Mercedes CLK270 CDI
I'm developing selective hearing. No, I'm not going deaf due to the children in the back of our new CLK, but friends and family are constantly expressing their disbelief that a man with two youngsters should choose to drive an impractical two-door coup�. I'm fed-up with people telling me 'you'll never get the kids in there' or 'where's the buggy going to go?' I love a challenge - and I'm hoping to prove them wrong.
I'm developing selective hearing. No, I'm not going deaf due to the children in the back of our new CLK, but friends and family are constantly expressing their disbelief that a man with two youngsters should choose to drive an impractical two-door coup�. I'm fed-up with people telling me 'you'll never get the kids in there' or 'where's the buggy going to go?' I love a challenge - and I'm hoping to prove them wrong. However, I'm not going to pretend the CLK270 CDI will be quite as easy to live with as the Volvo V50 T5 I ran previously - I do expect to have to make a few compromises. That said, the Mercedes coup� may be handsome and rakish, but it's also designed to be practical. It has split-fold rear seats, a 435-litre boot and good cabin stowage. So is the CLK a usable family car? Well, my children Sasha and Luke have no cause for complaint. We specified two baby seats from the options list - a £140 Babysafe rear-facing one for seven-week-old Luke, complete with a transponder that deactivates the front passenger airbag, and an ISOFIX Duo chair for 18-month-old Sasha. But be warned... you pay through the nose for Mercedes' car seats. The ISOFIX one has the same architecture as the equivalent Britax model, yet at £295, costs £115 more. I'm still very impressed at how easy the ISOFIX mountings are to use, though. I think it's cheeky of Mercedes to charge £40 for the metal brackets, but the time and hassle saved by not having to fiddle with seatbelts is a real bonus. Getting the children in and out isn't too awkward, either, as the fact the CLK doesn't have a B-pillar makes things a lot easier. It means you can lower the rear windows and make use of the extra gap to help locate straps and fasten seatbelts. And our double buggy fits diagonally across the boot, leaving enough room for overnight bags. The pillarless arrangement also makes for a suitably light and airy interior, but the sloping window line means stick-on children's blinds are difficult to fit, and Sasha's legs are long enough to kick the seat in front - I've lost count of the muddy marks I've wiped off. But she's also performed the same trick in our long-term Subaru Legacy, so I don't think the CLK is particularly cramped. After running a series of practical cars, I'm really enjoying the CLK's more sporting image, although the engine has been a slight letdown. The 2.7-litre diesel is no longer class-leading when it comes to refinement, smoothness or power, so the CLK doesn't have the performance to back up its elegant looks - especially since we opted to fit a set of four 18-inch AMG alloys. They look fantastic, but the £1,500 cost is hard to swallow, and that doesn't include another £650 for four Pirelli P Zero Rosso tyres. Nevertheless, the big wheels don't ruin the ride quality, and bar poor throttle response, the driving experience is very good. But it's hard to escape the fact that this isn't the best value car on our fleet. The £31,285 list price is steep, and with the options fitted to our model, that rises to nearly £40,000. What's more, having consumed 68 gallons in just over 2,000 miles, it's only averaging 30.5mpg. I'm hoping this will improve when I take the CLK on a family holiday next week - that will be the ultimate test. Oliver MarriageSecond Opinion I'm a big fan of the cabin architecture - the grey leather may be an acquired taste, but otherwise the CLK's layout and driver ergonomics are very good. I particularly like the multi-function steering wheel and comprehensive information screen in the centre of the speedo. However, I can't figure out the traffic info on the radio - even when switched off in the audio menu, the reports still cut in. Owen Mildenhall, road tester