Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



Sports Coupé's new look. Image by Kyle Fortune.

Sports Coupé's new look
Mercedes gives the C-Class Sports Coupé a dramatic visual overhaul to create the CLC, but it no longer has it all its own way.

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Mercedes-Benz reviews

| First Drive | Vienna, Austria | Mercedes-Benz CLC |

Anyone out there able to define a coupé these days? I sure as hell can't and neither can the people at Mercedes. This C-Class Sports Coupé replacement - now badged the CLC - is the entry-level into the Mercedes 'coupé' range, this three-door hatchback joining a four-car coupé line-up that includes the CLS four-door 'coupé', along with the more obvious CLK and CL - two-door, proper coupés. But who cares how many doors it has got? The customers certainly don't, the CLC's predecessor shifting 320,000 units since it was introduced back in 2001.

In the Metal

The cosmetic surgery department at Mercedes has been busier than most this year as the German firm refreshes almost its entire range. Some makeovers have been more modest than others, but the CLC is one of the most dramatic to date. The four-lamp headlights have gone, the new projector style items more conventional and obviously related to the current C-Class, their fitment also requiring a bold new grille and a reshaped bonnet and bumper. It's quite a convincing job, the new face giving the CLC a fresh new look that's in keeping with Mercedes' current familial design direction.

The designers have been busy around the rear too, the large taillights of the old Sports Coupé making way for slimmer items. Obviously the budget didn't quite stretch to new sheet metal here though, as a plastic blanking plate covers the upper portion of where the old light would have been. The odd lower rear window of the Sports Coupé has also gone, the rear slit of glass that gave it excellent rear visibility now being replaced by bodywork. The rear view is undoubtedly more conventional than its predecessor, and perhaps less appealing because of it.

What you get for your Money

Unusually for a revised model, Mercedes has managed to retain the same entry-level price as the old model. That's impressive given the significant styling changes and the addition of Parktronic as standard on every car - helping alleviate the loss of rear visibility caused by removing the lower portion of the window. In addition, the CLC offers benefits to the environment, the engine range having an average eight per cent improvement in fuel consumption and seven per cent lower CO2 emissions.

Sport models get Direct Steering, 18-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension along with other kit, for a premium of just £1,100, and Mercedes is claiming residual values are better too, making the CLC a cheaper ownership proposition than its predecessor. But Mercedes has to be aggressive with its CLC, as unlike its predecessor it's no longer the only premium badged coupé on the market, arch-rival BMW now offering its 1 Series in both three-door hatchback and Coupé forms. Shame then Mercedes didn't do more to the CLC's interior, as a few details aside it's the same as the old car, and that was never the last word in style or desirability.

Driving it

Mercedes might have busied itself improving the looks of the exterior, but it has done very little to improve the driving experience. The Sports Coupé was never a particularly inspiring drive and the CLC remains much the same. There's precious little feel from the weighty steering and although the rear-wheel drive chassis does exhibit some playfulness in the powerful 3.5-litre V6-engined CLC 350, the rest of the engine line-up doesn't really have the punch to enjoy it. What does manifest itself though is the inherent balance of a rear-wheel drive set up, the CLC remaining neutral while cornering and rewarding smooth driving.

The ride is compliant - certainly more comfortable than its BMW rival - though roll can be fairly pronounced if you're aggressive in the bends. That's not really what the CLC is about though, it not a car that you'll derive much pleasure from pushing hard, instead appealing on a more rational level. It's hardly surprising then that the cheapest 141bhp CLC 180 Kompressor will make up the majority of sales - some 47% of the Sports Coupé predecessor being the 180 K model - with the two diesel offerings taking another big chunk of the remaining volume in the UK. The turbodiesels are perhaps the most obvious choices in the CLC range; their excellent high 40mpg combined economy mixed with muscular mid-range performance making them the easiest, most relaxing cars to drive.

Worth Noting

Mercedes might have spent a lot of time refreshing the exterior, but the interior remains much the same. And that's disappointing. It's relatively practical for a 'coupé' though, the hatchback giving access to a large and usefully shaped boot. The rear seats are useable too - though only if you're not too lanky. Three gearboxes are offered: a six-speed manual being standard fit across the range, a five-speed auto offered optionally on the four-cylinder cars, the 7G-Tronic seven speeder available optionally with the CLC 230 V6 and coming as standard on the surprisingly entertaining CLC 350. Mercedes has fixed pricing at the same entry-level point for the new car, while standard equipment levels improve across the range too.

Summary

When the Mercedes-Benz Sports Coupé was launched back in 2001 it had few direct competitors and buyers lapped up its style, accessible pricing and prestigious badge. The CLC faces a tougher task, as there are now direct rivals, the most obvious coming from BMW. Good looks aside it's difficult to get too excited about the CLC, it being competent at everything, but excelling in no particular area. A nice car then, just a rather unexceptional one.

Kyle Fortune - 28 Apr 2008



  www.mercedes-benz.co.uk    - Mercedes-Benz road tests
- Mercedes-Benz news
- CLC images

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.



2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 

2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC. Image by Kyle Fortune.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©