New Mercedes C-Class: More Power, More Pampering

All of us here are big fans of the Mercedes-Benz C63, so the idea of a restyled C-Class for 2012 stomps on our power-of-suggestion center. But hold your horses, gents, we have to check in with the lesser models first.

A million units sold globally since 2007 is nothing to sneeze at. And 8.5 million of the model range sold since the 1982 baby Benz 190 was introduced is nothing to, say, do a cartwheel out of a Boeing 737 at. The next version of Merc's biggest seller is marked by some fresh bodylines, an upgraded dashboard with a high-res color display, new direct-injection engines and a reworked 7-speed automatic with gear ratios calibrated for maximum fuel economy. It also gets the same driver assistance systems as higher-range Mercedes models, including that coffee-cup thing that keeps you from driving drowsy and blind spot assist to keep you from running over your neighbor's ferret.

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Mercedes says the new C-Class debuts a new generation of telematics systems first, before migrating upstream to other models—a nice bonus for those many C-Class buyers. The new system will be more user-friendly, with larger 3D displays, phone book transfer, text message display, wireless music via Bluetooth and a USB interface in the center armrest.

Also on message to the fuel-economy story is a new, lighter aluminum hood and a slippery Cd number of 0.26. Physics professors will note its drag plane of cd x A = 0.57 m2, which if nothing else certainly looks good on paper, though it's less impressive when spoken aloud.

A new direct-injection V6 in the C350 Sport Sedan produces 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque over the previous model's 268 hp and 258 lb-ft, with a 5 percent improvement in fuel economy. A new, turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder engine for the US features gets 24 mpg, or 15 percent better than the 2011MY C300.

The U.S. market introduction is scheduled for summer 2011. No word on the new C63 with the 5.5-liter turbocharged V8, but we'll be scratching at the basement window until we hear word.