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

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.

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.

Back to top

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

Add a comment…
DarkSiu 2 May 2008

Re: Mercedes-Benz CLC 350

Totally agree with julianphillips, I too have great interested in this car, and have recently test drive the the current model, and I can confirm that it does not look as cheap as other reader suggested, and the ride quality was great. Surely it is not a quick car or as much fun to drive as the BMW, which it was never meant to be. But for every day use it is a great car to buy, and the space you get inside is also great too, you can fit a full size golf bag in the boot. I have no problem if it end up drive like the old one, or has the same cabin layout, as I think in term of ride quality it is still better than most of the car that you can buy today. One thing I do not understand is why does people make judgment on this car already? it is not even out yet! Therefore I will not make any comment on the new one until the time has come.

Quattro369 23 April 2008

Re: Mercedes-Benz CLC 350

JulianPhilips:No worries mate, ive seen much worse abuse on here.

Maybe my mate had a 'friday afternoon' car

julianphillips 22 April 2008

Re: Mercedes-Benz CLC 350

ThwartedEfforts wrote:
It's also a girl's car.
Well my name is Julia Nphillips