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With several key changes for 2012, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class reaffirms its status as one of the best luxury sport sedans while chiseling out a similar position with its new coupe model.
Diverse engine and model lineup; meticulously engineered and constructed; refined ride and handling; excellent brakes; good fuel economy; rip-roaring C63 AMG model.
Smaller and pricier than some competitors; all-wheel drive only available with one engine.
Available C-Class Models
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Many changes are in evidence with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class. For the first time ever, a new coupe model debuts and is offered in the same configurations as the sedan. The C-Class is also more powerful and fuel-efficient this year, as the C350's V6 gets a big bump in horsepower, while a new turbocharged four-cylinder model debuts in a new trim, the C250. The C300's engine remains the same, but is now only available with all-wheel drive. The seven-speed automatic transmission has been altered for improved fuel efficiency, while the C63 gets the automated manual found in most other AMG models. Other changes include additional standard equipment, new front-end styling and a revised interior that does away with the old pop-up LCD infotainment screen.
While other luxury sedans chase down the BMW 3 Series with talk of increased sportiness and improved lap times around some racetrack in a German forest, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is very much its own car. Oh, it can still be plenty sporty, but not at the expense of ride comfort or the general dynamic qualities indicative of its brand.
The most obvious addition for 2012 is the new C-Class coupe, which gives Mercedes a more affordable entry in the two-door segment than the old CLK. Shared between both coupe and sedan is revised styling, with more curvaceous headlamps and better integrated LED running lights. The interior also has been reworked with higher-quality materials, a more visually interesting design and a fixed display screen in lieu of the old pop-up unit.
The engine lineup has been diversified for 2012. Is fuel economy a priority? The new C250 model has an efficient yet reasonably punchy turbocharged four-cylinder. Live in a frosty clime? The C300 4Matic comes standard with all-wheel drive. Should you want class-competitive power, the C350 now provides it with 302 horsepower (last year's C350 made 268 hp). And finally, there's the C63 AMG, which is essentially a German muscle car cranking out 451 tire-smoking horses.
In total, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class now offers more choice while adding to its already impressive array of talents. Of course, it still resides in a segment with quality picks such as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G and Volvo S60. We recommend them all, but there's only one car in the class that provides the honest, unapologetic and meticulously engineered goodness of a genuine Mercedes-Benz.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is available in sedan and coupe body styles, both of which are available in C250, C350 and C63 AMG trim levels. The sedan is furthermore available as a C300 4Matic, while the coupe gets a C350 4Matic and a C63 AMG Black Series.
The C250 and C300 trims all come standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, automatic wipers, a sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (with adjustable lumbar), MB-Tex vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming interior and driver-side mirrors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, a USB audio jack and HD radio. The C300 4Matic adds all-wheel drive and a V6 engine.
In sedan form, the C250 and C300 are further differentiated into Luxury and Sport sub-trims. These differ in wheel design, suspension tuning, styling details, steering wheel design and interior trim type. When equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive, the Luxury also includes a comfort-tuned suspension. The Premium 1 package adds on four-way adjustable lumbar support for the front seats, heated front seats, driver memory functions, a power-adjustable steering wheel, split-folding rear seats and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with satellite radio and an iPod interface (optional separately as well).
In coupe form, the C250 gets a panoramic sunroof, split-folding rear seats, additional driver seat adjustments, driver memory functions and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. The coupe's Premium 1 package adds the heated seats and the Harman Kardon system with satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The C350 sedan comes only in Sport guise, with a bigger V6 engine and the Premium 1 package standard; the C350 coupe adds a panoramic sunroof. The C63 AMG is equipped similarly in terms of comfort and convenience features, but gets 18-inch wheels, high-performance tires, an adaptive sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, sport seats, more aggressive styling and different interior trim.
There are a multitude of options available for the 2012 C-Class. The COMAND package adds a larger central infotainment screen, a navigation system, real-time traffic, voice controls, digital music storage and a single-CD player. A six-CD changer can also be added. The Lighting package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and automatic high beams. The Lane Tracking package adds a blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system. Stand-alone options include a rearview camera, Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics, a panoramic sunroof (on the sedan), a power rear sunshade, keyless ignition/entry and the Parktronic advanced parking sensor system.
All but the C63 can be equipped with the Full Leather Seating package, which includes extended leather trim, additional passenger seat adjustments and passenger seat memory functions.
The C63 can be equipped with the AMG Development package, which adds 30 extra horsepower, a higher top speed, red brake calipers and a carbon-fiber trunk lid spoiler. A limited-slip differential is offered.
