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2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class: Half Will Have Four-Cylinder Engine

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For 2012 the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is going to get a partial redesign and a sleek new Coupe body style—and, for the first time in years, a four-cylinder engine.

Beginning with the refreshed model that arrives mid-year, M-B is no longer shying away from fours: A new C250, with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, is the new base model for the U.S., and with M-B anticipating nearly half to be sold with the four, it's the new volume model as well.

M-B expects sales for the new coupe and sedan combined to be incrementally higher than the current sedan.

It's certainly not the first time Mercedes has offered a four-cylinder in the C-Class. In the 1990s, the automaker offered a four-cylinder C220 in the U.S., then later, this past decade, a supercharged C230 Kompressor.

The last time the C-Class was fully redesigned, we were told that four-cylinder models wouldn't be coming back anytime soon—dealerships pushed back, and the customer demand wasn't there. Now it seems just a few years later that's all changed.

Refinement, fuel prices, CAFE make it different this time

Why? Stronger, smoother four-cylinder engines with more appeal; preparedness for higher fuel prices; and a concern about raising the company's fleet fuel economy are all strong reasons to bring four-bangers back.

The new engine in the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 Coupe and sedan produces up to 229 pound-feet of torque; that's eight more pound-feet than the V-6 it replaces. And with a flatter torque curve, even though peak power is lower than that of the V-6, 0-60 acceleration will be the same, at 7.1 seconds. "So from a customer perspective it's a win-win," declared Bernhard Glaser, general manager for U.S. product, who added that the new engine offers more driving involvement than the outgoing engine—as well as more torque.

"That's just the driving part. The other thing that comes under consideration is the dramatically improved fuel economy—15 percent better," Glaser said. The new engine returns 21 mpg city, 30 highway (24 combined); that's significantly better than the 18/26 ratings of the current 2011 Mercedes-Benz C300.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will be offered in three different models: C250, C300 4Matic, and C350. The 350 still comes with a 3.5-liter V-6, but it's up in power, to 302 hp, thanks to a new BlueDirect direct-injection system (and will boast a five-percent improvement in fuel economy). As before, separate Sport and Luxury models will bring a separate set of equipment, and a different look, to cater to those who want more of a sport sedan or a comfortable, luxury-oriented model.

C250, with 1.8T, is new core model

The four-cylinder is intended to be the new bread-and-butter of the lineup, not a limited-production price leader. "In the C-Class it's going to be our core model. This engine will replace the C300, so we expect it to be 45 to 50 percent of the model mix," said Glaser. "We have very high expectations."

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