Does my bum look big in this?
As a companion piece to this week’s profile of Mercedes’ W203 C-Class, we’ve chosen to re-run this article, which originally appeared as part of DTW’s Facelift theme on 2 July 2014.
As I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you, dear readers, when it comes to the subject of facelifts, not everyone cleaves to the Partonesque ideal. Because while the tuneful Tennessee songstress has clearly invested wisely upon her augmented visage, others have fallen rather messily at the wayside. They know who they are.
When it comes to the automotive variety, the spectrum too is as broad as it’s nuanced. Some facelifts attempt to breathe life into an ageing design, others signpost a fresh styling direction. Some merely act as a dating point to give the salespeople something new to sell. The pivot point however remains as straightforward as it is immutable – is it any good?
Frankly, today’s example isn’t. The 2001 Mercedes-Benz C-Class SportCoupé was the first compact close-coupled two-door hatchback in the marque’s history. Based on the existing W203 C-Class saloon platform, its styling cues borrowed heavily from its more conventional three volume sibling – itself no visual paragon. It proved a sales success however, appealing to the affluent retirees and trophy wives/ husbands who represent the traditional ownership heartland of the Mercedes coupé.
Its styling was inoffensive (if somewhat unmemorable), handsome enough given the marque-specific styling tropes of the time – successfully hiding the bulk of the rear end with some clever use of glazing. No landmark of course, but by the turn of the millennium, nothing emerging from Prof. Peter Pfeiffer’s design studios at Sindelfingen truly was.
There matters stood until 2008. Following the introduction of the next generation (W204) C-Class, the SportCoupé clearly could not carry on unaltered. Perhaps lacking the funds (or indeed the inclination) to do much else, Mercedes designers successfully grafted a similar nose treatment to the newer model onto the earlier design. So far, so logical.
However, the rear end proved a sterner challenge – one which could reasonably be said to have either been beyond their budget or their capabilities. Possibly both. Since the existing W204 saloon’s rear lamp clusters were said to be visible from the International Space Station, the CLC (as the SportCoupé was now dubbed) was given a similar set of its own.
But in lending the vehicle a soupçon more gravitas, the results were anything but harmonious. The rear now resembled cliff face and was about as precipitous, but worse still, it wore its stylistic expedience unashamedly, complete with a matching pair of tacked-on end-cappings, clumsily masking the gap left vacant by the earlier model’s more vertical tail-lamp units.
Amateurish is one way to describe the end result. Ungainly is another. Either way, nobody was dignified by this transformation – neither carmaker, owner nor viewer. Unfortunately, the CLC remained on sale until 2012, by which time everybody was truly sorry to see the back of it, if not quite for the reasons its creator might imagine.