No automaker is immune to the ever-increasing call for greater fuel economy, not even Mercedes-Benz. One might think this highly regarded luxury brand would be able to elude CAFE legislation like mysterious aircraft hijacker B.D. Cooper has evaded police, but that’s simply not the case. Laws apply to everyone, even those that are more equal than the rest of us.
|1. The 2013 Mercedes C250 is powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It delivers 201 hp with 229 lb-ft of torque.
2. A 7-speed automatic transmission is the only gearbox offered on the C-Class.
3. Starting at roughly $36,000, the car provided to AutoGuide for testing cost about 43 grand thanks to the addition of premium and sport packages.
4. The available Dynamic Sport Package includes things like 18-inch AMG-inspired wheels, a rear spoiler and upgraded suspension. Inside the car gets dressed up with bright-red stitching and seatbelts.
To keep pace with government decrees to save fuel and consumer desire cut costs, the company just dropped a turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the prow of its popular C-Class model, Mercedes’ top-selling nameplate in the United States. Has the patient survived this powertrain transfusion, or are drivers eternally banished to the slow lane? Thankfully there’s nothing to worry about; this car is ready for the Autobahn.
LESS CAN BE MORE
It may only displace a featherweight 1.8-liters but the engine in the C250 sedan is full of surprises. With a blower and direct fuel injection it delivers 201 horsepower with 229 lb-ft of torque, numbers that on paper are pretty disappointing. Many engines of similar displacement from competing automakers put out significantly more ponies and twist, but this little dynamo impresses in more ways than one.
Despite its tiny-tot size it pulls like a team of horses. It’s strong, even at low engine speeds. The car accelerates nicely from a standstill and it keeps on pulling throughout the rev-range. It’s impressively flexible and feels like it’s delivering about 250 horsepower.
The engine is matched exclusively to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Sure, a manual gearbox might be fun, but this slusher is so good you’ll hardly want for three pedals. It’s quick, refined and eager to work with the powerplant to deliver the best performance with the lowest consumption.
Speaking of fuel economy, the C250 sedan stickers at 22 miles per gallon in the city and up to 31 on the highway. According to the U.S. EPA it should average 25 MPG in mixed driving; unfortunately Uncle Sam is wrong about this little Mercedes because it failed to deliver what the Monroney said it should… it actually did better.
In heavy-footed driving it returned about 28 miles per gallon in mixed driving, which is pretty damn good for a spunky little luxury sedan. Under promise and over deliver, that’s what you call doing it right.
CHOCOLATE, VANILLA AND TWIST
Get the Flash Player to see this player.
Buyers with a predilection for practicality can get the C250 with four doors, but customers in need of a little extra flair can also have that four-cylinder engine in the C-Class coupe. Who said style couldn’t be sensible?
SEE ALSO: Mercedes C250 Coupe Review – Video
Beyond the base 1.8-liter unit several other powerplants are also available. Two V6s are offered as well as two V8s. The base six-shooter displaces 3.5-liters and puts out 248 horsepower. It’s available on the C300 4MATIC. Stepping up from there a more powerful version of this engine is available on C350 models. It puts out a full 302 horsepower.
Stepping up to an eight-cylinder engine the C63 AMG delivers the Sturm und Drang of 451 horsepower and nearly as much torque. Opt for the AMG Development Package, a $6,050 option and you get a grand total of 481 horses. Choice, it’s a beautiful thing.
RUNNIN’ DOWN THE ROAD
Back to reality, the C250 sedan may not deliver powder-keg performance like the AMG models, or even the optional V6-powered cars but it’s still plenty respectable. Drivers that decide to get the four-cylinder won’t be disappointed, especially with the car’s chassis.
In motion the C250 feels tight and sporty. The steering is firm and direct, with surprising road feel. In typical Mercedes fashion the car’s body feels rock solid. There are no squeaks or rattles to detract from the driving experience. The whole vehicle feels like it’s made from porcelain or some other rigid, unbendable substance.
Unfortunately the ride is also quite hard. The car transmits every bump, crack and crevice in the road like a blind person reading Braille. The trade off for all that stiffness is, of course, great handling. Chuck the C-Class into a corner and it responds like a proper sports-sedan should. It stays flat through and sticks to the road the way a chameleon’s tongue sticks to flying insects.
The chassis is extra-starchy because the test car provided to AutoGuide was equipped with the optional Dynamic Sport Package, a feature worth $3,050. This nice bit of kit provides handsome 18-inch two-tone wheels, speed-sensitive steering and something called Advanced Agility Suspension. There’s also a subtle AMG spoiler added to the upper lip of the trunk lid. These upgrades are welcome but arguably the biggest changes are inside the car.
HOME, HOME ON THE ROAD
A number of interior improvements are also part of that package. Drivers benefit from snug-fitting sport seats, beautiful red safety belts that absolutely pop as well as subtle red stitching on the shifter boot, door panels and chairs. That dash of crimson really spices up an otherwise stoic interior.
Like Arizona Senator John McCain’s “Straight-Talk Express” the C250’s cabin is a no-nonsense zone. The dashboard is cleanly styled without any unnecessary snoopiness or unwarranted gimmicks. Of course the materials are suitably premium, but not quite as nice as those found in higher-end Mercedes models like the GL SUV or S-Class flagship, but as always, you get what you pay for and the C250 is pretty affordable. All of the switches and controls are logically laid out and easy to reach, with two exceptions.
One annoying part of the C-Class’ cabin are the door locks. Apparently the company is wed to old-school plunger-style latches, a design that fell out of favor at least a decade ago. Even when these things are locked the mechanism protrudes above the top surface of door panel. If you like to rest your arm up there while driving be warned, the lock is ready, willing and hell-bent on jabbing you in the elbow. It’s like there’s a miniature prospector hidden inside the door and the plunger is the tip of his pickaxe.
Another downside to the C250’s cabin has to do with the navigation system, or rather lack thereof. There’s a button on the center stack labeled “NAVI.” Straightforward enough, but pressing this little chicklet key brings up a strange message on the screen: “No Navigation.” Talk about bait and switch! Every time the button is pushed it ought to be accompanied by a sad trombone sound effect. It’s 2013, shouldn’t a navigation system be standard on EVERY “luxury” car? The C-Class’ old-school door locks may be annoying but the lack of sat-nav is just cheesy.
So what’s the damage? Well, as tested the C250 sedan provided for evaluation cost about $43,000 out the door, including $905 in destination and delivery fees. Base price for the car is right around 36 grand. “Steel Grey” paint, plus sport and premium packages inflated the bottom line by about $6,300, which isn’t bad for a luxury car from a prestigious German automaker.
The C250 combines outstanding fuel economy with capable driving dynamics; it’s also subtle. From interior design to exterior styling, the car is handsome and understated; it doesn’t shout like some of its competitors. It’s also solidly built and quite a bit of fun to throw around on a twisty road.
But this Mercedes’ standout feature is that new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It’s smooth running, efficient and plenty powerful. There’s really no need for either of the up-level V6 engines, this little powerplant can do it all. If this is how every automaker responds to cries for better efficiency then the future of motoring is bright.