New direction for Mercedes-Benz
Robert Barry is more impressed by a 6-cylinder turbodiesel than a high performance V8 in the 2012 Mercedes-Benz range. 
Mercedes-Benz passenger cars took the opportunity to release some new C-Class and CLS-class models to the media in December as well as introduce their new general manager Ben Giffin.
For the 2012 model year the AMG C63 has received a subtle facelift that brings it into line with lesser C-Class models. The headlamps and front bumper have been changed with a single louvre grille, new front apron and LED running lights. Well as that, the rear bumper has a new rear apron with diffuser and LED tail lamps.  
All C-Class models from the C200 up are now equipped with the 7-speed Mercedes-Benz G-Tronic automatic gearbox with the exception of the C63 which is supplied with an AMG speedshift 7-speed MCT automatic transmission. 
The standard 336kW/600Nm V8 C63 AMG sedan is priced from $166,900 and the specification level includes AMG 18-inch 5 twin-spoke alloy wheels,  AMG sports suspension, AMG high-performance brake system, and Nappa leather upholstery.    
For a further $14,500 buyers can add the performance plus package which adds an increase to engine output of 22kW as well as AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, AMG high-performance composite brake system, AMG high-performance steering wheel in black nappa leather with Alcantara grip area, brake calipers finished in red and a DTM-style carbon fibre boot spoiler.
We briefly drove the standard C63 AMG sedan in rainy conditions around Matakana and we were impressed with the car’s outstanding performance. Dynamically it’s a vehicle that rewards a capable driver, but we feel that on a daily basis the very firm suspension and sports seats would become particularly tiring for an urban user.
The $109,900 C350 CDI Avantgarde, however, is a much better choice in my opinion for the urban executive. It is powered by a 195kW 3-litre turbo diesel engine which offers 620Nm of torque (20 more than the C63) and provides effortless acceleration and power in all driving conditions through the 7-speed transmission.
Our C350 CDI Avantgarde drive car was also equipped with the optional lane tracking package ($1,800) and the driving assistance plus package ($4,600).
Combined together these option packs provide the Distronic Plus radar guided cruise control system as well as active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist. For those drivers who spend their lives commuting on motorways these electronic aids take a great deal of stress away.
    Distronic Plus as well as active blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist are standard features on the $197,000 CLS500 BlueEfficiency that we drove briefly around Matakana. 


Powered by a 300kW/600Nm 4.7-litre twin turbocharged V8 engine the, CLS500 has luxury front seats with heating and ventilation as standard equipment as well as 19-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels and AMG front and rear aprons.
In comparison to the ferocious snarling beast that is the C63 AMG, the twin-turbo V8 CLS500 feels more refined and limo-like both inside the car and on the road. It will hustle along a rural road quite happily, but this car is more suited to long-distance cruising and the unique styling will appeal to a difference audience than that of the C-Class.    
We weren’t particularly fond of the unusual light wood trim used around the dashboard and on the steering wheel of the CLS500 but the seats are superbly comfortable and the fit and finish in the cabin is excellent – as you would expect in a near $200k luxury car.