Old underpinnings still up to the job, but the price is high
18 April 2008

What is it?

Mercedes would like us to think of the rear-wheel drive CLC as being an all-new car, even though it isn’t.

In an uncharacteristic move for the German car maker, whose reputation has been forged around more than a century of cutting-edge automotive engineering, the three door coupé is, in essence, a heavily facelifted version of the eight-year-old C-class Sports Coupé . . . albeit one boasting over 1100 detailed changes.

Mercedes claims that using the C-class Sports Coupé as the basis for the CLC, rather than sitting it on underpinnings from the newer fourth-generation C-class saloon, it has been able to keep pricing at or near the levels of the car it replaces.

What’s it like?

You’ll recognize the CLC by its edgy styling. The new look attempts to link the new model with the latest C-class, albeit with the retention of its predecessor’s doors and rear fender panels.

It is mildly successful. The CLC’s front end is nicely cohesive and purposeful in appearance, but the rear remains a mess, with unfortunate shut lines where the C-class Sports Coupé’s tail lamps once were.

By ditching the window mounted within the tailgate, the new Mercedes also suffers from poor rearward visibility, leading to a decision to equip all UK-bound models with parking sensors as standard.

The interior is not much chop, either. Brought over from the C-class Sports Coupé, it looks and feels dated next to the fine cabins of the CLC’s main rivals, the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series, with an old fashioned design and hard plastic trim that don’t have any place in a car that starts at £19,920 and rises to a cool £27,420.

At least the instruments and seats are up to Mercedes’s traditionally high standards. As is the optional equipment list, which includes the latest version of its Comand navigation and entertainment system, a full-length glass roof, bi-Xenon headlamps and, depending on the model, a seven-speed automatic gearbox with shift paddles.

When it goes on sale here in June, the CLC will come with the choice of six engines, ranging from the 122bhp turbocharged 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel in the base CLC200 CDI through to a 272bhp 3.5-litre V6 petrol unit in the top-of-the-range CLC350 driven here.


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The latter has been brought over from the C-class Sports Coupé without change; it still throws out 258lb ft of torque at 2400rpm, making it terrifically punchy down low. But without the changes brought to the same engine found in the recently facelifted SLK, it doesn’t rev with the same enthusiasm as the 3.0-litre six-cylinder in the BMW 130i, feeling and sounding strained from 6000rpm onwards.

Dynamically, the CLC has taken a welcome step forward from the car it replaces through the adoption of a new variable-rate steering rack first introduced to the facelifted SLK earlier this year. It provides a more direct feel and sharper responses, with added weighting and greater self-centering.

The suspension has also undergone changes, with stiffened components bringing a sportier slant to the handling, although it comes at the expense of the car’s customary compliance.

Should I buy one?

If you have no issues with a Mercedes coupé that is based around ageing mechanicals but boasts the exterior style of its latest models, then yes. The CLC is competent dynamically, and to many will be a desirable car.

It’s hard to say how people will react to the new CLC’s links to the old C-class, but if recent history is anything to go by, the CLC should find more than its fair share of admirers in the UK.

Join the debate


21 April 2008

Given that the new C-class has had a lot of praise, especially for the way it drives, this seems like an odd move. It's a bit like the original BMW 'compact' 3-series, which was based on the 80's E30 3-series. Perhaps they've established that this particular type of car sells mainly to a market which isn't so bothered, and is mainly concerned with looks?

21 April 2008

You forgot to mention it is assembled in Brazil - which might have a lot to do with why it's not using the C-class platform and engine line-up.

21 April 2008

Personally i find this sort of face-lift an insult to the car buying public. Its nothing more than a tarted up version of a car that was out of date years ago. Fair enough on low-volume niche models such as the SL, but this is one of Merc's best sellers.

It shows a certain arrogance on Mercedes part that it probably thinks due to the 3-pointed star on the bonnet people will look past the seriously dated underpinnings and cheap tacky cabin. VW are apparently about to do the same with the Mk6 Golf due out in 2009. Nowadays volume manufacturers like Ford or Vauxhall would never get away with this.

