Restyled and redesigned slightly for the 2012 year model, the new C-Class offers a more fluid, smoother look than its predecessor on the outside, and a new theme inside that reflects some of the higher-range sedans in Mercedes' stable.

Chief on the improvements list--a list 2,000 parts long despite the similar look and feel--is the new powertrain range, which returns a four-cylinder engine to U.S. models for the first time in years. Using direct injection and a turbocharger to generate as-yet unstated power, the new four-cylinder C-Class, dubbed the C250 Sport, is rated at a combined 24 mpg.

The C350's V-6 is the latest from Mercedes, also found in the new E-Class, turning out 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, an upgrade of 34 horsepower and 15 pound-feet over the previous V-6. Despite the power increase, fuel economy is up by about five percent.

New driver-assistance systems are also packaged with the new 2012 C-Class, including Attention Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Park Assist with ParkTronic, Lane Keeping Assist, and Blind Spot Assist. That's a lot of assistance.

Past the mechanical and electronic upgrades, you're looking at a slightly redesigned exterior wrapped around a mostly-new interior. The outside gets a reworked nose, bringing it closer into alignment with the rest of Mercedes' latest vehicles; a new aluminum hood to reduce weight; new contours around the headlights and grille; redesigned headlights; a new rear bumper with added character lines; and an overall coefficient of drag of 0.26--Mercedes says it's the best in class.

The interior includes a redesign of the dashboard, adding a metallic finish to the controls. New air vent shapes and a new trim panel further modify the look. The center console, likewise, gets a silvery treatment plus more high-gloss surfaces. A new steering wheel, leather-wrapped, incorporates many controls with the new look.

Expect the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class to makes its official debut in just a few weeks at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.