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Mercedes-Benz CLC 200 Kompressor 2008 Review

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There's sex appeal, their styling is sleek and most have more than a modicum of sportiness in the way they drive.

Add an appealing price-tag to this sensual mix and you should have a recipe for success. Mercedes Benz certainly hopes so.

On numbers sold, the market for coupes in this country is insignificant. Their real value is how they build brand image. Sex sells and coupes are sexy.

And that's the alluring mousetrap Benz has set with its latest coupe the CLC.

Here's a budget-beater coupe with all the looks of the latest generation C-Class - the perfect car for first-time Benz buyers to step into to prove to their neighbours and work colleagues that they have finally made it in life.

Well, that's the Benz game plan.

The CLC is clearly aimed at younger buyers, especially women, to entice them to join the three pointed star family. Once in the family, most owners stay with the brand as they get older and more affluent.

The CLC, which arrives here late in July, replaces the Sports Coupe - itself a lobal success story because it set a conquest record for Benz, winning over 70 per cent of newcomers to the brand.

But while CLC shares similar styling to the stunning C Class models, it is more of an adopted member of that family.

The CLC is built on the previous generation C-Class platform - architecture which is already five years old.

But Benz is at pains to point out it has made more than 1000 changes to the Sports Coupe so the two-door CLC can justifiably be described as new rather than merely facelifted.

STYLING

Benz has been quite clever with the CLC's styling, giving it the same athletic, purposeful look of the C-Class, which, it reckons will strongly appeal to younger buyers.

And the overall design, albeit disjointed, is good enough for buyers not to feel shortchanged. This looks, feels and drives like a more expensive Benz coupe.

My only reservation is that the grafting of a C-Class front, with its standout bold grille, on to a Sports Coupe rear (and dressing the package with smart alloy wheels), doesn't quite have the harmony of style that you see in the proper C-Class family.

But credit to Benz because this new-car-from-old has plenty of appeal.

While the new C-Class comes from Germany, the CLC is going to be a long distance traveller by the time it gets here.

SALES

It's being built in Brazil - not an ideal solution for Benz in Australia which will have to live with a three to four-month delivery time, with the coupe being shipped from South America all the way to Germany before being on-shipped Down Under.

The launch of the CLC will open up an interesting tussle for conquest sales between the German giants. Audi has its A3 and BMW last week launched two coupe versions of its compact One Series, priced at $71,400 for the 3-litre six-cylinder bi-turbo 135i and $54,400 for the naturally aspirated version.

DRIVETRAINS

The CLC 200, which will come in three levels, holds a hefty price advantage over its rival and is more practical, with full seating for four and it has more cabin space which is a premium in a compact coupe.

All three variants (the base Kompressor, mid-spec Evolution and top of the range Evolution Plus) are powered by the same supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine with 135kW and 250Nm of torque on tap. The engine is borrowed from the C-Class sedan, but Benz has squeezed an extra 15kW out of it while finding ways to drop fuel consumption to return an average 7.8l/100km for the six-speed manual and 8.2l/10km for the five-speed automatic with its paddle shifter on the steering wheel. That's impressive.

An automatic 2.2-litre diesel with an even more outstanding fuel consumption of 6.3l/100km looks set to be added to our line-up early next year.

SPEC LEVELS

The entry petrol-engined will be priced at $49,900. Standard equipment includes parking sensors, Bluetooth (from fourth quarter), prewired for an in-car phone, single CD audio, combined cloth/ fake leather (Benz's Artico material) trim, multi-function display, cruise control, dual zone air conditioning, rain sensing wipers, fog lamps, heated door mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, tyre pressure warning system and full sized spare.

The mid-spec version gains full Artico upholstery, alloy pedals, Bi-Xenon headlamps, spped sensitive power steering and will sell for $53,900.

The full Monty hero model with full electric seat adjustment, mutli-zone air conditioning, maple timber trim, and a panoramic glass roof, will be priced at a razor-sharp $58,900.

The prices are the same for both manual and automatics.

That gives the Benz a price advantage of between $4500 to $12,500 over its rival, while the CLC, thanks to our strong dollar, shaves more than $10,000 over the old Sport Coupe.

The coupe comes with the expected raft of safety features, including six airbags, a new steering system and high-tech infotainment kit. The options list includes satellite navigation, a 320 watt Harman/Kardon sound system six-stack CD changer, heated front seats, metalic paint, AMG wheels and alarm system.

Benz is confident it can sell between 500 and 1200 CLCs a year - which is not an unrealistic sales goal considering the coupe's appeal.

ON THE ROAD

We will have to wait for the pick of the CLCs. The 2.2-litre diesel version with an expected 400Nm of torque is a cracker and will probably come next year with only a $3000 premium over the petrol version.

For those who can't wait, the supercharged petrol version doesn't disappoint; the engine is more than adequate and the sub $50,000 price point adds value for money to the equation.

The 1.8 litre is perky rather than a firecracker but the classy coupe more than makes up for it with better than expected road manners, impresive fuel economy, comfy cabin and good boot space.

This is one of those cars which you feel very much at home right from the go thanks to its well tailored cabin and comfortable seats.

So if first impressions count, then the CLC is, even as a C-Class pretender, a winner, especially for the price.

Okay it doesn't match the C-Class's chassis for crisp handling and precise balance but that's not to belittle the coupe. It has been designed to do a job and it does it well.

It comes with Benz's trick direct steering. It retains the speed sensitive system from the old coupe but improves it by adding a variable rack ratio which reduces the steering effort needed as speed rises. So in the twisty stuff you only have to move the steering wheel slightly when cornering. Less effort is needed to change direction and the feedback is quick.

It's a far superior system to the conventional constant ratio set-up found in most cars but it feels unnerving at first so you tend to tug too much on the steering wheel until you become familiar with just how little effort is needed.

The CLC is not perfect: the rear view from the cabin is hampered by the bulky tailgate with its letter box window. The old Sports Coupe had a secondary window positioned just above the bumperbar to try and alleviate the visibility problem; but the CLC has done away with it to compensate for a cleaner body shape. And there's no rear camera to help out - the coupe wasn't wired for one.

While the cabin is a true four seater (and the rear pews are surprisingly roomy and comfortable) with good legroom and reasonable headroom for back seat passengers, access to the rear can be a tight squeeze even with the front seat folded and tilted.

Grumbles aside, the CLC as a stand alone model has a big role to play to woo new buyers to the Benz brand. Benz has no reason to worry. It's an alluring mousetrap.


Mercedes Benz CLC 200 Kompressor

Power: 1.8-litre four cylinder supercharged petrol engine, 135kW at 5000rpm, 250Nm torque also at 5000rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed manual, five-speed automatic with paddle shift.

How quick: Zero to 100km/h 8.6 seconds (claimed). Top speed 235km/h

How thirsty: Manual 7.8l/100km; automatic 8.2l/100kmh

How much: From under $50,000; on sale July. Built in Brazil.

 

Pricing guides

$10,890
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$7,700
Highest Price
$14,080

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
CLC200 Kompressor 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $7,700 – 11,880 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Pricing and Specs
CLC200 Kompressor Evolution 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $8,200 – 12,760 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Evolution Pricing and Specs
CLC200 Kompressor Evolution + 1.8L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $9,300 – 14,080 2008 Mercedes-Benz CLC-CLASS 2008 CLC200 Kompressor Evolution + Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$7,700

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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