2012 Mercedes-Benz C250
2012 Mercedes-Benz C250 Review:
For a long time, the customary if snooty attitude at Mercedes-Benz was that it did not need to be the sales leader among luxury manufacturers.
Never mind that BMW held that title, many of its sales were at the lower end of the price scale. Mercedes sold more big-bucks cars. So went the argument.
Now that mindset has blown out of the exhaust pipes, and parent company Daimler is on a concerted quest to become No. 1 among luxury brands. Of course, arch-rival BMW will not be idling or cruising, and Audi is drafting right on Benz’s rear bumper.There are solid plans in the works to boost sales by expanding the portfolio, partly by bringing smaller Mercedes models to the American market. “We’re a big car company, and what’s going to be great in the next few years is small cars,” says Geoff Day, the US communications director.
Meanwhile, Day says, “We’re taking the fight right to Munich,” a reference to BMW’s headquarters city in Bavaria, Germany.
The cudgel, until the smaller cars start motoring in, is the all-new 2012 lineup of compact Mercedes C-Class models, as of now the entry-level group—or, as Mercedes likes to call them, “the gateway to the brand.”
The company takes dead aim at BMW with its first coupe version of the C-Class, which competes directly with the BMW 3-Series two-doors. Mercedes says the coupe was purpose-built for the US market. There also are sedans but, alas, no station wagons, which Daimler dropped here a few years ago because of dismal sales.
But buyers will have a choice of nine different C-Class versions: six sedans and three coupes with a shotgun spread of performance ammunition, including the highly-tuned AMG sedan and coupe. Non-AMG four-doors are available in both luxury and sport versions; the coupes come only with the sport designation.
The redesigned C250 coupes and sedans are powered by a new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers 201 horsepower to the rear wheels through a slick, also new, seven-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control and steering-wheel paddles.
The four-banger, which has an EPA city/highway fuel consumption rating of 21/31 miles to the gallon, obviously is intended to raise the company’s fuel economy numbers. But the C250 coupe, with a base price of $38,095, is no spare economy car.
It has performance figures that, only a few years ago, would have been considered in the top ranks. According to Mercedes’ tests, the little coupe can accelerate to 60 miles an hour in 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 130 miles an hour.Should you need or want more than that, you can order the C350 coupe with a 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that can do zero-to-60 in 5.9 seconds. Or you can get the adrenaline flowing with two V8 versions of the C63 AMG sedan or coupe—one with 451 horsepower and the other with race tuning and 481 horsepower. They rip off zero-to-60 times of 4.4 and 4.3 seconds, respectively. An even more powerful so-called “black series” version is in the wings.
With the standard sport package—it includes a stiffer suspension system and AMG-style body cladding—the tested C250 coupe with the turbo four-banger displayed taut and confident road manners. Of course, it necessarily gives up some ride quality. But even when the ride gets jarring over severely pockmarked roads, control is easily maintained.
Like its C-Class siblings, the C250 arrives with an array of convenience and safety equipment, including some items that formerly were optional. One is so called Attention Assist, a system that monitors driver actions to detect drowsiness. In addition, the test car had optional voice-controlled navigation and a rear-view camera, bringing its bottom-line sticker price up to $44,835.
A panoramic glass sunroof also comes standard. However, it has one of those cheesecloth-like sunshades, now in danger of becoming a cliché, which doesn’t effectively block the sun. Sunshades should be opaque.
The C coupe is a small car, only an inch more than 15 feet long. With 88 cubic feet of passenger space and a prominent drive-train hump, it can only accommodate four passengers, and not generously at that. Up front, there’s plenty of room for almost anyone, augmented by a multitude of power adjustments for the seats and steering wheel. Taller drivers might find a shortage of headroom, however, because the coupe is one and one-half inches lower than the sedan.Despite power front seats that glide noiselessly forward, access to the back seat takes some twisting and turning. Once seated, there is only enough head and knee room for passengers about 5 feet 9 inches tall and smaller.
Although practicality is not generally a coupe virtue, the C-Class has rear seatbacks that fold down to augment the trunk’s 12 cubic feet of cargo space.
The new cars also have redesigned interiors with a flat-bottomed, three-spoke sport steering wheel, and wood or aluminum trim. Curiously, the driver’s power-seat controls are on the door while on the other side they are located more conveniently on the side of the passenger seat.