Never mind 'minimal price increases' on the CLC - this should now be a budget model as it cost next to nothing to produce. I suggest pricing starting from around £13k.

21 April 2008

2nd thoughts: Part of the reason for this half hearted effort may be that as reported on this website a couple of weeks back the next A-Class (due in about 3 years) will spawn a coupe version which will replace the CLC, so this model may have a very short production cycle, hench the minimal investment.

21 April 2008

This is the type of car that will make me look down on the owner as someone who has made a really really stupid purchase decision.

An awful facelift for probably one of the worst Merc's ever badly made. I had one for a year, it was awful.....a nice enough car let down by the worst build quality (especially when you consider the price of the car, parts, service etc) I have ever experienced. And I have owned 2 Fiats and 2 Alfas.

21 April 2008

The only reason why Mercedes-Benz have not disigned the CLC around the new C-Class saloon is that when it comes to world wide sales the model sold poorly with the US market for example not liking small hatchbacks/Coupes.It was under the pressue of european countries where sales are strong to bring out a newer version so Mercedes made a compromise that they would,but to save on costs they would you the old chassis of the current model and to produce it in Brazil where the C-Class range is currently being built for the US market.

21 April 2008

"It’s hard to say how people will react to the new CLC’s links to the old C-class"

It's not - the kind of person that shells out for this car is interested in image alone and has no knowledge or care what it is based on whatsoever.

21 April 2008

I'll join the feeding frenzy as I just don't get this model. Like the solid funky interior alot but that's where the praise ends. Is the CLC a hatch or coupe? It's sort of lost in blandness in the middle ground in between.

This is a balance the SL, which is sportscar and coupe on the brink of being a sad bad compromise, only Mercedes could produce a legend from the jaws of defeat. The CLC is no SL though. It is a compromised, confused dullard for 50 year old women with overpowering perfume and big hair. Back to the drawing board Merc.

21 April 2008

Nice front, profile and interior, ugly rear. Probably has better steering than new C class.

21 April 2008

[quote Quattro369]Personally i find this sort of face-lift an insult to the car buying public. Its nothing more than a tarted up version of a car that was out of date years ago.[/quote] Unsurprising, sadly typical Autocar reader massive negative over-reaction to this model. The last model was quite nice; looks good, cavernous boot for a coupe, I had a 230k (the later, supercharged version) for eight months and it was great - lurched a bit if really pushed around corners but I didn't buy it to go racing. Build quality was great (I know launch models had electrical problems due to something going on with Bosch, but didn't affect me), it was massively comfortable to drive, torquey and the best car I've ever owned for going over speed humps! It might have been expensive but I took it as a company car and it worked out quite inexpensive due to a particularly strong residual value. How exactly is it an insult to the car buying public? 95% or more of drivers never take their cars any where near the limits that they are capable of, and I'm sure the vast majority of them wouldn't be remotely insulted - or give two sh!ts - about Merc using an old platform for another few years. This car has a great chassis regardless of age, decent engines, reasonable economy and plenty of poke. Fair enough if you don't like the looks but the only way anyone is going to notice its minor dynamic shortcomings is on a track day! So Merc make more money this way - I don't care, its not like they're forcing me to buy it. "It shows a certain arrogance on Mercedes part that it probably thinks due to the 3-pointed star on the bonnet people will look past the seriously dated underpinnings and cheap tacky cabin." Have you sat in this car? The cabin is great. As for "seriously dated underpinnings", yes they are old, but they have not dated at all badly. Try driving it. As for arrogance? How about the arrogance of the armchair expert Sutcliffe wannabe who is insulted by the extended use of a vehicle platform! Its funny, I actually expected Autocar to tread the same tired old line about the Merc basically being a giant turd for a whole host of irrelevant reasons because its based on the old model, and was pleasantly surprised to see a thoroughly even reveiwe. Hopefully this is a sign of better things to come from the mag.


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