Short Take – 2012 Mercedes Benz C250 Sedan

The Mercedes C Class has been duking it out in the highly competitive entry level compact luxury sedan for nearly two decades. Since the launch of the line, beginning with the 190 in 1993, the “baby Benz” has been one of Mercedes’ most important models and remains a big seller for the brand. The current W204 version was introduced in 2007 to replace the highly successful 2002 – 2007 W203 model and, with an onslaught of new/refreshed products from the competition currently debuting (revamped Audi A4, all new BMW 3 Series and the upcoming Cadillac ATS) Mercedes saw fit to do a comprehensive refresh.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 Interior

Mercedes began by altering the still quite handsome exterior styling, identified by a slightly more aggressive front fascia, sporting LED driving lights, angled headlights and a resurfaced hood. The rear sees very little change save for LED bulbs in the tail light clusters. Inside, I expected to find a vast improvement in quality as claimed by Mercedes and this was true to some extent. The dashboard design was thoroughly revised and now sports new soft touch materials that are in fact, a great improvement over the 2011 model and everywhere the fingers touched felt reasonably good. A standard fixed 5.8 inch touchscreen replaces the old flip unit and sports better graphics while an optional 7 inch screen comes in models fitted with the COMAND system as fitted with this tester. There were still spots of hard plastic that lightly litters the cabin however, particularly surrounding the gear lever and the central instrument panel containing the entertainment system. The steering wheel has improved in feel and touch and is power adjustable for reach and rake. The seats felt firm and offered reasonable support for long distance driving, if not for sporty antics. Rear seat space was also adequate, although a snug fit for three people. Overall, despite the still stark atmosphere, the interior is a nicer place to be but I couldn’t help but expect more, especially considering the richer interior of a comparable Audi or BMW.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 Exterior

Along with the exterior/interior refresh, Mercedes has also revamped the engine lineup. Available in the new base C250 model (my tester for the day) is a turbocharged, direct injected 1.8L four cylinder which develops 201hp and 229lb-ft of torque. The C300 with its 229hp/221lb-ft 3.0L V6 returns but only with Mercedes’ 4MATIC all wheel drive system (the manual transmission has been axed) and the C350 sports a new, direct injected 3.5L V6, good for 302hp and 273lb-ft of torque. The bonkers C63 AMG model also returns with its equally bonkers 451hp 6.2L V8 (a more powerful 481hp version is optional). All engines are now hooked up to Mercedes’ seven speed 7G-Tronic automatic as standard. My C250 Luxury tester offers two driving modes: E for Economy and N for Normal. In Economy mode, the car’s computer changes the transmission’s shift points and remaps the engine’s ECU for greater efficiency. Pulling out of the dealership with the car in ‘E’ mode, it felt like there was good sized rubber ball between the gas pedal and the floor. Resistance was felt every time I inched the C250 for speed and the transmission was very quick to reach for top gear. It should be noted that the Mercedes opted not to follow BMW in equipping the C Class with an auto start-stop feature, deeming the technology too expensive for its entry level model. I had to boot the gas pedal, then wait on the turbo to spool up, then wait on the transmission to make up its mind about how much power to shell out before I was thrust forward. My advice? Leave it in Normal.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 Rear Interior

Throughout the drive, the C250 rode quite comfortably in that classic, solid Mercedes fashion. Road imperfections were absorbed with aplomb and the hydraulic steering provided good tracking and smooth operation if little in the way of feedback. While the C250 proved reasonable in moderate handling, anything above that will leave it flat on its face. The turbo takes ages to spool up and that tends to confuse the transmission. Make no mistake, this isn’t a sport sedan and it makes no attempt to satisfy the enthusiastic driver. A Sport model is available with the C250 which includes a firmer suspension, larger wheels and different cladding but if you really want to have some fun, move up to the more powerful C350. Not only is it faster but it makes proper use of the solid chassis underneath. Drive the C250 in a smooth fashion (Miss Daisy anyone?) and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasant drive that will have you thinking you’re piloting a larger vehicle. The transmission shifts smoothly enough and the engine isn’t taxed, masking the hellish lag of the turbo. Drive it in anger and, well, you’ll just make yourself angry.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C250

Mercedes has done a commendable job in refreshing the C Class. A more luxurious, revamped interior that’s now (almost) worth the price will have owners of older W204 models kicking themselves in the posterior. The new exterior styling is now in line with other Mercedes products and, what is perhaps the most significant part of the refreshing, a new and proper coupe version joins the sedan for the first time (no the W203 Sport Coupe doesn’t count). With these new weapons in its arsenal, the C Class is ready to take the fight to Audi and BMW.

Once again, many thanks to Aaron Shapiro and Vista BMW for facilitating this review.

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