2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 20, 2012

With a new base four-cylinder engine, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class makes even more sense for value-conscious (yet image-conscious) luxury shoppers.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Mercedes-Benz is offering a four-cylinder engine in its compact C-Class model line. It coincides with extensive changes throughout the model lineup, as well as all-new C-Class Coupe and high-performance AMG editions. Overall, it takes on entry luxury and sport models like the Audi A4 (and A5), the BMW 3-Series, the Lexus IS, the Infiniti G37, and the Cadillac CTS.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan hasn't been completely redesigned, but it does get a careful retouch, for a clear visual link to the latest new Mercedes-Benz designs. As before, the C-Class can be had in Luxury or Sport guise, with the Sport treatment standing out for its emphatic, salad-plate-sized emblem over a barrel grille. Inside, the C-Class sees a sportier, more modern look with revised metallic trims, but it's still a bit. A new Coupe joins the C-Class range for 2012 as well, available in the same basic forms as the sedan.

The new addition to the C-Class lineup is the C250. Its turbocharged, direct-injected 1.8-liter four might raise eyebrows for the classic M-B crowd, but it's no reason for worry, clocking to 60 mph just as quickly as the former C300 and delivering a smooth wave of torque to the rear wheels--with EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 31 highway. The C300 (and its 228-hp engine) remain offered in 4Matic all-wheel drive guise, and the C350 gets the all-new 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 that's used in the larger E-Class. Sport versions remain our recommendation, because the ride quality doesn't suffer much at all for its more aggressive cant; the Sport sedan also gets bigger wheels and brakes, as well as a dual exhaust to go with its lower, more tightly sprung suspension. Steering feel is a little zestless, though.

At the top of the line, is the brilliant (and slightly wicked) C63 AMG Coupe joins the lineup for 2012, powered by a massive 6.2-liter V-8 that rumbles out 457 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. And when optioned with a Performance Package, it can get to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, and to 186 mph. It also comes with AMG's quicker-shifting seven-speed automatic, while a tighter suspension, wider track, quicker steering, and big 18-inch wheels with 14.2-inch front disc and 13-inch rear disc brakes give it a much more lively feel without compromising its civility.

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The C-Class models provide the utmost comfort for front occupants, but those in back, even if they can get in, will be left wedging their legs against the back of the front seats whether you're looking at the sedan or coupe. In all fairness, when looking at rival models like the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series, that's just how it is in this class. You do tend to hear the engine a bit, but cabins are well hushed from road and wind noise.

Whether you go for the Luxury or Sport models, equipment remains stout, even at the base C250 level. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, with a USB port and HD Radio; a sunroof and dual-zone climate control are also included. C350 and C300 4Matic models move up to iPod control, heated front seats, a sport suspension, and options are grouped into several packages: Sport, Luxury, and Premium. The new mbrace suite of security and concierge services is also available. 

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Styling

With both coupe and sedan models to choose from, wearing fresh new faces, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class's dramatic exterior and modern interior will find many fans.

With a new coupe joining the C Class for the 2012 model year, along with a freshly updated sedan, there's a lot of style to love in Mercedes' entry-level model.

The sedan gets a revised exterior, with a more prominent grille to match other new Mercedes models, while the all-new Coupe draws on its four-door sibling's cues to deliver a car that's unmistakably a Mercedes-Benz, but at the same time, a bit sportier and sexier than the sedan.

Both models share a dramatic front end, combining sharp angles with graceful curves and high-tech elements like LED daytime running lights. Inside, purposeful ergonomics meld with modern Mercedes styling in varying degrees of sport and luxury, depending on the trim line and body style. The Coupe draws more race-inspired detail in its upholstery and steering wheel, while the sedan edges toward the more luxurious end, with refined materials and premium finishes at the forefront--though buyers can configure a very sporty-looking sedan as well.

The C63 AMG Coupe, sitting at the zenith of the C Class range, offers much more dramatic exterior and interior styling, with wider fender arches, AMG badges and unique interior elements, and twin chrome tailpipes emitting the raspy sound of the potent 6.2-liter V-8 engine.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Performance

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class range offers several degrees of sportiness, with the C63 AMG reaching truly track-worthy heights.

New for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class is a return to the C250 moniker, and with it, a turbo-charged, direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Rated at 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque, this new engine is both efficient and fun. Despite its less-than-impressive power figure, it's capable of scooting the C250 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds in both sedan and coupe forms, the same time as the V-6-powered C300. The C250 is available only in rear-wheel drive, with a seven-speed automatic transmission changing gears.

The C300 gets its motivation from a 3.0-liter V-6, and is available only as a sedan in 4MATIC all-wheel drive, again with a seven-speed automatic. At 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, it's also sporty enough, though those after more potent acceleration will want to opt for the C350 or C63 AMG Coupe.

