Mercedes CLK

In the electronic age, we expect instant gratification. And that doesn't only refer to things like fast food or thrill-a-second computer games. We want our cars to be exciting the moment we climb aboard, too. Well, as my grandmother used to tell me, patience is a virtue and has its own rewards.

  • Blend of upmarket looks and spacious cabin, interior design, big boot, AMG alloys
  • Disappointing fuel economy, noisy engine, wobbly rear suspension, light trim

In the electronic age, we expect instant gratification. And that doesn't only refer to things like fast food or thrill-a-second computer games. We want our cars to be exciting the moment we climb aboard, too. Well, as my grandmother used to tell me, patience is a virtue and has its own rewards.

One such is the Mercedes CLK 270 CDI. Drive it for one night or a short trip, and you won't be happy with the skittish rear end, unrefined diesel engine, sluggish pull-away or the fact that it costs nearly £40,000 with all the options fitted. This is fair enough - they're all valid criticisms.

However, I've found that those who bite the bullet and sample the car for longer periods come away more impressed. Like me, they forget about the Merc's shortcomings and begin to appreciate its strengths. For starters, we can't think of another coup� that combines practicality and stylishness so well. Then there's the superb cruising refinement, thanks to the lack of wind noise and well judged ride quality - even the optional 18-inch AMG alloys fail to upset our CLK.

Combine this with a well designed cabin, and this Merc is an incredibly relaxing place in which to spend time. Sure, the seats need more support, but visibility is good, the cruise control is easy to use and I love the trip computer. Why, even the pop-out cup-holder is well sited! and I've found the COMAND sat-nav is more user-friendly than similar systems from VW and BMW.

There's no urgency to the CLK, but you find yourself gelling with its laid-back character, and arriving at your destination in a better frame of mind as a result. It's a soothing car to drive and adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

However, if I was ordering another one (something I would be more tempted to think about now Mercedes has fitted new diesel engines), I'd avoid the light-coloured trim. The upholstery shows the dirt too easily. Also, the latest models come equipped with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, and are more responsive than our five-ratio car. The CLK has been widely criticised by colleagues for its sluggish behaviour when pulling away, but I've found that selecting manual or sport mode, rather than comfort, helps matters. Running the CLK has been hassle free, too. True, the 33.7mpg average falls a long way short of the 40.9mpg claimed combined figure, and means our fuel bills over the course of 10,250 miles have been nearly 18 per cent higher than expected at £1,225.

But tyre wear has been negligible, and the Merc has yet to require any attention from a dealership (the service indicator says it will cover a further 3,800 miles before needing a check) - although the brakes, which were never that good to use, now require a heavier shove to slow the car down.

All told, the CLK has had a lukewarm reception on our fleet. But it's elegant and easy to live with - and those in the know appreciate its talents.

Second opinion

While I love the looks, I was disappointed when I first drove the CLK - it felt imprecise and wobbled over bumps. A few weeks at the wheel and I've now been converted, though. That soft suspension makes for a comfortable ride and provides a surprising amount of grip. I'm also impressed at how well the whole car is screwed together - it all feels incredibly solid.Kim Adams, consumer editor

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