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While sports cars like the Mercedes-Benz SLK get all the looks, the more voluminous executive compact sedan segment is where all the real action is.
And although every automaker seemingly has a contender, the segment benchmarkers continue to come from Germany.
With 12,610 copies sold in Canada last year, the sales leader was the BMW 3 Series. But the overall best-selling luxury make was Mercedes-Benz. And about one-in-three of the 24,273 vehicles it sold last year was a C Class compact sedan.
First seen in 1993 as a replacement for the smaller 190, the rear-wheel-drive C Class is Mercedes’ smallest sedan, right above the compact front-wheel-drive B Class hatchback.
To challenge the 3 Series even more, a new C Class two-door coupe was launched at this year’s Geneva auto show, to go on sale later this year.
But arriving a few months earlier are the 2012 C Class sedans, receiving new engine options (highlighted by the same new turbo four-cylinder going into the SLK Roadster), interior and exterior styling tweaks, and more safety kit trickled down from ‘Benz’s upper classes.
With a nod toward more stringent fuel economy regulations, last year’s entry-level C 250 loses its 201 hp 2.5 L V6 and is replaced by a 1.8 L turbocharged and direct-injected inline four cylinder that makes the same amount of horsepower but 229 lb.-ft. of torque — 48 lbs.-ft. more than the six.
The availability of a manual gearbox is gone for 2012. All C Classes will now be mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Other C Class sedans have all-wheel-drive available (marketed as 4MATIC), but the new C 250 will come as RWD only.
Mercedes Canada hasn’t released fuel economy numbers yet, but expect an improvement over last year’s C 250’s 11.5L/100 km city and 7.5L highway numbers.
Sure to cause confusion, the 2012 C 250 4MATIC continues with the old V6, while the top line C 350 receives an all-new 3.5-litre six (it’s direct-injected too, making 302 hp and 273 lbs.-ft.) with Mercedes estimating a 10 per cent fuel economy gain over last year’s C 350’s 12.3L/100 km city and 8.0L highway.
On sale this August, the 2012 C Class starting prices should remain similar to this year’s models, ranging between just under $40,000 for the base C 250 to just under $50,000 for the C 350.