So we got a Mercedes-Benz CLC 230
Mercedes-Benz rarely has cars available for testing. But when they do, they are usually very generous with the amount of time we get to keep the car. Indeed, we got to keep this black 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLC 230 for nearly a week. What most don’t realise is that a longer test drive is enough to change our minds about a particular car. Most car companies here stupidly think that giving us cars for longer will expose more faults. On the contrary, we had negative preconceptions about the CLC since the day it was launched. But driving around in one for so many days restored our faith in Mercedes-Benz.
As car enthusiasts may have figured out, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz CLC is really a carryover model, based on the previous C-Class Sports Coupe, but now tacked on with a new-generation C-Class front end.
The rear has also been facelifted, receiving more conservative tail lamps, and losing that interesting glass window just above the number plate that was a trademark of the older model. That also means rearward visibility is cut down to almost nothing thanks to the tall butt, enough to block out tailgaters’ flashing headlights.
After practically every other manufacturer copied Merc’s original idea of mirror-mounted indicators, the German company went ahead and gave their ones a funkier new shape.
The dashboard is simply a facelifted version of the one in the old C-Class. The “good” features include a 3-spoke steering wheel with paddles, a simple non-touchscreen setup, amazing stereo and an easy-to-use console even with so many buttons. Our tester did not have the optional navigation, which adds a larger screen. The sporty power-operated front seats even had powered up-down headrests. The “bad” features are the rows of blank buttons which are just place-holders for optional features in higher-spec models. There is no standard starter-button feature. And you only get one cup-holder. One!
What really improved my respect for the three-pointed star were the interior materials in what is supposed to be an entry-level model. Along with the premium light-brown leather, every cabin surface and panel was covered in soft-touch materials, even in the back. And the metal console trim is real aluminium. Upstarts like the Infiniti G37 Coupe feel cheap in comparison, with their cost-cutting hard plastics slipped into the lower panels and the rear seating area.
Even more surprising was the rear space. There is as much legroom as in the four-door C-Class, with enough headroom for normal-sized people. And this is the first two-door car we’ve ever seen that has power-operated memory seats that still has a manual lever to quickly move them out of the way completely, folding forward and also moving upward to clear even more space for easier entry into the back. These are little engineering touches that are better appreciated when living day-to-day with a car.
Our tester also had the panoramic glass roof option, with powered roll-up blinders. The front portion also opens like a normal sunroof.
Luggage volume is somewhere between that of a compact hatchback and a compact sedan, which is to say, pretty decent, especially since it stores a space-saver spare tyre underneath. Folding down the rear seats offers enough space for a small fridge.
For the first time ever, I willingly paid to get a test car washed, since we had the car for so long that it had a thick layer of dust and bird poop on it. Out of curiosity, I tried the portable Geo Wash “green” car-wash service at Dubai Festival City. Turns out they lightly spray water over the car and then wipe it down, among other things. It removed the bird poop and cleaned the body, but there was still dust around the window edges.
Driving impressions will be detailed in the full review. Needless to say, it isn’t as sharp as a BMW, but it proved fun to drive, especially since it is a small rear-wheel-drive car. Of course, it weighs as much as a Toyota Camry, and it shows. But more on that later.