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Mercedes CLC coupe


As modern as it looks?

Merc's CLC coupe proves hard to write about, for after a week with the car very little stands out. It certainly looks sharp, though it's not based on the latest and rather good C-class but rather on its predecessor, the old C-class sports coupe, albeit with multiple changes to impart a more modern flavour.

Still, it appears smart and rather racey - with that thrusting bonnet leading to the cabin's attenuated curve, topped by the optional ($4200) sliding glass sunroof - but the car's personality is anything but.

The 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder engine produces 135kW at 5500rpm, just above the 250Nm torque peak that's on tap anywhere from 2800 to 5000rpm, and delivered via a five-speed auto with 'touch-shift'. The combination offers swift, rather than startling progress which is fortunate, for the 'sport' suspension takes the same approach; competent, rather than incisive.

The variable-rate steering rack adopted from the SLK is an improvement on the old car's set-up, but like the suspension it feels capable rather than confident.

The overall effect is comfort at whatever choice of speed or distance, and the CLC will dispatch a Sunday boulevard cruise with as much aplomb as an Auckland-to-Wellington marathon, though it's slightly unsettled over poor surfaces particularly if they're combined with demanding curves. If your preference falls more toward swiftly-tackled swervery, you'll buy elsewhere.
If that sounds dismissive, it's not meant to be. Plenty of buyers want style and comfort, and won't be worried by lack of sporting derring-do.

Instead they'll appreciate the comfy electrically-adjusted seats, the elegant and well laid out dash - so what if it feels a tad style-challenged next to more modern fare - and the extensive features list.

You expect cruise control and climate air from a car like this, but not necessarily side and window airbags for the rear passengers; expect ESP but not a speed limiter - surprisingly useful round town or on long, boring motorway stretches when speeds otherwise tend to creep up.

At this $64,100 price you don't necessarily expect Parktronic parking sensors - but they're virtually obligatory, for rear and rear three-quarter vision is very poor. Parktronic removes some of the guesswork, but reversing from supermarket car parks will always prove problematic.

Otherwise this is a thoroughly useful coupe, the rear seats roomy enough for occasional use and folding completely flat if you want to carry more luggage.

Should you buy one? If you like the style, want a smart, practical and moderately luxurious coupe and like the features list, perhaps - and certainly if you can't stretch to the more stylish, more powerful and similarly focused VW Passat CC that apes Merc's CLS in all but price. Either car will draw admirers, few of whom will realise this CLC isn't as modern as it looks.

But if ageing mechanicals and a lack of true sporting potential will bother you, you'll need to look elsewhere.

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