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Click to view picture gallery“You can’t, as they
  say, have too much of
  a good thing. Which
  also, happily, would
  seem to be the view
  of Mercedes-Benz,
  who continue to add
  desirable new models
  to their line-up —

  cars like the sleek
  CLK 220 Coupé


DRIVEN BY A RAFT of new models, the introduction of new engines and an improving reputation for sales and service, Mercedes-Benz is clawing back its appeal in the UK. The promise is straight from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams: "If you build it, he will come" — in this case, he (or she) is the buyer.

The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that in the UK Mercedes had the biggest sales growth out of the four premium German brands, both in July and the year
to date.

Mercedes sales in July were up by 10.31 per cent, and are up by 11.7 per cent for the year-to-date. Audi were up 5.8 per cent in July and by 1.1 per cent for the year, BMW were down 16.2 per cent in July but are up 6.2 per cent for the year and Porsche were down 30 per cent in July and are 12.2 per cent down for the year. All this is against the background of a UK market down by 4.1 per cent for July and 4.2 per cent year-to-date.

It just goes to show that in the current climate of increasing interest rates and heavily taxed private and business drivers, it is possible
to still grow your business by being proactive with your products.
No premium brand car company appears to have been more positive with new model launches or new engine introductions this year than Mercedes-Benz.

Just this week, following the very recent E-Class and GL-Class announcements, Mercedes have added four further new models to their CLK-Class range: the 63 AMG Coupé and Cabriolet variants priced at £65,215 and £68,815 respectively; and the CLK 500 Coupé and Cabriolet models at £47,490 and £51,090. The new products just keep coming — as do the customers.

These are pricey additions, but for customers who want the three-pointed star adorning a medium sized two-door, four-seat Coupé or Cabriolet, the CLK range does have more affordable models starting from £29,910.

One of my favourites in the CLK-Class range is the 220 CDI diesel Coupé, priced from £30,385. I drove the Sport version with the Mercedes AMG body styling package of front and side skirts, 18-inch alloy wheels and a rear boot lid spoiler. Equipped with a host of up-market goodies, this model weighs in at £32,885. However, my test
car had a whole load of 'essential' Mercedes extras including leather upholstery, heated front seats, Bi-xenon active headlights, a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and pre-wired hands-free 'phone facility which pushes the price up to a pretty hefty £38,475 — and that doesn't include a navigation system. So, not only are Mercedes selling more cars but they are successfully up-selling the specification of them as well.

It's a great car, but realistically you are still paying a lot of money for
a medium-sized coupé — although still not anywhere near the cost of the latest AMG and 500 additions.

If Mercedes Cabriolets are not your thing and you prefer a metal roof, then the stylish CLK-Class Coupé is for you. This compact car comes with an extensive range of engine options and is ideal for a two-person 'family' who have the need to carry two extra passengers. The rear space is large enough for two adults, and the 435-litre boot is big enough for luggage for four people. For added versatility the rear seat has a fold-down section, so longer items can be loaded through into the car.

Typical of this car's sophistication is the seat belt feeder system: a mechanical arm either side of each front seat that 'hands' the seat belt to you. There are countless other executive and upmarket items of specification fitted as standard, as indeed you would expect in a car of this price. Having four electrically-operated side windows to create a pillarless coupé layout is also a good feature. Cruise control, climate control and excellent steering and seat adjustment facilities add further icing to this particular cake.

The CLK is not quite as sharp to drive as BMW's 3 Series Coupé, but
it does most things very well. The electronic stability control and acceleration skid control keeps the Coupé well mannered, while the revised steering gives better feedback and is more responsive. The lowered sports suspension is compliant — certainly not hard — and irons out the worst of the potholes and ridges that are an inescapable fact of life on today's roads. When cruising on motorways, wind and tyre noise is very low and entirely in keeping with all the other quality attributes of this car.

The 2.1-litre, four-cylinder direct-injection diesel engine with turbo-charger and intercooler produces a modest 148bhp with 251lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. Don't be fooled: this is a strong and flexible
unit, and the most popular unit for many customers. The alternative 3.0-litre CDI diesel engine would add a bit more zest to the overall performance, but at a price — an extra £4,180.

For the driver who is not in a particular hurry and who likes their motoring refinement mixed with a reasonable amount of fuel economy — 38.6mpg on my test journeys (officially 40.9mpg combined) —
this is, all things considered, a pretty good buy. Mercedes' figures for town driving and touring are 30.7 and 49.6mpg respectively.

Yes it is expensive. But — looking on the bright side — residual values are good for CLK models. There's also outstanding brand appeal, first-class build quality, handsome coupé styling and top-drawer refinement. And, of course, you will be driving a Mercedes. — David Miles

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Mercedes-Benz CLK 220 CDI Sport
| £32,885
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Overall test MPG: 38.6mpg | Power: 148bhp
| Torque: 251lb ft
Visit Mercedes' website Click to go there now

------------------------------------------------------------ Mercedes-Benz CLK