By Matt Degen - Updated Date: 4/11/2012
Mercedes-Benz has long been equated with luxurious, expensive cars. The fresh-for-2012 C-Class coupes and sedans, starting in the mid-$30,000 range, represents a more digestible entry point for those seeking the pampering and cachet of a Mercedes without going into (too much) debt to attain it. Now Mercedes has made its entry-level lineup even more tempting with a new base model, the C250, powered by a small, fuel-efficient 4-cylinder. At the other end of the C-Class range is the C63 AMG with a thundering 451-horsepower V-8. What all of these baby Benzes have in common, though, are the quality craftsmanship and driving capability for which Mercedes-Benz vehicles are known.You'll Like This Car If...
A 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class gives you the prestige, comfort and solid driving dynamics of an old-money German luxury car, but still makes room for new-money needs like paying for that first house or sending the kids to college. The C-Class also boasts excellent resale value when it's time to move on or up.You May Not Like This Car If...
Remember: While these cars are more attainable in initial price, they are still luxury vehicles, which usually means higher maintenance and total ownership costs down the road. Even at the base C-Class price, you could buy a loaded-to-the-gills Chevrolet Cruze or Honda Civic with thousands to spare, or a very well-equipped Acura TSX or Buick Regal and still have money left over.What's Significant About This Car?
Mercedes-Benz realizes it's not alone in chasing upwardly mobile car buyers looking for a premium vehicle. The C-Class, and especially the new 4-cylinder C250 sedan and coupe models, represents Mercedes' effort to capture those younger dollars. For 2012, Mercedes has implemented over 2,000 new parts in the C-Class, giving it direct-injection engines, revised front and rear bodywork, and an updated interior.Driving It Driving Impressions
Even a base C250 feels like a Mercedes: solid and confident on the road, with creature comforts and technology galore. Except for the AMG performance model, C-Class sedans and coupes tend to focus more on a comfortable ride than the sporting one of its longtime rival, the BMW 3 Series. Still, C-Class models, available in rear-drive or all-wheel-drive, feel nimble in corners and provide good acceleration via their smooth 7-speed automatic transmission. Even the C250's 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder puts out over 200 horsepower, but models with that engine need to be in Sport mode to indeed feel that way – otherwise the power is only acceptable for a car of this cost and caliber. Models with the new 3.5-liter V6 are plenty potent even in Comfort mode.Favorite Features
This standard feature can detect when a driver is drowsy and alerts him or her via visual and audible warnings. How does it do that? The car uses sensors that "observe driver behavior," based primarily on steering wheel movements.
Fit and Finish:
The cabin of even the least expensive Mercedes-Benz feels comfortable and cozy. Then there is the appreciable tactile feel of every component, from the leather-wrapped steering wheel to the metal buttons and gauges. It literally feels like a quality car.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is elegant yet relatively understated inside. A 4.5-inch color display now sits before the driver, encircled within the speedometer, relaying trip, audio and navigation information. Buttons and dials for climate settings are a cinch to locate and use. Even when outfitted with the base M-B Tex vinyl upholstery, the C-Class seats are comfortable and supportive. Rear-seat space is a bit tight in the 5-passenger sedan, and even more cramped in the coupe, which seats four and has a lower roofline that can bump against heads. Like other luxury cars, audio, telephone and navigation are controlled via a console-mounted dial whose functions are viewed on a color-LCD screen in the center dash. The panorama roof that's optional on sedans and standard on coupes does an admirable job of shading, but still lets in quite a bit of light when the sun is directly overhead.Exterior
While most of the updates for the 2012 C-Class are under the hood, Mercedes has made tweaks to the outer design of its smallest car. The biggest news is the introduction of a curvaceous coupe, a first for the C-Class. Though it has two fewer doors than its sedan siblings, the C-Class coupe is nearly identical in length, width and wheelbase, but lower in height, giving it a more sporty appearance. C-Class Sedans retain their angular look and feature a lighter aluminum hood, revised front and rear bumpers, and redesigned headlights and taillights.Notable Standard Equipment
All C-Class models come with a 7-speed automatic transmission, Attention Assist drowsiness monitor, 11 airbags, power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors, dual-zone climate control, 8-way power front seats, 5.8-inch color screen with center controller, and AM/FM/HD Radio with CD player and auxiliary/USB inputs. Coupes add a panorama roof, split-folding rear seats, and paddle shifters for manual gear selection.Notable Optional Equipment
Comfort, tech and safety options abound in the 2012 C-Class. Among them are an in-vehicle hotspot for Internet connectivity, blind-spot monitor, rear-view camera, push-button start/stop, and a navigation system loaded with useful information such as ATM locations and Zagat Survey restaurant ratings. The high-end audio option is a 12-speaker, 450-watt harman/kardon Logic7 surround-sound system.Under the Hood
After a several-year absence, Mercedes is again employing a 4-cylinder engine for its base C-Class in the U.S. market, a fuel-efficient 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 201 horsepower. That's just 27 hp shy of the larger, 3.0-liter V6 that powers the C300, and enables the C250 to attain the same 0-60 mph time as the C300: 7.1 seconds. More powerful still is the C350, with a new 3.5-liter V6 that makes 302 horsepower. The voracious C63 AMG boasts a 6.3-liter V8 that makes 451 horsepower – and has fuel-economy numbers that add a one-time $1,700 gas-guzzler tax. All models now use a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode (no manual transmission is available).
C250 sedan and coupe:
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
201 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
229 lb-ft of torque @ 2,200-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 mpg
C300 4Matic sedan:
228 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
221 lb-ft of torque @ 2,700-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg
C350 sedan and coupe:
302 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 3,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/29 mpg
C63 AMG sedan and coupe:
451 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
443 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 12/19 mpg
The base price for a 2012 C250 Sedan is $35,675, including destination. At the other end, a C63 AMG Sedan begins at $61,505. In between, a C300 4Matic sedan starts around $39,000, and a C350 sedan starts at over $41,000. Coupe versions of the C250, C350 and C63 increase their cost about $2,000. Options can easily add $10,000 or more to the base price.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class has a similar starting price to the BMW 328i Sedan ($35,795), and matches the rest of the 3-Series closely up the model line. It has a higher starting price than the Lexus IS 250 ($34,470), Infiniti G Sedan ($33,495), Audi A4 ($33,375), Volvo S60 ($32,175), Acura TSX ($30,905), and Buick Regal ($27,940). It is lower than the starting price of a Cadillac CTS ($36,810). A relative bargain, the C63 starts lower than a Lexus IS F ($62,175), BMW M3 ($62,295), and Cadillac CTS-V ($65,410).
To see what buyers in your area are paying for a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. Down the road, the C-Class boasts exceptional resale value.