Used 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C63 AMG Black Series
- 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.
Edmunds' Expert Review
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.
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.
Trim levels & features
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
You can't go to Tenerife without getting a taste of its endless nightlife, so we're hardly surprised to find a colleague who's overdone it on the local mistela passed out in the backseat of our 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport Sedan.
He's unwanted ballast and he's shown up just as we're about to hit the Carretera del Bailadero. This little mountain road winds its way through the northern tip of the largest of the Canary Islands. The verdant landscape is unreal, but you have no business here if you're liable to lose your lunch.
Then, we decide this will make a good informal test of the revised drivetrain and suspension on the refreshed 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sedan. If we can carry some speed through the turns and still deliver our passenger alive to the hotel, well, maybe the 2012 C350 Sport finally has some of the sport-sedan character that's been missing from previous versions of Mercedes' entry-level luxury sedan.
300 or Bust
One big reason we've never been able to take the current-generation Mercedes C350 Sport seriously as a sport sedan is its lack of power. With only 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the previous-generation C350 was significantly slower than the BMW 335i, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS 350, all of which have 300-hp six-cylinder engines.
For 2012, the C350 finally joins the 300-horse club. Mercedes has added direct injection to its 3.5-liter V6, and this has allowed the engineers to raise compression from 10.7:1 to 12.2. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 is rated at 302 hp at 6,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm.
Flooring the throttle on Tenerife's main highway reveals a liveliness in the midrange that wasn't here before, along with a sweeter soundtrack. Mercedes is predicting a 5.9-second 0-60-mph time, but our 2012 C350 Sport feels a couple tenths quicker than that.
This still won't be quite enough to keep pace with the 335i, which hits 60 mph in 5 seconds flat, or the G37, which does it in 5.2. The C350's naturally aspirated V6 offers adequate low-end torque for accelerating out of the slow corners on Carretera del Bailadero, but of course it isn't the kind of instantaneous grunt you get with the turbocharged 335i.
Nor does the C350's seven-speed automatic transmission match revs (though we're pretty sure G37-style automated throttle blips would have reduced our passenger to a quivering pile in the footwell). At least downshifts are respectably quick in Sport mode. Paddle shifters aren't available, and don't even ask about a manual gearbox — nobody in America wants a three-pedal Benz.
Less Efficient Than Europe's D.I. V6
Gear ratios haven't changed on the seven-speed automatic, but engineers have made various improvements to reduce torque-converter slip and frictional losses. These updates, along with the new engine, will result in slightly better fuel economy — Mercedes estimates the 2012 C350 will get 21 mpg combined versus 20 combined for the 2011 model.
This probably isn't the dramatic improvement you've been expecting from the direct-injected Mercedes V6, and that's because the U.S. version won't get all the fuel-saving measures on our Euro-spec C350 tester. The European-market 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 uses stratified-charge combustion in low-load situations up to 3,800 rpm. This cuts consumption by 10 percent. But the U.S. can't have it because our higher-sulfur gasoline would destroy the NOx catalyst.
Our European-spec C350 also has a start-stop function. Although we find it unobtrusive when it engages at stop lights, Mercedes executives aren't convinced we won't freak out when the engine shuts off, so no U.S.-bound 2012 C-Class will have it.
If you're bent on saving fuel, you're better off with the entry-level 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250, which has a new turbocharged and direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder, rated at 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque. It comes with the seven-speed automatic, too, and will get 30 mpg on the highway, says Mercedes.
In between, there's the C300 4Matic. It has a carryover, port-injected 228-hp 3.0-liter V6. It's no quicker than the C250 (7.1 seconds to 60 is the claim), and it's the least fuel-efficient of the three models (20 mpg combined), but it's the C-Class sedan to get if you want all-wheel drive. The C250 and C350 are rear-drive only.
Sport or Luxury. Is That Even a Choice?
We keep referring to our Euro-spec test car as the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport, but that's actually the only way you can buy it in the U.S. — with adaptive dampers and a sport-tuned suspension calibration. The lower-line models also come in C250 Luxury and C300 4Matic Luxury variations with a softer state of tune, but the adaptive dampers are standard across the board.
This midcycle refresh doesn't bring radical change to the C-Class suspension, which includes struts and dual lower links in front and a multilink rear, but the lead chassis engineer tells us they've increased compression damping to improve the ride, though we've never had any complaints about how the current-gen C-Class rides.
And after our adventure on Tenerife's back roads, we still don't. However, even with the dampers in their sport setting, the 2012 C350 Sport still isn't very engaging. It's capable on technical roads, but it lacks the sharp turn-in response and communicative steering that make sedans like the 3 Series and G37 so addictive. The C350 may well match their handling numbers, but it won't inspire many "just because" drives.
We remain fans of the Mercedes-Benz C350's brakes, though. They're unchanged for 2012, and that's OK because they work great.
Less Austerity, More Features
Every current-generation C-Class sedan we've been in has had excellent build and materials quality, but the hospital-ward vibe can run a bit thin, especially in our long-term 2008 C300 Sport's plain black cabin.
So Mercedes has brightened the place up for 2012, adding more metal (Sport models) and wood inlays (Luxury models) and a couple new steering wheel designs. In a nod to our modern times, the automaker has integrated the 7-inch navigation screen into the dash, rather than having it pop out on command. Europeans will be able to use the screen to surf the Web and view SMS texts, and though we won't enjoy such diversions here, the new 80GB hard-drive-based nav system will include 3-D maps.
New standard features include Bluetooth streaming audio capability and the Attention Assist system that will give you a virtual elbow if you doze off in your C-Class. Blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems will be a package option. In Europe, the systems will take corrective action if you don't, but in the U.S., they'll merely warn you, because we're all about personal freedom here.
Price Isn't Going Up
By day's end, we deposit our rested and rejuvenated passenger at the hotel, where he suits up for another night out. Although our 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport has had a hand in his recovery, it still wouldn't be our first pick for a sport sedan under $50,000 when it goes on sale this August.
The new direct-injected V6 puts the C350 back in the game, but the Benz still isn't as quick as the BMW 335i or Infiniti G37, and it doesn't offset that with outstanding fuel economy or amazing handling. Once again, the C350 Sport is just a well-executed luxury sedan that happens to have "Sport" in its name.
It also happens to be a bit cheaper than its BMW rival, as Mercedes plans to hold the line on pricing for 2012. Look for the C350 to start around $40,000 and top out in the mid-$40Ks when equipped like our tester. With comparable equipment, the C350 will likely cost $3,000-$4,000 less than the 335i — at which point you have to decide just how much the BMW's stronger personality is worth to you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored press event to facilitate this report, which originally appeared on insideline.com.
Used 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C63 AMG Black Series Overview
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class?
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