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.
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.