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Mercedes-Benz rolls out smaller C-Class engine

January 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Mercedes-Benz C-Class is mostly the same for 2012, though it did get a few tweaks here and there.

The big change is under the hood. A new smaller engine powers the base model.

It's a turbocharged four cylinder, something new for this generation of C-Class, which starts at $34,800.

Six cylinder power had been standard, but with an eye toward stricter fuel economy, Mercedes decided the time was right to offer a smaller engine.

This is the most powerful four-cylinder engine the company has ever offered. Turbocharging and direct fuel injection help a lot. So does the standard seven-speed automatic transmission. More gears means an easier time for the engine.

Last year's base C-Class had a 3.0L V-6. This year's turbo V-4 is down about 10 percent on horse power, but most people won't notice the difference.

Fuel economy, however, is up by about 20 percent. That's only half of the equation. The other half is that emissions output is reduced with a smaller engine.

In the coming years, the federal government is going to be looking closely at not only fuel mileage of new cars, but carbon dioxide emissions as well. In that regard, this car handily beats its predecessor.

The 2011 C300 produced an estimated 423 grams of emissions per mile.

The new C250 lowers that to 355 grams per mile, a reduction of 16 percent.

Other car companies are using a similar strategy.

In the luxury arena, BMW has added a turbo four cylinder to its Z4. Like the Mercedes C-Class, that car used to be six cylinders only.

Audi has one of the best turbocharged four cylinders going. They now offer it in a wider range of vehicles like the Q5 crossover SUV and even the mid-size A6 sedan.

Not to worry if you prefer bigger engines with more power. They're still available. In fact, you can equip your C-Class Mercedes coupe or sedan with a mighty AMG V-8, though you'll pay. There's a gas-guzzler tax up front and big fuel bills down the road.

For most people, the entry-level Baby Benz with its turbo four gets the job done well and is easy on gas while doing it.