Mid-cycle refreshes are normally limited to new bumpers and the addition of a few new features. At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking that’s exactly what’s been done to the 2012 Mercedes C-Class. On the outside, the hood, bumpers and front fenders are new but aesthetically that’s really about it. On the inside is a new dashboard, very much needed but not huge. If you were willing to dig around under the skin, you would actually find that over 2000 new parts have found their way into the new entry-level luxury sedan. That is big news.
The latest-generation C-Class made its debut at the 2007 Geneva Show to rave reviews from both media and customers across the world. The previous version, which had been around since 2000, was considered a decent car, but really didn’t live up to legendary Mercedes standards. The new car brought the looks, refinement and dynamics that higher-end Mercedes models had always included, but entry-level cars lacked. While not perfect, it was definitely a big step towards it.
The few areas of concerns that customers still had were the main focus of the 2012 C-Class refresh. Starting with the powertrain, Mercedes looked at ways of increasing performance while simultaneously improving efficiency and decreasing environmental impact. The C350 uses an all-new 302-horsepower 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6 engine which supplies more power than the outgoing model while bettering its fuel efficiency. The previous C350 was able to return 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway according the EPA. The EPA has not officially tested the 2012 models but Mercedes assures that they will beat previous number by 10 to 20 percent. Helping the new engine achieve those numbers is a seven-speed automatic transmission that operates with the smoothness and precision customers demand from a Mercedes.
For customers who don’t need that level of performance, or are looking for even greater fuel efficiency, Mercedes will offer the C250. The base level C will be powered by a 201-horsepower tubocharged direct-injection 1.8-liter I-4 that is claimed to deliver 30 mpg on the highway. While it is 100-horsepower shy of the C350, the small turbocharger provides all 228-lb-ft of torque from 2200 RPM all the way up to 4300 RPM. In the middle of the mix is the C300 4Matic which offers a 228-horepower 3.0-liter direct-injection V-6. The standout feature of the C300 is the full time all wheel drive system suitable for all-weather luxury driving.
Underneath the C350 is a retuned suspension system that uses MacPherson strut for the front end with multilink in the rear. The C-Class is available in both sport and luxury models both delivering an appropriate ride for their chosen mission. The Sport rides slightly lower and stiffer than the luxury. The stiffer suspension returns faster reflexes on the road while still being comfortable. For those looking for even greater levels of handling Mercedes offers a Dynamic Suspension Package, which allows the driver to select stiffer damper settings from the cockpit with the push of a button.
Inside the new C-Class is a redesigned dash and higher grade materials all around. The previous dash was the biggest tell-tale that you were riding in the entry-level Mercedes. For 2012 a more cohesive design finds its way inside the car with a dashboard using horizontal sweeping features that give that interior a wider, more open appearance. The infotainment system, which previously appeared to be an afterthought, is now integrated into the center of the dash and the controls are more user-friendly as well. The whole environment is finished off with better materials and makes the C-Class feel just like one of its higher-end stable mates.
The interior volume has grown slightly, to make it an even more comfortable place to spend time. The front seats are supportive and on the firm side making them enjoyable for road trips. The back seat is accommodating for two adults for longer trips and has the ability to hold three for short amounts of time. This is still the smallest Mercedes sedan, so buyers shouldn’t expect S-Class level of space in back. Mercedes the trunk can hold golf bags, but we would recommend bringing them to the dealership with you if that is a make or break requirement.
Our sister publication Motor Trend had this to say about the new C-Class; “With improved styling, handling, and power, the C has gone from something you would like to lease to something you would love to own.” We agree. The new entry level sedan from Mercedes is again at the top of its segment in most areas. If you own a C-Class from 2007 or later, we probably wouldn’t rush out to get the new one. However, if that lease is coming around and you are wondering what to do, those 2000 new parts might just make up your mind for you.