From £15,285
Comfortable, but not the rewarding drive you would expect
30 July 2008

What is it?

The cheapest way into the new Mercedes CLC – essentially a restyled and renamed version of the old Mercedes C-Class sports coupe.

In standard form the entry-level CLC SE is well equipped with automatic climate control, auto lights, parking sensors and ‘Distronic’ cruise control, plus the usual array of air bags and electronic driver aids.

On paper, the supercharged 1.8-litre petrol engine looks promising, with a power output of 141bhp and claimed 39.2mpg. But when you see that the peak torque of just 162lb ft is available only between 2500rpm and 4500rpm, it becomes obvious that the 1475kg CLC 180K is never going to be a particularly rapid drive, with 0-62mph dispatched in a leisurely 9.7 seconds.

What’s it like

If you don’t expect sharp responses and instant acceleration, not bad. The supercharged engine is noisy under load, emphasising the impression that it is labouring heavily and still failing to offer much performance.

The heavy steering feels as if it has been weighted to give an impression of responsiveness, when actually it’s vague around the dead ahead and lacking in feedback everywhere else.

But if you can think of the CLC more as a stylish motorway and around-town cruiser, it makes much more sense. Engine noise is always there, but the long sixth gear and relaxed ride quality (aided greatly by the 16-inch alloys and high profile tyres of the SE) results in fairly serene motorway manners and that ride translates well in town, too.

That this engine would suit the automatic box much better than the manual fitted as standard to our test car also points towards this being a comfortable cruiser hiding behind slightly-sporting pretences.

Equally, the seats are comfortable enough and the high standard spec means this would be an easy car to live with provided you can forgive the dire rear visibility and the bland and ageing dash.

Should I buy one?

If the fact that this is not based on the brilliant new C-class isn’t enough, the price tag will probably put you off the CLC.

Yes, it’s comfortable, has a high standard spec and wears the three-pointed star, but if you’re after the ultimate combination of style, comfort and performance the aggressively priced Volkswagen Scirocco makes a far more compelling case.

Vicky Parrott

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