2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C 250 coupe
First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan
First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe
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First Drive: 2012 BMW 3 Series

Manufacturer’s web site
Mercedes-Benz Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan

When we did a feature on favourite cars we drove in 2011, the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (in various trim choices) was chosen as a runner up by three of our seven staff writers, though not as a top pick by any of them. However, if it were a group voting system, this likely would have collected enough points to be the Autos.ca staff pick. So naturally, I had to drive it.

Our local Mercedes-Benz rep was kind enough to put us in a fully-dressed C 350 4Matic, sporting the updated 3.5-litre V6 that puts out 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, hooked up to a seven-speed automatic transmission. But it’s not numbers or looks alone that gets people into the C-Class.

Some might call it an intangible, or panache, but let’s not kid ourselves: it’s a status symbol, and let me tell you that it feels good to drive a Benz, even if it is only for a week as a poser journalist! No doubt one day when I graduate to the big-boy Mercs, I’ll be strutting and preening even more, but even this baby Benz did the trick for me, and it sure doesn’t hurt that the three-pointed star logo on the grille is the size of my house.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic. Click image to enlarge

On top of the $50,800 MSRP for the C 350 4Matic, our tester featured the $4,300 Premium Package, with goodies like a back-up camera, front and rear park assist, voice command (MB’s brand name for it, LINGUATRONIC, just sounds creepy), keyless entry and push-button start, panoramic sunroof and the COMAND interface for the nav system and Harmon/Kardon stereo system. The C 350 also comes equipped with 18-inch, seven-spoke AMG wheels that complement the classic yet sharply-cut design of the C-Class.

No matter what trim, the C-Class cuts a fine figure, but the number of engines and equipment options is almost as dizzying as for most full-size pickup trucks. The base trim is the C 250 with a 201-hp, 1.8-litre turbo in rear-drive trim, but the C 250 with 4Matic AWD gets bumped up to a 2.5L V6 with 201 horsepower. The difference is in torque; the bigger V6 (which is also carrying that extra AWD running gear and engine weight – 1,690 kg to the base car’s 1,505 kg – an extra 185 kilos!) makes 181 lb.-ft. to the turbo-four’s 228. Go figure.

Anyhow, the next step up the ladder is the C 300 4Matic with a 228-hp V6 and 221 lb-ft. As mentioned, ours was the C 350 4Matic, with the 302-hp 3.5L V6, which can be had with rear-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive. All C-Class models come with the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission (except the C 63 AMG, which gets an upgraded seven-speed auto), a perfectly serviceable transmission whose greatest virtue was not being noticed during our week in the C 350.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic
2012 Mercedes-Benz C 350 4Matic (with Dodge Charger, bottom photo). Click image to enlarge

In a class of its own, the C 63 AMG takes a horsepower leap into the deep end with a 451-hp 6.2L V8 also good for 443 lb-ft. And for those who deem 451 horsepower inadequate, check the AMG Performance Package option for an additional 30 hp, a limited slip differential, some carbon-fibre bits and red-painted brake calipers.

This tester put its best foot forward on some smoking hot 18-inch AMG alloy wheels that looked killer and put rubber to the pavement at all four corners thanks to the all-wheel drive system. Although at first we were concerned about the wide, low-profile all-season rubber in the snow, the weather was mostly warm for the week, and even when it did snow, a measure of caution and a dose of 4Matic kept everything surely planted.

In our Toronto office, opinions were divided over the C 350’s fulfillment of a top model in a franchise as esteemed as the C-Class. Mike had this to say:

“I am all about more power and better handling, so the 302-hp C 350 4Matic got my attention, especially the price tag!  After a few hours behind the wheel, two things stood out to me.  The first was how well this car felt connected to the road.  The best way to describe it would be planted, a longstanding Mercedes characteristic.  The second item of note had to do with the power.  Although this car has more than enough for anyone on a day-to-day basis, the car always left me wanting more.  It may have been due to the high price, the prestigious marque or the fact I was testing a Hemi Charger at the time, but I felt it should get up and go even faster.”

Since Mike brings up the performance measure and the Charger, let’s go there. While these two are in no way direct competitors, it was loads of fun to banter about the differences and the fact that the Charger also has Mercedes roots (an evolution of a previous E-Class platform). The Charger’s personality is as loud as its colour and will also bring out the hooligan in any hot-blooded enthusiast driver. The C-Class exudes reserved, controlled confidence reflected in its smooth power and composed ride, and the optional AWD only reinforced this character. Of course, its natural competitor and long-time rival, the BMW 3 Series, will be in our fleet in April, so we’ll be able to assess its relative merits in this segment more specifically then.

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