a 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with direct injection, up from 268 hp in 2011. Fuel efficiency is 5 percent higher in the largest engine, Mercedes says.
All models use a seven-speed automatic transmission, and a new lightweight aluminum hood contributes to better gas mileage. Mercedes says the C250 will get 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving, a 15 percent improvement over last year's C300. The C300 is rated 20 mpg, and the C350 is 21 mpg. The company cites zero-to-60-mph times of 7.1 seconds for the C250 and C300. It's 5.9 seconds for the C350.
As required by federal law for all 2012 models, the C-Class has standard antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. Frontal, side-impact and side curtain airbags are also standard.
Unlike the prior-generation C-Class coupe, which was more of a hatchback, the new coupe is a legitimate two-door car. Sharing the same wheelbase as the sedan, the coupe has the same length and width, but its height is down 1.5 inches. In profile, its belt line rises more steeply than the sedan's, with windowsills that curl up into the C-pillars.
Inside, the coupe gets unique one-piece seats with integrated head restraints. It adopts the same dash as the sedan, complete with Mercedes' latest Comand system and three-dimensional city maps. Headroom in the two-position rear seat drops 1.4 inches versus the sedan's backseat; the drop in legroom is more substantial. Cargo volume drops slightly, to 11.7 cubic feet, versus 12.4 cubic feet in the sedan.
The coupe comes in rear-wheel-drive C250 and C350 variants — there's no all-wheel-drive C300 coupe — with a 201-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder (C250) or a 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 (C350). Both cars use a seven-speed automatic. (Back to top)
Available as a sedan or coupe, the C63 bears more aggressive styling, complete with a wider track, glossy black bumper portions and unique 18-inch wheels. Under its hood is a 451-hp V-8 that drives the rear wheels through the new seven-speed automatic from the AMG variants of the E-Class and CLS-Class. The automatic uses a wet startup clutch and a multiclutch pack to shift once you're moving. It's not to be confused with the old C63's seven-speed auto, whose transmission used a more conventional torque converter.
The suspension and steering have been tuned for higher performance, and the C63's brake rotors measure 14.2 inches in diameter up front — nearly an inch wider than the C350's discs. An optional AMG Development Package adds lightweight drivetrain components that reduce engine friction, bumping horsepower to 481. It gets the C63 AMG to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, a tenth of a second quicker than cars without the package. (Back to top)
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