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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - CLC-Class - coupe range

Launch Story

Mercedes-Benz logo13 Aug 2008

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

MERCEDES-BENZ this week launched its new compact CLC-class Sports Coupe in Australia with a three-model range, all powered by the same 1.8-litre supercharged petrol engine and fitted with a standard five-speed automatic transmission.

Prices were announced in April and Mercedes-Benz Australia has confirmed that its new entry-level coupe will start at $49,900 for the CLC200 Kompressor, with the higher-spec CLC200 Kompressor Evolution priced $4000 higher at $53,900.

However, the proposed increase in the luxury car tax has forced a modest increase of $88 for the flagship Evolution+ version, which now carries an RRP of $58,988.

These prices are considerably lower than for the previous C-class Sports Coupe, which had a starting point of $52,290 for a less powerful C180K with a six-speed manual gearbox (that is now a no-cost option in Australia). The previous C200K was priced from $59,390, plus $3100 for the auto.

Although the CLC’s front-end styling suggests it is based on the new W204 C-class sedan that was launched last year, it is actually a development of the superseded C-class Sports Coupe that first appeared in 2001.

However, Mercedes says some 1100 of the CLC’s components are newly designed, including an upgraded engine and interior, and a more responsive “direct-steer” system on the two upper-spec models.

Direct steer is based on the previous speed-sensitive power steering system but adds a variable steering rack ratio so that the steering wheel only has to be moved slightly when cornering. The company claims that the CLC therefore responds more quickly and improves handling and agility on winding country roads.

The wedge-shaped styling clearly links the C-class front end with a bulbous roofline sweeping down to an abbreviated tail, which features a spoiler built into the tailgate. The tail also features split tail-lights, a row of LED centre stop lights, a chrome tailgate handle and diffuser-look bumper.

Only one engine is offered from launch, the high-output version of the 1.8-litre four-cylinder supercharged unit that also featured in the previous line-up but which now produces 135kW of power (up 15kW) and 250Nm of torque (up 10Nm), providing a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.6 seconds – 0.8 seconds faster than the previous C200K auto.

At the same time, the official fuel consumption figure is 8.4L/100km, a reduction of 0.6L/100km.

A new generation of infotainment systems has been introduced to the CLC, with two units that offer colour displays, a keypad for entering phone numbers or radio station frequencies and a DVD-based satellite-navigation system.

Mercedes’ famed ‘Linguatronic’ voice-operated control system for audio, sat-nav and phone is also available as an option. This was first introduced in 1996, when the system required only 512Kb of computing power, but the latest system requires more than 10MB.

Standard equipment on the base CLC includes sports seats with extra side support, automatic climate control, a multi-function steering wheel, eight airbags (twin front, front and rear side-impact airbags, and rear ‘windowbags’ that extend from the A-pillar to the C-pillar), ABS brakes with brake assist, electronic traction and stability control, front and rear parking sensors, light-alloy wheels, heated exterior mirrors, split-fold rear seats, headlamp assist and foglamps.

In addition, the CLC200 Kompressor Evolution has the ‘Direct Steer’ speed-sensitive power steering, bi-Xenon headlights with cornering function and headlight cleaning, 17-inch alloys, gearshift paddles, man-made ‘leather’ upholstery, dark-brushed aluminium-look trim highlights, aluminium-faced pedals, unique sports instrumentation cluster, black roof lining in fabric, black velour mats with silver-coloured edging, mesh inserts for engine cooling intakes and grille louvers finished in chrome and black combination.

The top-shelf CLC200 Kompressor Evolution+ adds a glass panoramic tilt/slide sunroof, multi-zone climate-control, electric front seats with memory, an electrically adjustable steering column and maple woodgrain trim.

The German marque claims that the previous Sports Coupe model was extremely successful in attracting new customers to the three-pointed star, with 70 per cent of the 320,000 sales since it was introduced in 2001 being first-time Benz buyers.

Furthermore, the company says that 43 per cent of those conquest buyers have since moved up into bigger Benz models and now drive more expensive E-class sedan or wagon, CLK coupe or cabriolet, or SLK roadster models.

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