The C350 gets its go from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. At 5.9-seconds to 60 mph, it's quick, but not shockingly so. Like its stablemates, the rear-drive C350 is available only with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Stepping up to the AMG sub-brand, the C63 Coupe gets to 60 mph in a very brisk 4.4 seconds thanks to a 451-horsepowe, 443-pound-foot 6.2-liter V-8 engine. It's not all about straight-line performance, however, with a highly tuned suspension that raises the C63's performance to something on par with the class benchmark, the BMW M3.

That's not to say the standard C Class coupes and sedans aren't fun-to-drive, too. The C250, in particular, punches above its weight in this regard thanks to a lighter, more nimble feeling. The C350 is better regarded as a quick touring sedan, or grand tourer in Coupe form.

Despite their performance, only the C63 AMG gives up comfort in its quest to tame the twistier bits of tarmac.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class is well-built and well-finished, but its size means rear-seat comfort is compromised.

Mercedes-Benz is known for many things, but among its best traits are interior build quality and comfort. In the C Class, there are necessary compromises for price and space, but it still lives up to the brand's reputation.

The front seats are very comfortable, among the best in the class, with ample support, easy entry and exit, and adequate bolstering for slightly spirited driving. The rear seats are tighter, however, with little leg room.

Driving position is at a good height, and highly adjustable for different body types, thanks to a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power seat adjustments, and the tall, glassy cabin easing visibility. Opting for the C63 AMG will provide seats with just as much comfort, but much more aggressive bolsters that fit more snugly.

Behind the small rear seats is a trunk that's on the smaller end at 12.4 cubic feet in sedans and 11.7 cubic feet in the coupes.

Back in the cabin, a properly American array of cupholders, door pockets, a roomy glove box, and a large center console are present, clad or made of mostly luxury-grade plastics, nice leather, and wood, metal, or other special trims.

Cabin noise is minimal, with wind and road thrum well-controlled. Engine noise can become noticeable under hard acceleration, but settles into the background when cruising.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Safety

As a 2012 IIHS Top Safety Pick, the Mercedes-Benz C Class has the testing to back up its array of standard safety gear.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) hasn't crash-tested the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class yet, but the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) scores it as a Top Safety Pick, with top marks of "good" in all crash-test categories.

On top of the endorsement of the IIHS, the C Class offers a suite of standard safety features, including: 13-way airbag protection via 11 airbags; active head restraints; adaptive brakes; stability and traction control; rain-sensing wipers; and Attention Assist, which monitors the driver for alertness. Optional safety extras include blind spot monitoring, rearview camera, parking guidance, adaptive highbeam headlights, and lane-keeping assist.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Features

Plenty of standard and available features make the 2012 C Class a solid contender in the luxury segment, despite lacking some of the high-tech features available on higher-end Mercedes models.

Two main trim lines, Luxury and Sport, guide the basic feature set of the 2012 C Class's configuration, but a host of optional extras allow the buyer to pick and choose to build the sedan they want.

All 2012 models get a strong set of standard equipment, including: rearview mirror compass display; dual-zone automatic climate control; Bluetooth hands-free calling; Bluetooth audio streaming; and a power tilt/sliding sunroof.

A very long list of individual options are available, including (some of the highlights): heated front seats; a Harmon/Kardon Logic7 sound system; iPod/MP3 interface; voice control; and COMAND hard-drive-based navigation/infotainment system.

A range of packages are also available, combining some of the most common options into popular configurations.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

Fuel Economy

Despite the new turbo four-cylinder C250's addition to the C Class, it's still not the most efficient choice amongst midsize luxury cars.

With the introduction of the C250 turbocharged four-cylinder for 2012, the Mercedes C Class significantly greens up its gas mileage image--if not its numbers--but the V-6 and V-8 models continue to yield lackluster results at the pump.

The C250 sedan scores 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway for 25 mpg combined, according to the EPA. The C250 coupe matches the sedan's figures.

The C300 4MATIC, available only as a sedan with all-wheel drive, rates 18/25 mpg for 20 mpg combined. The C350 sedan fares a little better, scoring nearly as well as the C250, at 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway for 23 mpg combined. The C350 coupe scores slightly worse, at 19/28 mpg and 22 mpg combined.

As the most powerful C Class model--by a significant margin--the C63 AMG is also, predictably, the least efficient. It scores an estimated 13/19 mpg for 15 mpg combined according to the EPA.

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November 3, 2016
2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-Door Sedan C 250 Luxury RWD

Sensible, middle to upper range sedan.

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Not the most exciting sedan out there, no doubt the BMW 3 series is more of a fun car but at the same time the car isn't boring. It's a sensible middle range car for the every day person looking for a quality... + More »
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September 14, 2016
2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-Door Sedan C 250 Sport RWD

Very good-valued car

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I enjoy driving the car ~ Responsive, informative & communicative dashboard and panels, efficient fuel consumption
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April 13, 2015
For 2012 Mercedes-Benz C Class

This car just does everything in an expected manner,no strange thumps, bumps or squeeks like my previous GM products!

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Premium fuel and poor fuel economy make this an expensive car to own! Having said that I still look forward to driving it every time and appreciate it's reliability and consistent performance with no surprises!
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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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