Then, we decide this will make a good informal test of the revised drivetrain and suspension on the refreshed 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sedan. If we can carry some speed through the turns and still deliver our passenger alive to the hotel, well, maybe the 2012 C350 Sport finally has some of the sport-sedan character that's been missing from of Mercedes' entry-level luxury sedan.
300 or Bust
One big reason we've never been able to take the current-generation Mercedes C350 Sport seriously as a sport sedan is its lack of power. With only 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the previous-generation C350 was significantly slower than the BMW 335i, Infiniti G37 and Lexus IS 350, all of which have 300-hp six-cylinder engines.
For 2012, the C350 finally joins the 300-horse club. Mercedes has added direct injection to its 3.5-liter V6, and this has allowed the engineers to raise compression from 10.7:1 to 12.2. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C350 is rated at 302 hp at 6, 500 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque at 3, 500 rpm.
Flooring the throttle on Tenerife's main highway reveals a liveliness in the midrange that wasn't here before, along with a sweeter soundtrack. Mercedes is predicting a 5.9-second 0-60-mph time, but our 2012 C350 Sport feels a couple tenths quicker than that.
This still won't be quite enough to keep pace with the 335i, which hits 60 mph in 5 seconds flat, or the G37, which does it in 5.2. The C350's naturally aspirated V6 offers adequate low-end torque for accelerating out of the slow corners on Carretera del Bailadero, but of course it isn't the kind of instantaneous grunt you get with the turbocharged 335i.
Nor does the C350's seven-speed automatic transmission match revs (though we're pretty sure G37-style automated throttle blips would have reduced our passenger to a quivering pile in the footwell). At least downshifts are respectably quick in Sport mode. Paddle shifters aren't available, and don't even ask about a manual gearbox — nobody in America wants a three-pedal Benz.
Less Efficient Than Europe's D.I. V6
Gear ratios haven't changed on the seven-speed automatic, but engineers have made various improvements to reduce torque-converter slip and frictional losses. These updates, along with the new engine, will result in slightly better fuel economy — Mercedes estimates the 2012 C350 will get 21 mpg combined versus 20 combined for the 2011 model.