Here’s a sneak preview of the changes Mercedes-Benz has in store for its 2012 model-year lineup:
• C-Class: The compact C-Class line gets a freshening this fall in sedan and new coupe versions with revised exterior and interior styling. A revamped engine lineup includes a 201-horsepower, turbocharged and direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder, a 302-horsepower direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 and a 228-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. A seven-speed automatic transmission will be standard across the line. The C63 AMG version will lead the pack with 451 horsepower (481 horses with the optional AMG Development Package) and assorted performance-minded modifications.
Newly standard amenities include HD radio, a USB interface for connecting portable devices, rain-sensing wipers, an integrated garage door opener and auto-dimming mirrors. The standard Attention Assist system signals when the driver appears to need a rest, based on steering input. Newly available features include Adaptive Highbeam Assist (to avoid blinding oncoming drivers at night), Lane Keeping Assist (to warn when the car is inadvertently crossing highway lane markers) and Blind Spot Assist (to alert a driver to the presence of vehicles in adjacent lanes).
• CLS-Class: Coming this June, a restyled version of the sleek CLS “four-door coupe” is even more dramatic-looking than before. It will come powered by a choice of new V8 engines, a 402-horsepower direct-injected bi-turbo 4.6-liter in the CLS550 and a 518-horsepower direct-injected bi-turbo 5.5-liter with fuel-saving stop/start technology in the top CLS63 AMG. The latter yields 550 horsepower with the optional Performance Package.
A seven-speed automatic transmission and Airmatic air suspension are included across the line, and the CLS550 can now be fitted with all-wheel-drive. Safety technology includes 10 airbags, Attention Assist, and the optional Active Parking Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist systems.
• SLK-Class: Completely redesigned for an early model year 2012 release this summer, the pert and perky SLK roadster gets a more-expressive overall appearance with a bold upright front grille, LED daytime running lights and muscular wheel arches. It continues with a retractable hardtop that isolates occupants from the elements and road noise. The SLK350 will come with a 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 and seven-speed automatic transmission. An SLK250 version will be added next spring that will come with a 201-horsepower direct-injected 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and either a six-speed manual or the aforementioned automatic gearbox.
The new SLK includes sun-reflecting leather upholstery, with available Airscarf neck-level heating vents built into the seats to help extend convertible season; the top can be fitted with an optional Magic Sky Control glass panel that can switch from light to dark transparency at the push of a button.
• SLS AMG: This raging 563-horsepower flagship two-seat sports car adds a new Roadster version later this year, with a power-operated soft top than can open or close in 11 seconds at speeds up to 30 mph. Unlike the coupe, which comes with dramatic gull-wing doors, the Roadster features conventional side-hinged doors. Added equipment includes standard Blind Spot Assist, an optional three-mode AMG Adaptive Suspension and the AMG Performance Media system that keeps track of such things as driving telemetry and G-Force measurements.
• E-Class: Mercedes’ midsize line of rear- and all-wheel-drive sedans, wagons, coupes, and convertibles gets a mid-cycle freshening this fall. A new range of engines will include a 302-horsepower V-6 and a 402-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine. The top E63 AMG models will pack a 518-horsepower 5.5-liter V-8 with start/stop technology. Most models will come with a new seven-speed automatic transmission. Other updates include standard daytime LED running lamps and a revised steering wheel, color instrument cluster display and audio system.
• R-Class: The all-wheel-drive R350 4MATIC version of this minivan-like crossover gets a new 302-horsepower direct-injected V6 engine and a more fuel-efficient seven-speed automatic transmission. Added standard equipment includes the latest version of Merecedes’ COMAND multimedia/navigation system with real-time traffic information and the Zagat Survey restaurant guide, satellite and HD Radio, the Gracenote media database and 4GB of onboard digital music storage.
• S-Class: Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is now available with the S350 BlueTEC “clean diesel” version of the automaker’s flagship sedan. The S550 gets a new 429-horsepower 4.6-liter direct-injected engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission; it’s likewise available with 4MATIC.
Expect only minor changes to the CL-Class, G-Class, GLK-Class, SL-Class and Sprinter models.