Available only as a coupe, the C63 AMG Black Series brings even more performance. It gets more power, an adjustable coil-over sport suspension, high-performance composite brakes, extra engine cooling, a rear axle differential lock, a wider track, aerodynamic body modifications, special 19-inch wheels, a rear diffuser, a two-seat interior, sport seats, microfiber upholstery and steering wheel trim, and special interior design elements. The AMG Track package adds ultra-high-performance tires and an active cooling unit for the rear axle. The AMG Aerodynamics package includes added exterior winglets and an adjustable carbon-fiber rear spoiler.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 is powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 201 hp and 229 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a C250 Sport sedan went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds -- about a second slower than the four-cylinder-powered Audi A4. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, which is very good for the segment.
The all-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 228 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. According to Mercedes, it should match the acceleration of the lighter C250. Fuel economy stands at 18/25/20.
Under the hood of the Mercedes-Benz C350 is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive comes with the C350 4Matic coupe. In Edmunds testing, it went from zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds -- a number on par with the quicker members of its class. Fuel economy is an excellent 20/29/23.
With the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, you get a 6.2-liter V8 that cranks out 451 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque; add the AMG Development package and horsepower gets bumped up to 481. A seven-speed automated manual transmission is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a C63 Coupe with the AMG Development package went from zero to 60 mph in an incredible 4.2 seconds. Fuel economy is 13/19/15.
The C63 AMG Black Series gets a more powerful version of the 6.2-liter V8 good for 510 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. That should obviously make it quicker than the regular model.
Every 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, a driver knee airbag, front side thorax airbags, front side pelvic airbags and full-length curtain airbags. Also standard is Mercedes Attention Assist, which monitors the driver for signs of drowsiness and inattention. Rear side thorax airbags are standard on the coupe and optional on the sedan. Other safety-oriented options include the Lane Tracking package -- which adds a blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system -- and Mercedes-Benz mbrace emergency telematics.
In Edmunds brake testing, a C350 Sport came to a stop from 60 mph in 108 feet. The C250 Sport and C63 came within 5 feet of matching that outstanding distance.
In government crash testing, the C-Class sedan received an overall crash rating of four out of five stars, with three stars overall in a frontal crash and five stars overall in a side crash. In testing done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the C-Class sedan received top marks, including a "Good" rating for frontal-offset, side impact and roof-strength tests.
Just tugging on the C-Class' door handle makes you feel as if you've cracked open an impenetrable vault. This model's interior was always well crafted, but it gets even better for 2012, with upgraded switchgear and a more eye-pleasing design. The controls are straightforward for this class of car, and Mercedes' optional COMAND electronics interface is fairly easy to use; the iPod interface is particularly user-friendly and quick to respond. The COMAND screen no longer pops out of the dash like before, and it seems like a good change to us, as it's a cleaner look and one less thing to go wrong.
Though the sedan is bigger than previous C-Class editions, it's hardly the best choice for growing families. Some might find a child seat difficult to install in the narrow, bucketlike backseat positions, and the 12.4-cubic-foot trunk is on the small side.
As for the coupe, it shouldn't come as a surprise that its backseat is quite cramped. Legroom is about par for the segment (squished), while headroom is non-existent for those taller than about 5-foot-8. In total, the C-Class coupe is less accommodating than the 3 Series coupe, no worse than an A5 and better than a Cadillac CTS Coupe. Its trunk of 11.7 cubic feet is average-sized for the small luxury coupe class.
Regardless of whether you opt for the 2012 C250, C300 or C350, Mercedes' entry-level luxury car boasts precise steering and handling, as well as overall driving dynamics that are comparable to other sedans and coupes in the segment. Despite their more sporting character, the Sport variants offer a firm but perfectly damped ride and the ability to tackle long road trips with ease. The Luxury variants ride a little softer and have a quieter exhaust system, resulting in a more serene driving environment.
Though the C250's four-cylinder isn't as potent as the turbocharged four-cylinder in the Audi A4/A5, it's far quieter, more refined and gets slightly better fuel economy. There's absolutely no shame in opting for the base model C-Class. The C300 4Matic offers slightly more power, but is really only necessary for those who need all-weather traction. The C350 is easily the enthusiast's choice, as its V6 has a sharp, responsive character, and increased horsepower for 2012 makes a big difference.
Then there's the C63 AMG. Packing a ferocious V8 that matches the mighty Cadillac CTS-V in a straight line, the C63 is the German equivalent of a muscle car. While not quite as engaging or agile as the BMW M3, the C63 responds to driver inputs with added sharpness and a degree of communication few Mercedes-Benz models have ever offered. The new transmission for 2012 increases driver involvement, but it isn't quite as responsive to inputs as BMW's automated manual. On the other hand, it's far smoother around town. The C63 AMG Black Series is essentially a racecar that you can drive on the road so it's an incredible performance machine, but likely too hard-core for casual driving.
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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe in WA is: