The road to Port Waikato is a special mix of long straights, smooth sweeping bends, and tight blind corners that are perfect to test what a car is really like. Especially a sporty coupe like the CLC 200. To get there you have to travel forty-five minutes south of Auckland.
A quick stop by the cheese shop at Mercer gave me the opportunity to try some cheese that had aged nicely. And that’s really what this Mercedes has done. It’s based on a platform that’s at least seven years old, but fortunately that platform was fairly sound to begin with. Add to it some updated electronic trickery, a new engine range, a revised interior (but not the latest C-Class one) and the latest C-Class styling with its harder edges and you get the entry point to the Mercedes-Benz rear-wheel drive experience.
I’m not going to try to decipher Mercedes’ extensive selection of brand monikers, but just when you thought they’d exhausted every combination of letters, what was the outgoing C-Class Sports Coupe has now become the CLC. At a shade under sixty-grand with the Evolution kit as standard ($10,000 cheaper than the outgoing model) you can join 320,000 other owners worldwide who have plumped for the sporting pretensions in its previous guise as the Sports Coupe.
Our 200 Kompressor test car develops 135kW, up 15kW from the previous model, and consumes 8.4l/100km, down 0.6l. It sports a 1.8-litre supercharged engine (not a 2-litre as you’d expect from the model name), and will do the dash to a hundred in a respectable 8.6 seconds (though it feels slower because of a less than sprightly take-off while the supercharger gets going.)
Any modern sports car must feature a manual mode, and the CLC 200 does, with paddles on the steering wheel for the five-speed auto, or the ability to flick the gear lever left and right. There is a sport mode as well which changes down earlier and up later.
The biggest change in driving dynamics, though, comes with the new direct steer system. It is based on speed-sensitive powering steering, giving a variable rack ratio which changes with steering angle. The system minimises the requirements for huge steering inputs, and can make the car’s reaction time quicker in the case of taking evasive action.
The interior environment includes two-tone leather fully electric front seats, functional rear seats (often not the case in a coupe), and a smattering of alloy inserts on the dashboard.
Mercedes’ intuitive speed limiter/cruise control is included, but as always, the stalk is where the indicator should be, and the indicator stalk is too low.
Manoeuvring is made very easy with the Star Trek-esque proximity sensor Parktronic readouts on the dash and in front of the rear window, representing the front and rear of the car respectively.
Dual climate control is standard, as is a reasonably comprehensive trip computer and crisp 6-disc audio system.
Thrown in to the safety list are the usual ABS/EBD combination, traction control and ESP, and acres of airbags.
We’ve tested several cars in the C-Class range, including the excellent C220 CDI, which is undoubtedly a class above the CLC 200, but is also $13,000 more. But, there is a C200K, which at $69,900 ($10,000 more) could represent a step in the right direction as you’ll be getting all the best from the excellent C-Class range.
Don’t get me wrong — the CLC 200 is quite a good car. It has solid underpinnings and if all you are going to do is gentle driving around the city or on the highway, you won’t be disappointed with its road manners, comfort and interior appointments. Push it on the tight and twisty stuff, though, and you’ll wish you had a proper C-Class with its much more composed ride and involved drive.
Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the Mercedes-Benz CLC 200K.
Price: from $59,900 (based); $64,100 as tested with panoramic sunroof
What we like
- Much better quality interior than the previous model
- Optional sunroof is worth it
- Comfortable drive
- Realistic price
What we don’t like
- Rear visibility
- Lethargic on take-off
Technical Data: Mercedes-Benz CLC 200 KOMPRESSOR
|No. of cylinders/arrangement
||4/in-line, 4 valves per cylinder
|Bore x stroke
||82.0 x 85.0
||135 at 5500 rpm
||250 at 2800-5000 rpm
||8.5 : 1
||Microprocessor-controlled petrol injection with hot film air mass measurement (HFM), compressor supercharging
||Five-speed automatic transmission
||Three-link suspension, McPherson system with coil springs and gas-filled shock absorbers, stabiliser, anti-dive
||Multi-link independent suspension, coil springs and gas-filled shock absorbers, stabiliser, anti-squat and anti-dive
||Hydraulic dual-circuit brakes with brake booster, stepped master brake cylinder, internally ventilated disc brakes at the front, solid at the rear, drum-type parking brake at the rear, ABS, Brake Assist, ESP®
||Rack-and-pinion power steering
||7.5 J x 17 (front), 8.5 J x 17 (rear)
||225/45 R 17 (front), 245/40 R 17 (rear)
Dimensions and weights
|Track width, front/rear
||310 — 1100
|Kerb weight acc. to EC
|Perm. Gross vehicle weight
Performance and fuel consumption
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h
|Fuel consumption comb. (acc. to ADR 81/01)
*acc. to VDA measuring method
** electronically limited
Words and photos Darren Cottingham