Mercedes CLC (2008): first official pictures

Published: 27 January 2008

This is Mercedes’ new CLC, only it's not quite so new. Underneath it’s really the old Sports Coupe with a nose from the C-class grafted on to give it more modern engines and help it pass the latest crash regulations. In fact, the new CLC has exactly the same wheelbase (2715mm) as the old Sports Coupe, and the same size boot.

I don’t get it. Why not base the CLC on the new C-class?

Money. To the accountants at Stuttgart it made more sense to heavily revise the current car rather than to start afresh. That doesn’t mean the engineers haven’t been hard at work though: Merc claims over 1100 parts on the CLC are new or revised compared to the old car.

Merc was never going to stop making the Sports Coupe. Over 320,000 have found homes since 2001, and with over 70 percent of cars sold being conquest sales, and then over two-thirds of Sports Coupe buyers sticking with the Mercedes brand it’s a car Stuttgart cannot afford to be without.

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So what’s good about the new CLC?

The new front end and the new styling. Out go the quad-headlamps, in comes sharp, jutting, solid lines to give the CLC the C-class family look. And that new front end means the latest engines and gearboxes. The engine line-up is:

Diesel

CLC 200 CDI 2.2-litre 120bhp/199lb ft
CLC 220 CDI 2.2-litre 148bhp/251lb ft

Petrol

CLC 180K 1.8-litre 141bhp/170lb ft
CLC 200K 1.8-litre 181bhp/184lb ft
CLC 230 2.5-litre 201bhp/180lb ft
CLC 350 3.5-litre 268bhp/258lb ft

All CLCs come as standard with a six-speed manual, but a five-speed auto is optional on the four-cylinder cars, a seven-speed auto can be had with the CLC 230, and it’s standard on the CLC 350.

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So what’s bad about the CLC then?

The new car keeps the old car’s interior dash architecture, and many of the same materials. Thus the quality is nothing like that of the latest C-class, and is not much of a step forward compared to the current car either. The dial for the lights, and the buttons below the central air vents seem especially cheap. Has Mercedes not seen the BMW 1-series Coupe?

But despite the old architecture you do get new electronics. The CLC can now be had with a USB and iPod interface, and the standard leather-covered multifunctional steering wheel lets you scroll through your iPod’s tracks which are displayed on the colour screen. The new Comand multimedia system also offers hard-disk sat-nav for faster operation, while ESP and front and rear parking sensors are standard on all cars.

Anything else?

We’ll let you decide about the overall styling. Mercedes says S, CL and C-class provided the influence for the designers, but we can’t help noticing a little B-class in the rear lights. That third brakes light is made of LEDs incidentally, and underneath that hatchback rear door is a boot that can hold up to 1100 litres, the same as the current car’s maximum capacity.

The CLC will be available in SE or Sport guises. Sport adds 18-inch wheels, lowered suspension, and Merc’s new Direct-Steer speed-sensitive variable rack, and steering wheel-mounted paddles on automatic-equipped models. All CLCs are supposed to be sporty though, and as on the newly facelifted SL the needles on the dials make an exploratory sweep when they’re first turned on. The CLC will be in UK dealerships from June with prices expected to start from £21,000.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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