Cosmetic and functional revisions inside and out, a host of new safety systems and significant powertrain changes -- including a new-for-the- U.S. turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine -- highlight a long list of upgrades to the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan. Appearing at the Detroit Auto Show, Mercedes' best-selling model will go on sale here next summer in C250 Sport/Luxury, C300 4MATIC Sport/Luxury and C350 Sport trims.

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show

Fashion with a purpose

This comprehensive mid-cycle refresh starts with restyled fascias that add more M-B family "character" and also help trim the coefficient of drag to a best-in-class 0.26 index figure. Up front, the 2011 C-Class Sedan gets a more prominent grille, reshaped air intakes and more sculpted headlamps -- in halogen or corner-tracking "active" bi-xenon form. Also in the mix is a new, lightweight aluminum hood. The car's subtly redrawn rear cap brings new and better-integrated LED-style taillamps with a central element that creates a distinctive "floating" illusion when illuminated.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan steps up its inside game as well, with more elegant overall detailing plus and a new dash and console treatment that adds flash and functionality. The more sculpted main panel houses a new tri-binnacle instrument cluster as well as an integrated central display screen for the new-generation of more user-friendly COMAND telematics system that's destined to be rolled into other subsequent M-B model lines. Beyond a larger 3D display, it provides several new features including phone book transfer, text message display, and wireless music via Bluetooth. Revamped switchgear on redesigned console is done in a tasteful mix of silver and matte while a new three-spoke multifunction steering wheel borrowed from the CL-Class matches a thick, leather-covered rim with easily accessible arrays of supplemental control buttons. There's also a new USB interface located in the center armrest.

Driving for efficiently

Motivation for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Sedan family will come from three different engines, all backed by a revamped version of the seven-speed automatic transmission. A new-for-America 1.8-liter direct-injected turbo-four in the new C250 base model will make 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes says it delivers a 24-mpg combined EPA number, nearly 15 percent better than that of the present rear-drive C300. While the carryover 3.0-liter V6 in the C300 4 MATIC will continue to make its current 228/221 output numbers, the C350 gets a new-gen 3.5-liter V6 with BlueDIRECT injection that makes 302 horses and 273 lb-ft of twist compared to the 268/258 figures of the existing C350 engine. This new six also nets a five percent gain in fuel economy compared to existing C350.

No Mercedes-Benz model update would be complete without a healthy dose of safety-related enhancements and the 2012 C-Class Sedan boasts no less than five new driver helpers. That formidable list includes ATTENTION ASSIST, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Park Assist with PARKTRONIC, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist. All employ state-of-the-art radar, camera and sensor technology programmed to automatically respond to situations such as darkness, driver fatigue and surrounding traffic which are the most frequent causes of accidents.

We're still waiting word on other members of the U.S. 2012 C-Class family -- most notably the C63 AMG sedan and an C63 AMG Black Edition Coupe. If unofficial background info and various spy shots prove true, these V8-powered stunners should serve as exceptional high-profile exclamation points to the now-even-better standard C-Class Sedan lineup.

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