CJ Hubbard
23/04/2008 00:00 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Mercedes-Benz CLC review (2008 onwards)



Mercedes CLC (© Mercedes)

What – Mercedes-Benz CLC
Where – Vienna, Austria
Price – £19,920-£27,240
Available – June
Key rivals – BMW 1-Series Coupé, Volvo C70, Volkswagen Eos, Audi TT

Summary

Mercedes reinvigorates the Sports Coupé with a new look, improved engines and a new name. Say hello to the CLC.

Likes: greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions, good equipment levels, decent refinement
Dislikes: rear visibility, slightly vague steering, lacks excitement

First impressions

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

We have to admit, on first acquaintance, we were not exactly bowled over by the 'new' Mercedes CLC. Photography can be a cruel medium, however, so while the CLC certainly looks every bit the heavily facelifted C-Class Sports Coupé that it is, the effect is much more cohesive in the metal than those original press shots.A hint of awkwardness around about the A-pillars remains. And the backend treatment, with its redesigned tailgate, fake diffuser, and virtually full-width third brakelight does look a little - how shall we put this? - like it's wearing too much make up. But the new corporate nose works surprisingly well.


Read more Mercedes car reviews

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

Overall, Mercedes has made some 1,100 changes to turn the Sports Coupé into the CLC. It is still based on the old C-Class, rather than the shiny new one, but the promise of better steering, sportier handling and nicer interiors is a good start to justifying the new name.There have also been some engine upgrades. Not all-new units, but efficiency improvements - spurred on, no doubt, by BMW's success with EfficientDynamics - to the tune of 10.8 percent economy gains in the case of the CLC 200 CDI turbodiesel. And 20 more bhp for the supercharged petrol unit in the CLC 200 Kompressor.

Performance

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

That engine business sounds pretty promising, doesn't it? Shame then, that Mercedes only chose to bring two CLC 200 Kompressors to the launch. And only one of these was designated for the 40 or so British journalists present. We didn't get to drive it. Disappointing, given it now packs 181bhp.As for the CLC 200 CDI, the one with the biggest fuel economy improvement - perfect copy fodder for our modern green obsessed world. It wasn't on the launch at all. And nor was the CLC 180 Kompressor petrol, the engine Mercedes-Benz UK says took 47 percent of all Sports Coupé sales.

Driven: BMW 1-Series Coupé

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

So we can't tell you about those. But we can tell you about the CLC 220 CDI diesel, and the CLC 230 and 350 petrol V6s. Going on previous form the 148bhp 220 diesel should be the second biggest seller. 250lb ft of torque at just 2,000rpm implies decent mid-range pace, but in practice we found it rather flat and uninspiring.Refinement is excellent, though, and for cruising along it should make most people happy. If you do want more pep the petrol V6s are both excellent - sounding good and going very nicely. Especially the 268bhp CLC 350, which felt every bit as strong as 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds suggests.

Ride and handling

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

Launch driving routes are always carefully planned by the manufacturers. So when the initial briefing joked that most of the driving for the CLC was to be on motorways and dual carriageways we started to get a little suspicious. Especially with the new Direct Steering variable steering rack claiming sharper responses.Fitted standard to the Sport specification, this is intended to blend easy assistance at low speeds with straightline stability on the motorway while also reducing the input necessary during fast cornering (and emergencies). A big ask. All the CLCs we tried were in Sport trim, so does it work?

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

Yes. But it's hardly mind-blowing. While it certainly didn't take much effort to get the CLC through the few challenging corners we came across, there isn't much feel. And with added vagueness around the first few degrees of lock, we found ourselves turning the wheel too much initially, resulting in a state of constant correction.This isn't helped by slightly lose body control, even if grip levels are high. The ride is comfortable, if not entirely niggle free, while the standard six-speed manual gearbox shifts sweetly. The seven-speed auto option on the V6s is also good; Sport spec adds paddleshifters that feel cheap but allow fast, responsive changes.

Interior

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

The CLC's interior upgrades over the Sport Coupé are most noticeable in Sport specification, which gets new chequered-back dials with red needles, light brown leather highlights package, and black headlining. Even SE spec cars get a new three-spoke sports steering wheel, better bolstered seats, climate control, alloys, and parking sensors as standard.The latter is a smooth move by Mercedes, as the high beltline considerably restricts rear visibility. Passenger room is better than in the BMW 1-Series Coupé, while the hatchback and vast boot aid practicality. Everything feels high quality - until it comes to the glovebox lid. Cheap and, indeed, nasty.

Economy and safety

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

The CLC 200 CDI is the star of the range for environmental friendliness, returning 48.7mpg combined and emitting 152g/km CO2 (depending on spec). The 220 CDI lags only slightly behind, at 47.9mpg and 156g/km. Worst offender is the 350 petrol, emitting as much 234g/km while consuming fuel at 28.8mpg.Convinced you want a petrol V6? Then stick with the SE version of the CLC 230, and it will sneak below the highest road tax band, emitting 218g/km (Sport pushes it to 225g/km), and returning 29.7mpg. Six airbags, ESP, and new projector beam headlights all help keep safety levels high.

The MSN Cars verdict: 3/5

Mercedes CLC (© image © Mercedes)

The Sports Coupé has always been a successful 'conquest' product for Mercedes, its youthful image (comparatively speaking...) good at attracting first time customers to the brand. And with prices staying exactly the same, the CLC should have no trouble keeping these people coming, given the engine and equipment upgrades.However, it doesn't really do anything to capture the imagination of anyone who is not already considering it. The 220 diesel we tried lacked verve, and the big petrols are unlikely to account for many sales here in the UK. It's refined, comfortable, and has an excellent image. But if you want something truly sporty you need to look elsewhere.

Ratings out of five: Mercedes CLC
Performance***
Ride & handling***
Interior***
Safety***
Price***
Practicality****
Fuel economy***

MSN Cars verdict***

Need to know
Petrol engines
1.8 supercharged (141bhp), 1.8 supercharged (181bhp), 2.5 V6, 3.5 V6
Diesel engines 2.2 (120bhp), 2.2 (148bhp)
Power (bhp) 120-268
Torque (lb/ft) 162-258
0-62 (secs) 6.3-11.3
Top speed (mph) 128-155
Combined mpg 28.8-48.7
CO2/tax 152-234 / 18-35


All our Mercedes road tests

Driven: Mercedes CLS
Driven: BMW 1-Series Coupé
Driven: Volvo C70
Driven: VW Eos
Driven: Audi TT

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